“Please Don’t Forget Us”


Written by Rick Schroeder

I had just come back from vacation.  Having been out of the office for more than a week, I faced hundreds of emails, scores of voice mail messages, a stack of mail a foot deep, and a number of co-workers impatiently waiting at my door.

As the busy morning progressed, I finally checked the voice mail messages.  Larry had left messages nearly every day. His last message–

Rick, this is Larry. I stopped by the office.  The receptionist lady told me you were gone. I left you a note. Don’t tell me to give up Davidson.  He saved me, Rick.  I can’t just give him up! I won’t do that to him.  Talk to you later. Larry.”

Larry calls me at least once a week.  Larry is homeless.

I was annoyed. For the past three years, I have been trying to help Larry. I have urged patience, but Larry cannot seem to understand that there is a very long waiting list for affordable housing, especially supportive housing, and that very few units become available.  He further refuses to stay at an emergency shelter since that would mean separating from up his dog, Davidson.

I fished through the stack of letters, agreements, and other mail and found Larry’s note.


I stared at the note.  I put it aside and went back to work.

But throughout the morning I kept coming back to his note, especially its last line: “Please DON’T forget US!”

Had I forgotten him?  Would I forget him and all the men, women, and children who were homeless like him?  How could I?  Over the past decade, homelessness has grown and has become very visible.  There are close to 2,000 persons homeless in Ventura County and close to 60,000 in Los Angeles County.

And yet his concern was valid: we want to forget Larry and those like him.  Staring at the pain, the suffering, and the accumulated loss of our fellow human beings, with the realization that we as a society have failed them at a time they were most in need makes us want to sweep away our guilt and shame and think of other things.  Is not homelessness so large, so entrenched, and so overwhelming that there is very little we can do?  Will the poor not always be with us?

Larry’s concern was valid, but we can change this. Yes, ‘the poor will always be with us,’ but this does not mean that the poor have to be without a home.  Homelessness is a man-made problem, and it has man-made solutions.  The solutions are difficult and expensive and will take a long time, but, ultimately, we can end homelessness.  We must try.

Larry, I promise you that you will not be forgotten!  Many Mansions, its Board of Directors, its staff, and its many supporters are dedicated to helping you and those like you find a home.

That morning, I put Larry’s letter on my bulletin board.  I look at it every day.


The History of Many Mansions

Written by Lois-Ann (Jackson) Kurt

In June 1979, Rev. Colm O’Ryan, Assistant Pastor of St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church in Thousand Oaks, asked me, a member of their Christian Service Committee, to assist him in housing a large family of nine. Rev. O’Ryan told me that he had housed several families prior to this, on a plan in which the Church paid the balance of rent after the family paid its portion. The families applied for area housing (HUD) certificates, and when receiving HUD funds, paid 30% of their income for rent, while HUD paid its own portion up to the “fair market rent.” The Church then paid the balance of the asking rent to the tenant’s landlord, whose rent was usually higher than what HUD allowed.

Rev. O’Ryan told me that, at his Bishop’s instruction, he could no longer continue housing families, which is why he appealed to me. I had a real estate sales license since 1961, received my Broker’s license in 1975, and was a “million-dollar” salesperson with West Oaks Realty in Thousand Oaks.

After finding housing for the family of nine, and helping a few more families the Church recommended, an idea occurred to me, which I carried to the Council of Christian Churches in Thousand Oaks, which was to house families, seniors, and disabled people, who could then apply for HUD funds. I mentioned my idea to Frank Schillo, a Financial Advisor in Westlake Village, who had raised the $8000 from local churches required to buy a house for the Manna Food Bank.

Frank Schillo wrote concerning this idea to fifty-one churches and temples in the Conejo Valley, inviting them to a meeting in his office.Present were the head of the Area Housing Authority, pastors of several churches, a temple in Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village, and Rev. O’Ryan and I – about 25 people in all. At the meeting, I explained my vision for a housing-assistance foundation, as did Frank Schillo.

Subsequent meetings were held where discussions focused on forming a non-profit corporation. At one meeting in the City Manager’s office, several pastors, the head of HUD, Marvin Sosna, the Thousand Oaks News-Chronicle Editor, and I were discussing what to name the organization. After a long silence from those gathered, it was Mr. Sosna who suggested the name from the New Testament passage in John 14:3
– “Many Mansions.”

Mr. Schillo paid his attorney $500 of his own funds to craft the Articles of Incorporation. Joseph Leggett, a Thousand Oaks broker, offered $10,000 so that we could start housing families, seniors, and disabled persons. I was appointed to start this process. As an employee and Board member (and also Secretary of the Board), I was soon paid with City funds a token $65 per lease plus travel expenses for each family we housed. Besides interviewing applicants and locating housing, I did the bookkeeping. This was a complicated process, as funds coming from the tenant, the Area Housing Authority, churches, a temple, and generous sponsors, along with full rent going out to landlords, plus monthly reports required by the City of Thousand Oaks.

I found housing for many families, some soon-to-be-evicted tenants, totaling about 250 households over the first three years. In about 1982, Schillo Gardens Apartments was built, with a construction loan furnished from City Redevelopment Funds, 20% of which had to be redirected toward the low-income population. Our original program continued, as it has to this day, now managing leases for the hundreds of apartments which Many Mansions has built.

In the eleven years I leased homes for Many Mansions, I appealed to Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and the Salvation Army to help our tenants pay rent and oftentimes also procure food, clothing, furniture, and more, including utility payments, some from churches. I provided applications and arranged transportation to the Manna Food Bank, Medicare and MediCal offices, and doctor visits. I took late-night phone calls when toilets were plugged or sinks wouldn’t drain. St. Paschal Baylon Church adopted three Vietnamese families, one of which had ten children. Most of these children later became physicians now practicing in the U.S.

Over many years, Frank Schillo and I, as well as Frank Nekimken of Temple Etz Chaim, some Lutheran pastors, and the head of HUD in Thousand Oaks, all spoke at meetings of the City Council and Planning Commission to obtain funds for our project, and to obtain permissions to build. I presented very complicated applications to United Way, and to acquire Community Development Block Grant Funds, in order to fund our Corporation’s outgoing rents.

At first, the City provided us a leased office in the Janss Mall, and hired Ed Nelson as Administrator and an accountant to assist with the books. Soon, Frank Schillo’s wife Marian raised funds to construct the “Under One Roof” building at 80 East Hillcrest in Thousand Oaks. This building then housed the Many Mansions office, the offices of Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, and other organizations. Later, Joe Smolarski was hired as Administrator, as well as another staff member just for accounting.

I worked for Many Mansions from 1979 until 1990, when I left to return to teaching, graduating from Mt. St. Mary’s University in 1998. I attended CSULA for another ten years toward my Master’s degree while teaching for LAUSD and St. Joan of Arc in West L.A. I recently composed a volume of 90 sonnets, and in the Preface I asked readers to consider donating to Many Mansions.

I continue to be proud of the work so many of us did in establishing Many Mansions, and as it approaches its 40th anniversary – and I approach my own 90th year – I could not be more elated by what its President, Rick Schroeder, and the Board of Trustees and Associates continue to accomplish. Our vision which began in 1979 continues to flourish, as Many Mansions expands its horizons in Thousand Oaks and other areas of Ventura County. It is truly a model for communities nationwide to replicate!

Reaching Potential With Kindness and Love


Written by Karen Millet

I came to Many Mansions via Susan Cass.

Sue mentioned this organization when I was looking for volunteer positions to allow me to continue working with the community in some way. Previously, I had held various volunteer positions in the school system from elementary through high school.  There was always something or someone that needed a helping hand.

One of my favorite jobs was working with children in elementary. I was hoping to return to that in some way. Homework Club seemed like a good match as I would be able to work with young children again. Many Mansions is such an amazing organization, and Homework Club and summer camp are integral parts of what makes it so special.

I love working with children. I’ve volunteered at both Hillcrest and Hacienda. Every child I have met over the years has blossomed in Homework Club. I’ve seen timid children become more self-confident and outgoing. I’ve seen rambunctious children settle down and discover subjects that they thought they might never like.

For example, Farah has always been gentle and helpful! She draws so well that she has given that love to others like Isabella. Isabella was a bit wild in the beginning, but she was also a very smart girl. I watched her became calmer when she got more confident, thanks to the program. Zelda, on the other hand, never liked do anything but play in the beginning. Now, she does her homework without grumbling, and she likes to read!

So many stories of success from these programs validated what I always felt: education and helping children reach their potential with kindness and love will make all the difference between success and failure.



Honorable Work


Written by Doug Menges

For roughly thirty years, I had a number of different jobs in the corporate world. I was a manager at a big CPA firm, Vice President of Citibank, a Chief Claims Officer, worked at Farmers Insurance. I even managed big divisions for Fortune 500 companies. However, the story really begins thirty years ago…

I was a first year MBA student going to Harvard. There was a lot of pressure to join Wall Street or join investment banking and become a “titan of industry.” Despite this, I was always drawn to the nonprofit sector. I ended up getting involved with a minister at a local church that was providing homeless services in the Cambridge area. At the time, Cambridge was mostly a working class community with its fair share of homelessness, and much less affluent than the somewhat standard Boston suburb. By the second year of my MBA program, I was so interested in the concept of affordable housing that I requested and received permission from the school to do an independent study on the subject. I learned more about developing affordable housing and even planned to create a nonprofit around affordable housing. This ultimately led me to a job search in the field.

I was a second-year student with a young baby, and, instead of talking with Goldman Sachs, I was talking to very small affordable housing developers. It was the spring of 1989 and I was graduating in a few months. My job search was simply chaotic. I’d be in Houston one day, the next day I’d be in Detroit, and the following day I’d be in LA, followed by Atlanta, and then the Silicon Valley. I was still interested in affordable housing, but I was also talking to large banks. I got a chance to speak to Don Terner, one of the founding members of affordable housing and founder of Bridge Housing in the Bay area.

I don’t remember exactly what caused me to do this, but I had been reading a lot about Don Terner and Bridge Housing and the innovative things he was doing out in California, so I found his phone number and called him. He answered his own phone, and I explained that I was a second-year Harvard MBA student and would be out in Silicon Valley and was interested in speaking to him about a career in affordable housing. Unfortunately, right before I was set to meet him, Hewlett Packard, one of the companies that I was talking to in Silicon Valley, told me that they would need me longer than planned. I had to call Don Terner and cancel our meeting. I told Don that I would try to get back to him another day, but unfortunately that never happened. Several years later, in the early 1990s, Don Terner was asked to be a part of a U.S. group of ambassadors. While flying over Yugoslavia, his plane crashed, and he died. To this day, I still regret not following through.

Anyways, I ended up joining Citibank out of school. We moved to New York, and then to 8 other places through my corporate travels. Still, I had the itch to pursue affordable housing. In the late 1990s, Many Mansions was doing one of their Great Conejo Duck Races. After attending this event, I went on to attend a grand opening and, from there, I was invited to join the board of Many Mansions. Still busy traveling, I was on and off the board several times. After I retired a few years later, I called up Rick and told him that I was ready. He said I could either rejoin the board or take an entry level position in real estate development where I could learn affordable housing from the ground up. He warned me that it wasn’t glamorous and didn’t pay much, but I told him that was exactly what I was looking for 30 years ago, and exactly what I wanted to do now. I’ve had many jobs that pay substantially more, but none have been as thrilling as the job here at Many Mansions.

The most interesting project I’ve had the opportunity to work on has been the current new construction project in Fillmore. While this small city is rather hesitantly, if not a little reluctantly, coming into affordable housing, it has been a pleasure to describe the vision to them, work with the members of the community, and form the development team all while trying to make sure we come in under budget. I’ve been working on this for three years, and it will be three more years before it comes out of the ground and people move in. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it from the early days, and it’s really been one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done.

I go home every night and think to myself, “Wow, I learned something new today. I know what I’m doing today is going to help someone tomorrow.” I could never say all of those things in the same sentence about the work I did in insurance and banking. I wish I would have gotten here 30 years ago. There are so many careers out there where you either have the opportunity to enrich yourself or enrich others. Whatever you do, the work should be honorable.

The Home of My Second Family


Written by Jesse Appice

My Many Mansions journey started back in 2014 when I was just 12 years old. It feels like just the other day, I was being interviewed for a summer camp volunteer position. Now, here I am, the assistant coordinator at Villa Garcia. While my involvement within the organization has transformed over the years, my purpose has remained the same. For me, it is all about being there for kids who, otherwise, might not always have someone there for them.

I began volunteering with Many Mansions in 2014 as a summer camp volunteer at Villa Garcia. I remember not knowing exactly what to expect but being excited nevertheless. It definitely took some time for the kids to get used to seeing a new face all the time, but I think it is safe to say I grew on them. I enjoyed that first summer so much that I came back the following summer to volunteer again. To my delight, when I came back, I was no longer a stranger but rather a face the kids truly looked forward to seeing and hanging out with. It was after this second summer that I then found out about Homework Club, the organization’s school year program. In 2015, I started volunteering for both summer camp and Homework Club every year. While I was able to form strong bonds with the kids of Villa Garcia after volunteering two summers in a row, starting to volunteer during the summer and school year dramatically expanded my role. I soon became more than a volunteer. I became a friend. I became someone who was consistently there for the Villa Garcia kids, someone who was there to help them with whatever they might have been dealing with or going through, whether it was lots of homework or something entirely different.

The reason why so much of what I have said is in the past tense is because I am no longer a volunteer at Villa Garcia. Well, that is not entirely true, as I believe the volunteer inside me will never cease to exist. With that said, though, I am now, about 6 years later at the ripe age of 18, the assistant coordinator at Villa Garcia. While I just recently assumed this position, it has already been so rewarding. Now, instead of being with the kids of Villa Garcia for a day or two a week as I had been as a volunteer, I now get to be with them and positively impact their lives on a daily basis.

The best part is that it rarely feels like work. It feels like I am spending time with my family. I guess that is the real reason I decided to come back and volunteer year after year. It never felt like work. I could not have cared less about getting the volunteer hours. All I cared about was being a rock and role model for my friends at Villa Garcia. Being able to help them in whatever way possible, big or small, is what has always been most important to me. Although Villa Garcia started out simply as the place I came to volunteer, today it is truly so much more. It is the home of my second family, and a place where I always feel at home. I cannot wait to see where the future takes me and this organization. No matter where we go or what happens, I know the kids of Villa Garcia will always be with me and I will always be with them.

The Right Place and Time


Written by Rita Saade

I have been working for Children Services at Many Mansions for a year and a half now. Watching them grow has been such a rewarding experience. I have worked with many of the kids and witnessed them progress. Seeing them struggle in a specific area and positively advance over time shows the important of Homework Club and the importance of what we do.

I am going to share a story of one of our children specifically who I have seen display amazing growth and progress. Her name is Sasha and she is a five-year-old girl. She started attending Homework Club around the time I became the coordinator at the site. She was a new move-in and started attending shortly after arriving at the site. Sasha is an only child and is being raised by a single mom who is pursuing higher education and working hard to give her daughter a good life.

The impact of Homework Club on Sasha was almost immediate. She adapted quickly. Prior to Homework Club, Sasha had trouble sitting quiet and following the rules in school. During her first week, she had to be reminded to sit quietly and listen to announcements. She would want to get up, talk, and fidget with items on the desk. By the second week, though, she started to remind other older members to be quiet during announcements. According to her mother, she also started doing better in school behaviorally and socially.

Although Sasha is still very young, she is at the age where it is essential that she learn skills that will allow her to be successful throughout her educational journey. Children pick up on actions modelled and reinforced around them. At Homework Club, Sasha is seeing, learning, and practicing various skills daily, skills that are needed in the classroom, especially at her age. Since she is an only child, her interaction with other members around her age and older really help her grow socially as well.

Sasha’s progress behaviorally and socially are not the only areas she has shown growth. Sasha has also shown amazing progress in reading. When she first started Homework Club, she struggled with reading and would not sound out words with volunteers reading to her. As of the beginning of December, she started to read out loud and demonstrate ability in recognizing sight words rapidly. She is now excited to read! Targeting Sasha’s reading difficulties at an early age and working on strengthening her reading is important for many reasons. Once a child is behind, it becomes extremely difficult for them to catch up. Literacy issues throughout childhood has an impact on both academic and future success, so we’re very proud of her work.

Watching Sasha grow and experience her successes in various areas reminded me a lot of myself growing up. I am an only child too and at her current age, I was struggling a lot in school socially, behaviorally, and in the areas of reading and math. English was a second language for both my parents which made it hard for them to help me academically. My behavior problems in the classroom was a result of my struggles academically. Socially, since I was an only child, I was not around a lot of kids outside of school which impacted me. My parents were told that if I did not receive extra outside help, I would have to repeat Kindergarten.

My parents found a program that provided the help that I needed, and a positive change was seen fairly quickly. My grades improved, my behavior improved, and my confidence in myself improved. I continue to use the skills I learned throughout my education and in life. Even though I was very young, to this day, I still remember the individuals who helped me. They had such a positive impact on my life and I will always be grateful for them.

I hope all of us who work with Sasha can have a similar impact on her future so that she can reach her full potential. As I mentioned earlier, watching the children grow and progress has been such a rewarding experience. I am thankful to be able to work with these amazing children and have a positive impact on their life in whatever way I can. I look forward to watching Sasha, along with all the other children, continuously grow in various ways with us at Homework Club.

A Very Merry Christmas

Written by Priscilla Gonzalez

Christmas in 2019 was magical.

Thanks to the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, “Santa Claus” visited Shadow Hills that year during the annual Christmas Party. He started off the celebration by doing some caroling with the kids. The whole group went around the entire site, singing wonderful and jolly Christmas carols for all to hear. The kids loved it and, soon enough, their parents were joining them as well.

By the time the merry carolers made it back to the community room, the rest of the party was waiting for them. Breakfast was provided, and Santa got ready to meet with each and every child. Each boy and girl waited in line to meet him. Once they reached him, they would then tell Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas.

Somehow, Santa always had the right gift. But, of course, the real magic was in a strategically placed volunteer, ready to sneak Santa the right gift for the right child. To the child, though, it was like the perfect present magically appeared in Santa’s hand every time! They were thrilled.

As a staff member, I was able to join in on the festivities that year. I think what I liked most about it was the kids’ anticipation when they were walking up. I am going get a gift today, they were thinking. I am going to meet Santa! Not only did they get the gift they wanted, they also had the opportunity to take a picture with Santa, which I thought that was really nice.

Santa’s wife was also there, and she was really, really happy to be present for this. She actually gave out $50 grocery gift cards! We had more than enough to give one to every single family.

One of the residents spoke to me at the end. She said, “You know, you are doing a wonderful job. Thank you for even just speaking to me.” She appreciated the breakfast and the festivities. Being able to participate in this shared community event really helped her. Hearing her feedback meant a lot.

Experiencing this event was really important to me too. My parents always tried their best to make Christmas time the best it can be, even though my family struggled most during this time. I came from a family of ten siblings. My mother had seven kids with her at all time. You could imagine our family dinners! Somehow, we always had enough food for everyone. In my family, food was the most important thing that brought people together. But so were the festivities, whether it was bringing the decorations up together, or the activities we did, or even just seeing the presents under the Christmas tree.

I noticed it was the same here at Many Mansions. But at the same time, each year, it becomes more and more difficult. Putting food on the table can be hard. The kids get older, and there are more financial needs for them.

That’s the importance of programs like these, though. Bringing residents in to participate. Connecting families to their neighbors. Having food available for everyone. Giving gifts to make kids happy. Even receiving the gift card from Mrs. Claus had a huge impact! Whatever they liked most about this one event, these families left with fewer things to worry about.

Events like the Christmas Party at Shadow Hills help make a difficult time of the year a little merrier for us all.

Coming Home to Many Mansions

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.

Many Mansions Discovered

Written by Al Friedman

It was a cold drizzling Wednesday afternoon in February. Classes at Westlake High School were over for the day. Our granddaughter, Danielle, often walked to our house after school. My wife Lois and I decided to drive down, find Dani, and drive her home. We saw her and another girl walking together, each wearing a heavy backpack. Dani saw us, smiled, waved good-bye to her friend and got into our car. Her friend continued walking on Thousand Oaks Blvd.

Lois said, “Dani, how is your friend getting home?”

“Oh, she takes the bus, but sometimes walks home.”

I asked, “Where does she live?”

“Oh, down Thousand Oaks Blvd.”

In unison, my wife and I said, “She is going to get soaked, let’s give her a ride.”

We pulled over. Dani opened the window and asked her she would like a ride home. I do not remember her name, but she said, “sure, thanks!” and got into our car.

We drove for about 10 minutes and she said, “I live down the next driveway.” I turned and drove down the alley. On the left was a row of small offices. On the right were old apartment buildings. Lois asked if this was where she lived. She told us she lived on the second floor with her mother. Many days, she used a room on the first floor to do homework where many kids get some tutoring if any help is available.

She said, “Thanks for the ride. See you tomorrow, Dani.”

I turned around and started back to the Thousand Oaks Blvd. We passed a sign over a little office doorway saying Many Mansions. Under the sign was a written card: Volunteers Needed.

Lois said, “Stop in front of that office. I want to see what they do here.” When she came back to the car, she had some papers in her hand. “Those apartments are for families who have been helped by Many Mansions. They might be homeless, but all need help. I am going to volunteer and help tutor some of the kids.”

Lois volunteered at Many Mansions about three days a week for many years. She always came home happy helping kids and sad about how much help some of the younger ones needed. Lois considered it a gift that she could help them.



Written by Luis Mex

I wanted to share a realization that I had when I returned from college recently. My math lecture had finished, and I went home. I was about to get ready for work, but I just had to stop. I looked at a tree by the mailboxes at Villa Garcia. It just caught my attention, and I just didn’t know why. So I went inside and I got ready for work. But for the next week, every time I got ready for work, I passed the tree, and I noticed all these little things I never bothered to look at. The branches, for instance. There is so many more of them now. Also, the tree was standing by itself. It no longer had the support posts that were there when the tree was originally planted. And that’s when everything made sense to me.

I was there when the tree was planted so many years ago. I helped dig the hole. I helped fill it back up. I helped make sure it was supported. When it was first planted, I used to walk past it and feel so good about that. Then I stopped for a couple of years. I didn’t even pay attention to this tree. I didn’t even watch it grow. It was just something that happened in the background.

This made me think about my experience at Many Mansions. I have been in Many Mansions longer than the tree has been here, and I never stopped to think that in the background, I have also been growing up. I was growing up inside this property, inside this organization and in this community. I related with the tree. At one point, I also had my little support post. I also had someone help put me in the ground and made sure I got water and all the nourishment I needed.

When I first started in homework club, I was always the kid who worked from the time I go there to the time program closed. I did not like doing homework, and I didn’t always finish. By the volunteers were so patient, sitting next to me and making sure I stayed focused. Then I grew up, became a teen, and they were still there, helping me. I was actually pretty shy, which might be shocking to the people who know me now. But I didn’t really want to talk to people. Learning how to became my first step towards leadership and becoming a good example.

I stepped up and became a role model. I got close to the kids at the different sites as a teen, and, when I turned 18, I asked Many Mansions for an internship and got a job. It wasn’t until this year that I fully understood how much that meant to me, being hired fresh out of high school. Many Mansions took a chance on this young man that just had a passion, nothing more than a passion. They helped mold me into the man I am today. My motivations, my goals, and my achievements has its roots in Many Mansions. No matter what happens in the future, there will always be a part of Many Mansions in me where that seed was planted.

This tree really helped me reflect on the things Many Mansions has helped me and the programs they provide, all the support. This tree helped me remember how thankful and appreciative I am of everything Many Mansions has done for me. If it weren’t for Many Mansions, I wouldn’t have grown up the same way that I did.

Every time I walked past this tree to this day, I stop, even if it’s only for five seconds. I stop to appreciate the tree itself and the journey that it’s gone through. It got me thinking—the tree’s support posts are gone. Mine are really gone too. This tree is just doing its own thing now. Sure, it might not be able to move on to a different place, but now I am certain that I will someday. One day, I will have my own little patch of grass, and I will continue to grow.