Giving Thanks This Thanksgiving

We recently learned about Rebaldo and Silvia. From the onset, either one of them could pass for just about any other teenager living in LA. As we dug a little deeper into their heartfelt stories, however, it became clear that they had come a long way – a long way toward a place we often take for granted.

Take Rebaldo. Rebaldo and his family of six used to live in a garage. All six of them shared a single bathroom. They shared beds and there was barely any room to walk around in. They didn’t have any outdoor space for the kids to play in and had to drive for miles to find the nearest park. Then there was the last straw. “I was lying down and felt something nibbling on my toe. When I looked to see what it was, it was a rat about six inches long. A big rat. I looked at my toe and it was bleeding,” he said, recounting the incident. “It was horrible.”

Rebaldo’s mom Guadalupe sought help and soon found a home through an affordable housing project funded by the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA). The children have their own rooms and don’t need to wait for a single bathroom anymore. They have a yard where Rebaldo plays ball with his sister and a beautiful gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and hardwood floors. “I feel like a queen here,” said Guadalupe.

The odds were equally stacked against Silvia when she first came to HCIDLA’s partnering agency Central City Neighborhood Partners to get tutoring classes when she was in 3rd grade. Silvia’s family of eight was making $9,600 a year, which is well below the federal poverty line. Her dad had intermittent work and her mom had an autistic sister that she cared for. Through the help of the agency’s social services that included parent education, healthy lifestyle and civic engagement, Silvia and her mom took advantage of existing resources and got more involved over the years. Silvia excelled in school and recently graduated with honors on her way to becoming a freshman at the University of Southern California, just down the street from where she grew up in Pico Union.

Rebaldo and Silvia’s stories reaffirm the importance of leveling the playing field to ensure everyone has the same opportunities to succeed in life. More importantly, their stories remind us of how fortunate we are to have what we have and to be thankful for it.We would like to thank HCIDLA for sharing these powerful stories of impact with us and urge all of you to take a moment to give thanks – for good health, for a loving family, for a roof over our heads, the list goes on.