Many who come into the Dunsmuir Community Resource Center for the first time have just arrived in town with little money and no job and need help getting their feet on the ground.
Bob Auleb is a part-time preacher who “does the God thing” out of his home. An articulate, sociable kind of guy, Auleb has accumulated a lot of experience in his 59 years, much of it on the hardscrabble side. He camped out on the slopes of Mount Shasta when he was homeless. He has back problems. He has had two strokes which have left him with impaired vision and cognitive problems. He also suffers from anxiety and depression.
The good news is that he’s finally found a home he can afford to rent in Dunsmuir. He’s also found a kind of second home at the Dunsmuir Community Resource Center, which he describes as a “caring and loving place” where he gets food from the Center’s food pantry, help with the endless government paperwork he needs to fill out for his disability payments, food stamps and other government assistance – and regular sessions of “coffee, cookies and conversation.”
“If it wasn’t for this place I’d be lying on the floor of my house crying,” Auleb says.
Many of those who come into the Center for the first time have just arrived in town with little money and no job and need help getting their feet on the ground.
Samantha Ward arrived in Dunsmuir from Louisiana with a car full of relatives, including her mother, a younger sister, and her boyfriend. Pretty much all they had were the clothes they were wearing. The Center was able to provide them with some food and, as Ward puts it, “a welcoming heart.” Since then, Ward has found a job at the Dollar General store and, with a regular paycheck, has been happy to give back, donating baby food to the Center.
Her co-worker at Dollar General, Donna Nyblom, has a similar story to tell. After getting help from the Center, she’s also been able to donate food and diapers.
The Center, which receives funding from Siskiyou County and private donations, helps fill gaps for the working poor, those who may be working two or three part-time jobs and still have a hard time paying the rent and putting food on the table.
Trista Rose Austin cleans vacation homes in Shasta and Siskiyou counties. Her partner drives logging trucks. Both are seasonal jobs, so there are times when they make use of the food pantry at the Center.
Amber Butler has three young children, including a five-year-old who’s been diagnosed with leukemia. Her fiance works three jobs. Like Auleb, Butler gets help from the Center with paperwork for food stamps and food from their pantry, but what she values most are the parenting classes, where she gets support from other parents and guidance in dealing with behavior problems.
“I feel the Resource Center really cares about my family,” she says.
The Center’s director, Alexandra Rivera, is in the ranks of the working poor herself. She has a two-year-old daughter and, to help make ends meet, is enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) government food subsidy program. Rivera came to California from Guatemala when she was five years old to live with her family in Southern California; her husband is originally from Nicaragua.
Rivera didn’t have much trouble finding work here when she moved to the area four years ago. She started out as a hostess at Casa Ramos in Mount Shasta and now works full time by juggling jobs at both the Dunsmuir Community Resource Center and its counterpart in Yreka. But her husband, Ever Gaytan, sometimes scrambles to find work as a landscape gardener, especially in the wintertime, and she understands the difficulties many of her clients have in cobbling together enough working hours to pay their bills.
The kind of help the Resource Center provides goes well beyond basics like food and clothing. Bob Auleb talked about the help he got with the paperwork involved in disability payments and food stamps. The Center also helps clients apply for Medi-Cal, job training, WIC, and other government programs online, as well as providing free access to the Internet. There are parenting classes, sessions in anger management, a support group for veterans, knitting classes, and a weekly children’s play session that features games, singing, and story reading.
But the real heart of the place is in the “coffee, cookies, and conversation.”
“It’s important for those facing personal challenges to know that they’re not facing them alone,” Rivera says. “We do try to provide a welcoming place, and at the same time do what we can to improve our clients’ quality of life.”
Indeed, an hour or two spent in a welcoming place, with the chance to share experiences and a few simple refreshments, can, as Bob Auleb can tell you, make the difference between despair and hope, between lying on the floor or getting up and back on your feet.
The Dunsmuir Community Resource Center is at 5844 Dunsmuir Avenue. For more information call 235-4400 or go to www.facebook.com/dunsmuir.crc.9