Written by Jessica Lawson
I first heard about Many Mansions at the start of 2014. Someone who worked within the organization reached out to tell me about an open Children Services position. They thought I would be a good fit. I declined it at the time, unable to take on another part-time job. But the opportunity arose again later that year, and I decided to take it on. I joined Many Mansions as a Children Services Assistant in late 2014.
It felt like something I had to do, and it ended up being a great thing for me. That position allowed me to learn more about myself and about the direction I want to go in for my future. I couldn’t have done that without the experiences I had with the residents, the affordable housing, and the services here. Working with the kids had a huge impact on me. Each youth resident was different in their own special way and each had a different personality that made them stand out, but together? Together, they built this giant community of happy, growing, supportive kids. Not all of them enjoyed school, but they made it work and pushed through the challenges, teaching me as much as I taught them.
This was a new experience for me. Coming into Many Mansions, I didn’t know what to expect, either with affordable housing or working directly with low-income residents. Truthfully, I expected something a little more chaotic and wild! But it was quite the opposite. I didn’t really know what affordable housing was either. “Affordable—cool, it’s houses that are not as expensive, right?” But it’s more than that. My experience at Many Mansions showed me that. It really made me see what this organization does for the people that live within their walls, and how the staff truly take care of them and appreciate where residents are in their life.
For example, there was this one resident named Ron. Ron really showed me the importance of this program. I felt truly connected with him. Like me, he also didn’t like school, mainly because he had a hard time with it. Certain things didn’t come easy. While some of his peers breezed through school, he struggled like I did. The staff and I worked hard with him over the course of several years. He was so kind and caring, and he really gave us his all. But he was struggling. I had so many conversations with him about his future, so I knew he didn’t have hope for what would come after high school. There was a point in time that we were sure he wouldn’t graduate.
I’ll never forget the day he told me he would be graduating after all! I had never seen him smile so big. A year or two later, he was at Moorpark College like I was, and it was so great to see how our conversations had shifted. Instead of conversations about dead end futures, we talked about what he wanted to do and how he could get there. Knowing that I had a hand in his growth was so heartwarming and was one of the best things I will ever do in my life.
While I have now moved on into a Volunteer Coordinator position, I continue to be amazed by the impact of this program.