Christmas Eve shoes put smiles on children’s faces

VISTA — Hopeless is not a word that Cheryl Reese uses any longer. After battling chemical dependency, poverty and homelessness, the mother of three stood proudly as her children chose shoes during the Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids Gift Coupon Distribution on Dec. 24.
North County Solutions for Change invited approximately 100 children and their families to the nearby shoe store for the holiday surprise. Beginning just before 9 a.m., children ranging in ages from newborn to 19 years old lined up for their turn to pick out shoes and accessories.
Reese has had her share of hard times. She came to the nonprofit defeated and desperate.
“There’s a lot of growth and change when you get to Solutions,” she said. After becoming clean and sober with the help of the organization, Reese said her life has changed. “It’s given me a new chance,” she said as she watched her middle son Sean, 17, pick out shoes to wear to his part-time job.
Today, Reese’s family is together, her sons are thriving — one is a freshman at UCLA — and her self-esteem is growing. “Staying together as a family is the most important thing,” she said. “Being appreciative of the small things makes the sun shine brighter.”
The organization that made the giveaway possible is founded on the principle that family homelessness can be solved. Executive Director Chris Megison, who founded the organization in 1999 with his wife Tammy, said the families that enter the organization’s “university” are given the tools to succeed in life rather than a temporary fix. “There is a difference between containing homelessness and solving it,” he said. While seasonal shelters are valuable they don’t get to the root problems that lead to homelessness, Megison said.
Joy Ballinger found herself without a home this summer just weeks before her 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, was about to give birth. The two entered the organization’s shelter one week before Sophia was born. “I’m just happy that me and my family are together,” Ballinger said.
She watched over her now 4-month-old granddaughter while her daughter picked out a tiny pair of shoes. The family is now in their own apartment and Sarah is attending high school classes. With five months of sobriety under her belt, Ballinger is hopeful about her family’s future. “Now my life is going in a positive direction,” she said through tears.
According to staff member Antonea Peterson, the organization is committed to ensure that every child has a home. As a result, the organization partners with each family in the HYPERLINK “http://www.solutionsforchange.org/locations.html” Solutions Family Center — a 120-bed transitional housing center, designed to equip families and to help them regain their independence. Through a multitude of life-skills classes and coaching, families begin to turn their lives around permanently.
Leticia Castaneda is another example of the potential for success through the organization’s methodology. The 31-year-old single mother of six children said she went from homeless to achieving stability and sobriety after coming to the organization in July of this year. “I’m going back to school now,” she said. The support of her children carried her through the roughest times. “When I didn’t think I could do it, my kids would push me,” Castaneda said.
For more information on North County Solutions for Change, visit www.solutionsforchange.org or call (760) 941-6545.

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