A Helping Hand: Petra Reyes
Petra, mother of 4, is currently enrolled in the EHP Women’s Support Group. This is her story.
I came to EHP in 2003 after my husband was incarcerated and I was left with no way to support my children. My life has not been an easy one and it just seems like it is one problem followed by another. Not only have I been dealing with constant financial problems but recently, I have also had to deal with death and illness in my family. I became the guardian of my niece’s child who tragically passed away from SIDS on May 5, 2014. My father, whom I took care of after he suffered 2 strokes, passed on August 7, 2014. And my beloved mother was recently diagnosed with Lymphoma. In addition to all of this, I am a diabetic, suffer with depression and have to take medication for both.
I am no stranger to the stress that illness can bring. My 9 year old son, Joshua, was diagnosed with a genetically based disease at a young age. On his worst days, he can suffer over 13 seizures and the doctors can only do so much for him. He has suffered brain damage that continues to get worse with each seizure. He isn’t expected to live past his next birthday. I am devastated by life but I am trying to hold myself together for the sake of my other children.
Although it saddens me to know that I don’t have the support of my brothers, I do have amazing friends which include the staff at EHP. I call EHP whenever I feel lost and speak to a Case Manager or Lesia, the Executive Director. They always have the door open for me and I don’t know what I would do without their support. My family’s income is limited as I receive Social Security Disability and my husband’s part-time income when he can find work. EHP is a lifesaver providing the things that we need to live. My kids were only able to get their back to school supplies and clothes because of EHP’s help. I truly don’t know what I would do if EHP wasn’t in my life.
My son is now at the Stanford Children’s hospital. It is only a matter of time before he passes. I come to EHP often these days because seeing my son at the hospital is very painful for me. In October of 2014, doctors found a tumor in my brain. I have undergone chemo therapy and I just received news that there is a tumor spreading in my throat. I feel as though I am going to break down any day now, but with the constant support from my friends and EHP I know I can survive this.
Some people know Sandy Barker as a past EHP Board Member, but for many, he will always be the “people’s architect”. In 1999, Bob Cool, a past Board Member, reached out to Sandy Barker who was his office neighbor at the time, to request assistance with finding a new location that will house the programs and operations. Sandy’s company, Barker Wagoner Architects (formally Barker Associates, Architects), had experience working with nonprofits and believed working closely with clients to understand their needs and desires in order to design a space to fit the needs. Over 80% of Sandy Barker and Barker Wagoner Architects projects include projects with senior communities, health clinics, environmental agencies and social service agencies like the Ecumenical Hunger Program.
Barker Wagoner Architects became an integral part in EHP’s growth. Sandy worked closely with the past Executive Director, Nevida Butler, to understand the needs of EHP and ensured that EHP was able to utilize the space to accomplish its goals and mission. Once EHP was ready to move from Whiskey Gulch, currently known as University Circle, Sandy and Barker Wagoner Architects assisted with design of the new spaces on Bay Road and University. Sandy continued to reevaluate the space and develop space designs that would sustain during EHP’s growth; however, the buildings became more difficult to renovate and the program quickly outgrown the new spaces.
Bob Russell, a past Board Member called on Sandy Barker again in 2002 to assist EHP evaluating and designing the space to fit EHP at Pulgas Avenue. EHP moved to Pulgas Avenue, the current campus, formerly a social club, Barbeque Shack and drilling company. Sandy, along with Staff and Board Members worked diligently to transform the campus into a space that was usable for program operations including upgrading the warehouse. Initially, the services were housed in the Program Building and focused primarily on food and clothing. As the programs were grew the warehouse filled up with donated furniture and was used by clients, staff and volunteers.
After serving as the Architect, EHP asked Sandy Barker to join the Board in 2002 because his understanding of the program and operations and his work with building and EPA planning. Sandy came to the Board with a profound understanding of EHP’s program and needs because of his previous work with EHP and the strong rapport he built with staff. He served for 7 years providing insight on facilities and aided Nevida in nonprofit relations. Barker Wagoner Architects donated over $35, 000 worth of service time while on the Board including assisted Rebuilding Together with a Warehouse remodel and Habitat for Humanity with re-building the Sunset house.
In 2014, EHP called on Sandy once again. EHP was looking to remodel the Activity Room to include a bathroom, kitchenette and storage space to meet the needs of our community collaborators who utilized the space as well as come up with new Master Plan for the campus. Sandy Barker designed the addition and with the assistance of Vance Brown Builders and donors funding, the Activity Room is now finished. However, there is still work to be done with warehouse and space.
Sandy Barker has a historical perspective of EHP and EHP’s growth as well as being able to understand the new direction of the city planning department is taking. As East Palo Alto is looking to improve the image of the city, modernizing the area, Sandy is planning on assisting EHP with doing the same. Sandy believes that by creating a unified space, EHP will be an important space to build community and to build upon the services. EHP has currently outgrown the space as it is today, but like Sandy, everyone is envisioning a new campus with services that will not only help families sustain, but to educate them and help them to create a better future.
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