5. Spirits that won’t quit

“I thought this place would be depressing,” volunteer Ginny Schropp told us after working several shifts at the kitchen at the Mary Isaak Center. “But I leave everyday marveling at how hopeful and cheerful the people who live here are.”

Ginny’s right. In the face of the worst housing crisis in Sonoma County history, our residents live in hope, creating beauty and community.

Our grounds host a whimsical garden of flowers, plants, and found objects, designed and maintained by residents. Client art work is everywhere at our Mary Isaak Center and our Kids First Family Shelter. It ranges from tiny arrangements of rocks and leaves to children’s finger-painting to sophisticated works in pastels and oils.

Residents look out for one another, saving meals for friends who work late, playing music for one another, listening to one another’s troubles, lightening each other’s burdens with stories, encouragement and jokes.

They also dive into the toughest cleaning jobs with gusto. Debbie Preader says staying busy helps her keep her spirits up.

Our Human Resources Chief Cat Higgins says, “Gardening, music playing, flowers on the mantle; these are things I experience at my own home. So, when I see these same things at COTS, I feel a sense of calm. Like things are right, people are working as a ‘family’ to bring the simple joys of life into focus.”