We now have 11 moms and 22 children at Hope Gardens Family Center! The children are between the ages of 2 months and 10 years old and I have had a lot of fun playing adopted “Grandpa” to the children, buying all of the children bikes. I wish you could see 22 children darting around the campus on beautiful new bicycles!
With all of the activity around Hope Gardens and Union Rescue Mission, I have even developed a new exercise program. Each hot afternoon I push a cart full of water around Skid Row, delivering cold water to the folks left on the streets, to both strengthen and encourage them into coming into Union Rescue Mission. I then drive out to Hope Gardens to meet the children on the playground for a bit of a routine wrestling match the children have started between myself and whoever I can find to challenge the 22 children on the playground. Needless to say, I need some reinforcements, but it is whipping me into shape!
The other day I arrived to meet a new young mom. She was sitting and relaxing for a moment. I introduced myself and she did the same. Immediately, she thanked me for the opportunity to live at Hope Gardens Family Center. “It is so nice to not be wandering the streets all day until the emergency shelter opens up! My son, Robbie, is up playing on the playground,” as she pointed him out. “He a big guy for 6 and ½ years old but he is finally able to be a kid again! When you meet him, the first thing he will say is, ‘Have you seen my mom?’ ”
Sure enough, as I met this little husky guy, he asked, “Have you seen my mom?” Looking back on my childhood and how protective I was of my own mom, I believe Robbie has really been focused on protecting his mom during their time of homelessness and on the streets and in the San Fernando Valley emergency shelter. Now, Robbie is learning he can lighten up on protecting his mom because we are and take time to have lots of fun riding his bike, playing on the playground, and enjoying school.
What a joy to bring this type of relief to a precious mom and her little big guy! To think that this is happening to so many moms and kids is overwhelming – thank you to all who made it happen! –Rev. Andy Bales