My mother dropped me off on our neighbor’s front porch and didn’t come back. She was an addict and we’d been evicted. At the time my father, also an addict, was in jail. The next time I saw my mother over a year later was at Santa Rita jail. I’d gone there to visit my dad and he let me know she was there, in the women’s jail, too.
I remember when my mother and I walked to the next door neighbor’s house, I thought I was just going to stay for a little while, so I didn’t freak out too much. Later when the landlord was clearing out our house and the landlord let me go in to grab a few things, I think that was when it started to feel real for me. I took my Winnie the Pooh bedspread, I found my favorite teddy bear, and I grabbed the family photo album with my baby pictures in it. I remember with perfect clarity walking through the empty house and choosing those items. I was 7 years old.
This is not an easy story for me to tell. When I share this story in person people tell me that I sound unemotional. Like I’m describing a movie. The numbness was/is like armor for me. It protects me from connecting to the deep pain of abandonment I felt that day and for years after.
My next door neighbor Stephanie, who had been a friend and a babysitter, became my mom that day and she still is now. She is a modern day saint.
I share this story, because something fundamental was born in me that day. When a child loses their mother, pure survival instinct kicks in. I experienced that flight or fight moment you feel when your life’s in danger. From that moment:
I associated survival as having wealth. In my 7 year old mind, it was being poor that caused the events of that day to happen. Now, looking back with an adult’s clarity I can see how and why I drew that conclusion. It was easier for me to look at lack of money, as the root of evil, versus the stigma of drug addiction I had grown up with. As many people do with traumatic experiences, I made a subconscious decision about myself then that has stayed with me to today. I decided not to be poor. That has led me to being a strong business woman. An entrepreneur. To be unwilling to work for making another person rich when my own prosperity is not included. This eventually led me to pursue Real Estate.
I witnessed a true Superhero. Not just that day but every day forward until I was an adult Stephanie cared for and provided for me. She was a mother instantly with no warning and she never hesitated or looked back. As I write this I’m already older than she was that day when my mom knocked on her door. I can’t imagine being in her shoes and making the crazy difficult choice she made to raise me. Her story deserves a lot more than this paragraph and I will tell it one day. By her example, I live.
I became a giver. My empathy and my social conscience were born. I understand what it is to be hungry. I know firsthand what poverty, drugs and abuse do to destroy families. My need was great and I was lucky enough to have my needs taken care of. I can’t ignore that there are many whose needs aren’t met. I help where I see need, and I’m driven to help as much as I can.
In the days since I first posted about forming Impact Club Union City™ a few of my friends asked me why I’ve taken this on. They want to know why I’m footing the bill for the event. Why this is so very important to me.
When I was growing up I helped in my school’s literacy programs. I protested injustice as part of my Berkeley upbringing. As a teen, I brought home stray teenagers when they had no were else to go. Now, as a business woman, I am constantly faced with situations that call on my core values. I choose to do the right thing and not the most profitable thing for myself. I make an effort to give back to my community in the ways that matter most to me. I’ve been a part of East Oakland’s Turkey Drive for the last 5 years. Every year I participate in several feedings for the homeless and the poor. I also hosted a Toy and Food Drive in Hayward benefiting Fesco Family Shelters. This year I served on Union City’s Tenant Taskforce.
Then, a couple of years ago I joined up with a bunch of like minded leaders from across the US and Canada. We met in Orlando last year to plan this thing called Impact Club™. A different, better way to make an Impact in our local communities.
I’ve written plenty of checks to different causes. Just donating isn’t enough anymore. And giving to a nationwide cause doesn’t help the people right here in our community.
There is an enormous debt in my heart. This crazy urge to build, to deliver up so much good, and somehow earn the chances I was given. I know I’ve had opportunities that many other people in situations growing up like I did, never get. Something deep down inside me, that little voice we all have, tells me I am capable of more. I need to know beyond any shadow of doubt that I have done everything in my power to pay it forward. I want to make an Impact.
Back in that first year after my parents left me and I moved in with Stephanie was very a hard time for both of us. I’m sure you can imagine. I came to her house with nothing but the clothes on my back. Steph’s friends felt compelled to help us. When someone becomes a mother you throw them a baby shower. And since I wasn’t a baby all of her friends gathered together and threw me a “Kid Shower.” They got me a bed, bedding, clothes, everything.
Just writing this brings tears to my eyes today. We’re still friends with those women who threw my “Kid Shower” over 30 years ago. Thank you Cathy Dana, Rosalie Lamb, and Birgit Hoffmeister for everything you did. Thank you Steph for raising me.
As a kid I never really realized just how much help I needed. I could have gone into the system as a foster kid so easily. I needed givers. And I had them. People who never hesitated to make sure I had food, shelter, clothing, an education, and love.
I would never be where I am today without those givers. I’m launching Impact Club Union City™ because I am a giver too.
I started this with a goal of 100 members. I don’t think it will be a problem to get there. There are plenty of people in this area who are givers – just like the ones that were there for me. Our real challenge is getting the message out and reaching more people.
I was born a fighter, and that instinct that was born in me way back when I was just a kid is just as strong today. We are still 20 days away from our first event.
So, will you join us? Will you help spread the word? Do you think we can make it to $10,000?
Here is the link, share it with someone that you think has the heart to make an impact in our community: https://form.jotform.com/71485725784166
If someone needs more info just send them here: www.ImpactClubUnionCity.com
Make today a great day!