Fresh Start's Role is to Support and Encourage

Sacramento Region, CA  |  Story and photos by Trina L. Drotar
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Charlotte Stott and Melinda Avey display a starter kit offered by the Assistance League program.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – In 2018, Assistance League Sacramento, an all-volunteer organization of over 285 members, celebrated 50 years of service to the local community through a variety of philanthropic programs that are funded in large part by its resale thrift shop, Fabulous Finds on Fulton. Programs, which are completely local, date back to 1967 when Eyes Right was established. At least one new program has been launched in each decade since. The organization’s newest programs, Fresh Start and Reaching Out, were established in 2017.

Charlotte Stott chairs the Fresh Start committee of 50 volunteers. After reviewing several studies on community needs, which included support for victims of sex trafficking and foster youth aging out of residential care, the group chose to partner with Community Against Sexual Harm (CASH) and its RESET diversion program. The program supports training and offers peer mentoring through its eight week, no fee program.

Stott explained that Fresh Start’s role is to support and encourage the women participating in the program. At four weeks, the midway point, women receive a “way to go gift” of lip balm, hand sanitizer, and a note. Upon graduation, women receive a bag with earrings, lipstick, and acknowledgement of their effort. The gifts, Stott said, tell the women that they matter.

 Fresh Start also assists by providing hygiene products and a change of clothing including sweat pants, bra, and a top. Three apartment starter kits are provided each quarter, and this month, the volunteers began providing bags with various items including tissues.

 “We provide small birthday gifts and cards hand signed by committee volunteers,” said Stott.

To assist foster youth aging out of the system, Fresh Start provides apartment starter kits to EA Family Services and Aspiranet. According to the latter’s website, 5000 youth age out annually in California and the agency supports 1900 by collaborating with community organizations like Assistance League Sacramento. Fresh Start plans to begin providing newborn essentials to young mothers who are in foster care.

Relationships were built and established and Stott estimates that approximately 6000 people have been touched in one way or another through the efforts of Fresh Start.

Reaching Out, a smaller committee of volunteers chaired by Melinda Avey, also provides apartment starter kits, along with a host of other assistance through its collaboration with Sacramento Steps Forward, an organization committed to ending homelessness in the region through partnerships with agencies such as Assistance League.

  “We buy work boots,” said Avey. “We pay deposit and application fees. We identify small needs.”

Sacramento Steps Forward, through partnerships with other organizations, may be able to secure housing for a currently homeless individual or family, but there are additional needs that they cannot provide. These, Avey explained, are the items that Reaching Out can assist with on short notice, such as the need for an application fee for a currently available apartment. When a request comes in, the committee votes to grant the request and Avey said, “makes it happen.”

 “That is the benefit of being a non-profit, we can act immediately.”

Like Fresh Start, Reaching Out also provides apartment starter kits. Kits, Avey said contain sheets, towels, pots and pans, shower curtain and rings, and other items that most folks might take for granted.

“We give a welcome mat,” she said, and the committee provides a clock. People living on the street lose track of time, she said.

Feedback, said Avey, always includes mention of the welcome mat. Items are not random choices. The committee is guided by suggestions regarding sheet size and table settings that are requested to be for one or two, not four.

The committee has also paid for a ticket to reunite a homeless individual and her father.

“It makes our day.”

For additional information, visit Assistance League Center’s Fabulous Find s on Fulton shop at 2751 Fulton Avenue or https://www.assistanceleague.org/Sacramento.