Sherie Williams was working a job she loved and was nearing the home stretch of parenthood, with two tweens and a 19-year-old, when her life was turned upside down.
Her sister, who was going through a difficult time, could no longer care for her own children, and Williams felt she had no choice but to step in and adopt her two little nieces. So she quit her 11-year job as a security guard at Wells Fargo to take care of the girls. Three years later, his sister had a son, and Williams adopted him as well.
This was not how Williams imagined his life. Just as she should prepare to become an empty nest, she is now 45 and raising Shawn, 3, Renyce, 7, and Makalah, 9, as a single mother with no income apart from the child. – support payments.
This might have been impossible if there had not been a single organization: Reception of Saint-Vincent. West Oakland Daycare, Preschool and Preschool provides affordable care and education for low-income children while their parents work or seek employment.
For Williams, Saint Vincent’s is an oasis of stability in what could easily become a chaotic life.
“I know my baby is in a really good environment,” Williams said of Shawn, who is in the “dragonfly” class at Saint Vincent. “I leave it in good hands and I feel good and I have no worries.”
For 111 years, Saint Vincent’s has served parents in Alameda County who cannot afford the exorbitant cost of private child care. The centre’s 133 children aged 2 to 6 spend their days playing, listening to story time, napping and learning numbers and letters – but they also receive a nutritious breakfast and lunch every day, as well as screenings by nursing students from Samuel Merritt University to check for health issues. The center also helps parents by offering parenting classes and a food bank.
The majority of St. Vincent’s children come from families representing up to 85 percent of the state’s median income, or about $95,000 a year for a family of four. Families typically pay on a sliding scale based on their income and number of children, for a maximum monthly fee of $700 – far less than the going rate for private daycare. The center stopped charging families during the pandemic and does not plan to start again until at least July 2023.
Saint Vincent’s hopes to have a total of 200 children enrolled in the coming months and is working to hire more teachers – despite a nationwide shortage – to make that happen. There are over 100 children on the centre’s waiting list.
For the holidays, Saint-Vincent wants to offer the families of each of these 200 children a $50 gift card. They get donated toys and books to give as gifts, but these gift cards — for Target or a local grocery store — can help families buy winter clothes, food for a holiday dinner and more during an expensive and stressful season, said Bianca Lewis, director of development for Saint Vincent.
To do this, Saint Vincent’s hopes to raise $10,000 in donations through the annual East Bay Times show. Share the spirit country. Each year, Share the Spirit shines a spotlight on nonprofits that help those most in need among us.
Williams benefited from these gift cards.
“Without the gift cards, Shawn, the girls and my kids would have a very bleak Christmas,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to provide as many smiles as I could.”
Saint Vincent also plans to start offering counseling to children who need mental health care. Many of the children in the program have already experienced trauma in their short lives – the death of a parent or other tragedy, or simply the day-to-day hardships of living in poverty.
“We try to help at this early stage when the child is developing to help prevent and/or reverse the negative impacts of poverty and family instability,” Lewis said, “in the hope that they will continue and achieve this education which will help them and their future families.
It’s a method Williams knows well. After all, she also went to St. Vincent as a child.
Williams was raised by her aunt, who left her in Saint Vincent while she worked as a nurse in San Francisco. Williams recalls Saint Vincent being “too much fun…almost like a miniature Disneyland”.
So when history repeated itself and Williams found herself raising her nieces and nephew, she returned to the place that had given her so many happy childhood memories.
Now that her nieces are in elementary school, Williams is back in the workforce. She leaves 3-year-old Shawn in Saint Vincent from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. while she looks for work.
“Without them, I don’t know how I could continue this quest to find and get something that will help me and my family,” she said as Shawn, who calls her “TT ‘, snuggled up against her, her wild curls sticking up in every direction.
Saint Vincent also made a big difference in the life of Marco Gudiño and his son Bodhi. Gudiño was in despair when he happened to be cycling near Saint Vincent one day 15 years ago. He had just become the single father of his 3-year-old son, after the boy’s mother left, and he didn’t know what to do. Bodhi was acting and Gudiño had no one to watch him as he twice worked loading planes for FedEx and driving forklifts at the Port of Oakland.
Gudiño applied to St. Vincent and was accepted. Bodhi learned to read and write there. And today Bodhi, now 18, is studying sports medicine at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. Gudiño is so proud that he can hardly talk about it without crying.
But he thinks none of this would have happened without Saint Vincent.
“They kind of gave us the hope that we needed,” he said, “or that I needed to be able to believe in myself to be able to raise a child.”
Share the spirit
The Share the Spirit Holiday Campaign, sponsored by the Bay Area News Group, provides relief, hope and opportunity to East Bay residents by helping to raise money for nonprofit programs in the counties of ‘Alameda and Contra Costa.
how to help
Donations will allow Saint Vincent to give families of 200 children a $50 gift card, increase donated toys and books, help families buy winter clothes, food or other necessities during the holidays. Goal: $10,000
how to give
Go to www.sharethespiriteastbay.org/donate or print and mail in the coupon.