When life changes for the best it's good to look your BEST! Our Dream Maker project is the brainchild of former member Carole Warren. Carole wanted to find a way to make women in difficult situations know that they are important and special. What started out of Carole’s garage in 2015 has grown to include shopping, lunch, hair, make-up and the ever-so-important mani/pedi.
We have partnered with Opportunity House, Mission Solano, as well as WRAP (Women’s Re-entry Achievement Program) which helps incarcerated women reclaim their lives. Every month one woman is nominated by one of our partners. This woman has risen above her situation, whether it be abuse, homelessness, addiction or prison. She has taken classes, found or is in the process of finding, work and housing. In most cases, these women are also struggling single parents who are trying to make a home for their children. They are women who need to know that they are making a difference. They need to know that someone cares. They need to be encouraged and supported. They need to feel special. Dream Maker fills these needs.
Sharing a Dream Maker Story: Sabrena Enchorszt
Sharing a Dream Maker Story: Sabrena Enchorszt _________________________________________________________________ (Editors note: Sabrena's story was shared in The Reporter's Giving Tree project in December 2015 and generated more than $1,000 in funding for the program. Thanks, Sabrena, for allowing Soroptimist International of Vacaville to tell your story. In the photo Sabrena (right) is pictured with Dream Maker creator Carole Warren.) __________________________________________________________________ Sabrena Ejchorszt, 38, never felt like a princess in all her life. But in March, surrounded by several supportive members of Soroptimist International of Vacaville, she was magically transformed. A trip to the hairdresser for a little style and color, a visit to a manicurist and a private shopping spree with a fashion consultant for some stylish clothes and shoes, and Sabrena was like a new person. A clean, strong, sober person who dared to believe that dreams could come true.
It hadn’t always been that way. She was only 10 years old the first time she tried methamphetamine. She remembers the day clearly: it was Christmas, and her father had just walked out on her and her mom. Her mother turned to drugs and offered some to Sabrena.
“I just thought that it was normal,” she recalled. “It was how we dealt with disappointments.” It began a 26-year addiction and downward spiral for the Fairfield mother of eight. At the time, her teachers had no clue. She was an A and B student.
“School was an escape for me, from the chaos of home,” she said. When she became a teenager, she befriended her mother’s dealer and eventually had two children with him. Another child came from another drug dealer. Then two more children. But in 2002, she met Jonathon, the love of her life. He wasn’t a drug dealer, but he wasn’t sober, either. The couple had three more children, and eventually moved in with her mother, who was dealing with a debilitating illness.
Sabrena spent the final three years of her mother’s life as her caretaker, eventually giving up her job. Her mother died in her arms. “I had to be there for her,” she says simply. “I didn’t blame her for my problems. She was my mother and I loved her.” But with her death came a new challenge: Sabrena and her family were homeless. She reconnected with her father, who was living in Vallejo and he allowed them to move in – for a while. Eventually he chose to move on to a smaller place and Sabrena’s family scrambled to make arrangements.
They couch-surfed for as long as they could, until they ran out of friends. Then came the bright idea of converting an abandoned snack shack in a Vallejo park into a shelter. There was no running water, no electricity, no bathrooms but it was home for a year. Then one day, the 6-year-old woke up crying and hungry. He couldn’t be consoled. “That was it,” Sabrena said. “We got a ride from a stranger, and ended up at Mission Solano Community Outreach Center in Fairfield. It was a place to do laundry, get a shower, get a meal. We stayed in different churches, but at least we had a roof over our heads. It was a godsend.”
Her father, still living in Vallejo, asked for a welfare check on the family and Child Protective Services got involved. “They gave us a court date. They said they wanted to help us,” she said. But she wasn’t prepared for what happened next. The judge told Sabrena and Jonathon: “You two are pretty messed up. I’m removing your children.” She remembers the bailiff pulling her screaming 6-year-old out of her arms.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, by my dad was sitting behind me in the courtroom. He stood up and told the judge, ‘I’ll take the kids. I don’t want them to be separated.’ And then he told me, ‘Get better and you can have them back.’” She and Jonathon entered the Rays of Hope Program at Mission Solano, a live-in drug treatment program. Never has anyone completed the program so quickly, Sabrena says with pride. In seven months, she finished the program and in eight months, she got her children back. In that time, Soroptimist International of Vacaville, a local service club that promotes the advancement of women and girls, connected with Sabrena for its Dream Maker program.
Dream Maker is the brainchild of Carole Warren, a Soroptimist and longtime community member. She wanted to take women who were facing challenges, women such as Sabrena, and give them the gift of friendship and hope. Women are nominated from a variety of local shelter and support groups, including Mission Solano, Lift 3, local homeless shelters and domestic violence abuse programs.
Then the Soroptimist club as a whole – and more specifically committee members Warren, Lisa Hilas, Joy Swank, Colleen Berumen, Jackie Ricketts and Nancy Bennett – come together to see what they can add to the program to make it come to life for each recipient. “We all have different gifts we can share, and we work together to make it happens,” explains Hilas. The first Dream Maker was honored in February this year, and the group hasn’t missed a month since. With donations from the community and contributions from the club, each Dream recipient gets the royal treatment, including a haircut, manicure, lunch and a $100 shopping spree at Secondhand Rose Thriftique in downtown Vacaville and even a delivery of flowers from Jackie Ricketts, a local florist.
In recent months, Joanie Reed, founder of Blake Austin College, has offered her beauty academy for hair, nails and makeup Sabrena’s metamorphosis during her “Dream” date not only surprised her, but her husband as well. “I’d forgotten how beautiful you are,” Jonathon told her. “I’m falling in love with you all over again.” The makeover gave her the confidence to seek employment at Mission Solano, she says. Today, she is an attendant for the women’s shelter, a job she feels called to do.
“I know these women. I understand their problems. If I can make it, they can make it. I want to give them hope,” she says. Her husband Jonathon also works for Mission Solano in landscaping and maintenance. And more good news, the couple has qualified for a Family Stabilization grant, which will help them pay rent on an apartment for a year. “It allows us to move out of our apartment at Mission Solano and make room for another family that needs it,” she says. Soroptimist organizers are seeking donations to keep their Dream Maker program alive.
“It’s amazing to see how much we can improve someone’s confidence and self-esteem,” says Warren. “It doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a big difference. We watch these women blossom. And we keep up with them. We’re planning to host a get-together with previous recipients soon.”
Soroptimist International of Vacaville already contributes $2,400 a year from funds it raises in the community to support the program. An extra $500 a month for each recipient – $3,000 for 2016 – would go a long way in helping Soroptimists take the Dream Maker program to the next level. Mission Solano also welcomes donations of every kind, from cash and clothing to food and volunteer time.
Established in 1998, the mission started with a nomadic sheltering program and Community Outreach Center. In 2009 the center’s Bridge to Life Center opened as a long-term solution to homelessness. Through transition housing and a holistic program, they address spiritual, physical, emotional, psychosocial and vocational needs. The mission’s six buildings provide shelter for 208 individuals through Hope Home for Homeless Vets, the Matt Garcia Home for Women and children and 12 two-bedroom family units.
A $3,000 gift to the Rays of Hope drug rehabilitation would go far in helping others break addictions and achieve success that can help them stand on their own. Any gift would be a blessing, says Sabrena. “I just want to share my story and encourage others who want help to reach out. It’s there. For that, I’m thankful.”
Some of our wonderful, inaugural Dream Makers and their nominators:
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6054, Vacaville, CA 95696-6054 Club Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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