Circle of charity

Jeff vonKaenel

Many years ago, a family suffered a devastating house fire in Reno, Nevada. The Salvation Army was there to help. Last week, at the dedication of the Salvation Army’s new transitional-living center just off of Watt Avenue, this family had a chance to give back.

In recent years, Sacramento resident Joyce Raley Teel has been listed on the Forbes Magazine list of richest Americans, with assets more than $1 billion. When she got up to speak at the dedication, I was surprised to find out that her family had once been assisted by the Salvation Army.

Before there were Raley’s supermarkets, Joyce’s mother, E. Claire Raley, lived in Reno. When her home burned down, the Salvation Army was there. At the dedication of the E. Claire Raley Transitional Living Center, daughter Joyce spoke about how the Salvation Army had helped her family. She spoke of her desire to give back; the center was made possible in part by her $2 million donation.

One person who will directly benefit from Joyce’s desire to give back is a new resident of this beautiful 35-unit facility, 28-year-old Elizabeth Hampson. For 11 years, Elizabeth fought a meth addiction that landed her in prison and cost her the custody of two of her older children.

Just a few months ago, while still struggling with meth addiction, Elizabeth was living in a car with her then 7-month-old son. Speaking at the dedication, Elizabeth said she felt blessed to be currently drug-free and making so many positive changes in her life.

After she spoke, I asked Elizabeth, who was holding her happy young son, if we could speak. But first, she wanted to know, had I ever had the chicken pox? I had. She explained that her son had chicken pox. But because of the transitional-living center, he could recover in a bed in his own room, instead of in a car parked on the side of the road.

We need more transitional-living centers. Not only do they produce better outcomes for individuals like Elizabeth, but they can also save money. Without places to live, homeless individuals often end up in hospital or jail, which costs the community significantly more than a transitional-living center.

While Joyce’s donation was the largest, hundreds of other Sacramento residents gave generously. The campaign, led by Sacramentans John Frish and Diane Mizell, raised $7.4 million. In addition to building this center, these funds also built a 14,000-square-foot child-development center in Oak Park and an expansion of the Salvation Army’s very successful adult-rehabilitation center. In these times, these are great accomplishments.

Many years ago, the Salvation Army helped a family who had just lost their home. And now, 35 families, many of whom were previously homeless, will have a living center.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.