Many people in our area are familiar with Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento as the shelter providing Sacramento homeless with food and basic necessities since 1983. However, have you heard of Sister Nora’s Place? For those of you who answered “No”....you’re not alone! Sister Nora’s Place is part of Loaves and Fishes and provides long-term shelter and case management for women with a history of homelessness, trauma and serious mental and physical illness. The program began sheltering women in 2005 and has the capacity to house 13 women at a time. Each woman is treated on an individual basis with no predetermined length of stay. It’s the only shelter of its kind in the Sacramento area!
Hands4Hope provides a home cooked meal to the ladies living at Sister Nora’s Place once a month and has been doing so since March of 2013. We typically have 2 adult leads along with 4-5 female youth participants prepping, cooking, serving and eating dinner with Sister Nora residents. While this may appear to be a very simple gesture, it’s not until you participate in the actual dinner that you see how BIG and impactful these few hours are, not only for our youth, but for the shelter residents.
To give a better perspective, this is how the evening went during the February outreach. Madeleine Vadenais and Gen Walk, our adult leads, planned and shopped for the meal. They met the youth participants at 4pm in El Dorado Hills and drove them to Sister Nora’s Place. Madeleine made a delicious bbq brisket, Gen provided root beer and the supplies for the youth to put together the salad, Jenna Brasil baked sugar cookies and Sienna Normoyle brought vanilla ice cream for root beer floats. Everyone did their part from washing/chopping lettuce, olives, tomatoes and shredding the meat. A few of the residents from Sister Nora’s Place helped with getting the dinner plates, utensils and beverages arranged.
Dinner was ready and served at 6pm. At this time, 14 ladies and all of the Hands4Hope participants gathered at the dining table to say grace and enjoy the meal. During this time, the youth brought up various topics from discussing/tasting homemade vs store purchased salad dressing, sports they are involved in which then led to asking the ladies if they had participated in sports when they were kids. Many chimed in with the sports they played from volleyball to soccer and basketball while others simply listened while eating their meal. During previous dinners at Sister Nora’s Place, many of the ladies leave the table when they’re done eating, this time most stayed as they knew we had root beer floats on the way! The youth took a headcount of who wanted to partake in having a float and happily scooped, poured and served each person with genuine smiles and excitement to share the treat!
After dinner, the site supervisor, Mercedes, gave us a tour of the home. The downstairs portion has a welcoming room, office with computers for reading and job hunting, the kitchen, laundry room and living room. Some of the ladies use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation and they store them in the living room. The living room is where we saw a few ladies relaxing, watching tv and knitting blankets. We learned there is a welcoming room which has 4 twin size beds and is where the ladies stay for the first 48 hours of their stay. This allows them time to acclimate, process paperwork and wait for a vacancy upstairs, which is where the permanent residents have their individual “rooms”. The upstairs consists of a large room with 8ft tall partitioned walls sectioned off into 14 individual rooms and each has a shower curtain as a door. The rooms each have a twin bed and a few drawers. Each resident is able to decorate her room as she chooses. Along with the sleeping area, there is a community bathroom with multiple showers and sinks. Many of the women at Sister Nora’s Place have lived there for not only months, but multiple years.
Gen has volunteered with Sister Nora’s Place for 7 years and states, “It means so much to me to see the ladies getting a good meal, which the youth have helped to prepare and the youth having conversation with the ladies and learning how other people live. All of us are in the moment caring for each other and the youth comment to me how much they enjoy the ladies & learn from them. That’s what life is all about!”
The February dinner was Sienna Normoyle’s first time visiting Sister Nora’s Place. She expressed, “Having dinner and talking to the ladies made me realize we have more in common than I would’ve thought. Some of them really liked talking to us and seemed happy. Their rooms were cute. I’m happy I went. They really liked the root beer floats!”
As seen in the photos, Hands4Hope youth chose to spend their Friday evening with the ladies at Sister Nora’s Place and were able to not only provide a delicious meal to these ladies who are rebuilding their lives, but built comradery amongst each other by serving our community. They left that evening knowing they are capable of putting together a dinner for 20 people and feeling so much gratitude from the ladies in the shelter who thanked them for their time and delicious dinner.
This shelter is amazing in all of the assistance it provides to some of the most vulnerable women in the community. Overall, Sister Nora’s Place is cozy, welcoming and truly a hidden gem in Sacramento! The partnership Hands4Hope has developed with Sister Nora’s Place provides a unique and truly valuable experience for the youth who partake in each of the dinners. If you haven’t participated in this outreach, join us for a dinner later this year! Please email Yoko@hands4hopeyouth.org if you are interested.