The Living Room Today
November 15th, 2022 | Volume 2 | Issue 1
Cindy Pasko, Executive Director
On a positive note...
Dear Friends,

Are you gearing up for the winter? Fall is here and it’s time to break out our sweaters, warm shoes, and coats. Soup and other cold weather comfort foods are back on menus throughout Sonoma County.

The Living Room is doing all these things too. We are stocking up and giving out cozy gear. Over a thousand warm meals are being delivered each week all over Santa Rosa to seniors, aged-out foster youth, and houseless women with children. Tonight, 21 women and children will tuck into toasty warm beds, in their own safe homes thanks to the generosity of partners who have helped us provide housing. Our new Life Center on Dutton is a dry and happy place at which over 70 women a day spend time working on health and stability.

We are so excited to share our impactful progress. We can’t update you on everything in this issue, but please get to know the staff and share in the joy we have in serving our community. We will be putting out another special edition in the new year.

Cindy Pasko, E.D.
Kitchen Team
Our 'Secret Hope Kitchen' has been a place of joy and love for many years. Volunteers and staff alike enjoy the fellowship they have with each other while cooking a warm meal to feed those in need. Each meal we serve is seasoned with love.
Photos: Staff and volunteers serving in our kitchen.
Meet Our Kitchen Team
My name is Allison and I started working at the Living Room a few months ago. I'm twenty years old and I have lived in California my whole life and graduated from Windsor Oaks Academy. The main part of my job is making sure the dishes are clean and put away, but I also frequently help out in the kitchen by prepping ingredients for lunches, plating the lunches afterward, and working with volunteers. My favorite part of my job is coming in and learning new things about cooking and being around people who know what it means to be a team.
Allison Ough - Kitchen Assistant
(Photo: Front row left)
My name is Stephanie and I am a 39-year-old single mother from Santa Rosa, CA. I am a prep cook for an amazing place called The Living Room. My favorite part about my job is hard to narrow it down to one thing so I will tell you both. First it is learning how to cook amazing meals that are both healthy and great tasting to take home and feed my family. The second favorite thing about my job is the amazing people I work with who have become family to me.
Stephanie Groepel - Kitchen Assistant 
(Photo: Front row middle)
My name is Nicholas Opitz and I’m the Kitchen Supervisor and a chef. I help get together the meal program that we have here at The Living Room plus the outreach programs that we work within our community. My favorite part of my job is working with our great volunteers and providing nourishing meals for people in need.
Nicholas Opitz - Kitchen Supervisor
(Photo: Front row right)
I am Chris Moonsammy, Director of Food Services.

I am responsible for all aspects of our food program: planning and coordinating the smooth execution of all food programs and managing the team and amazing volunteers. 
My favorite part of the job is making a positive contribution to our community, the opportunity to coach and mentor our team and volunteers and meeting a like-minded group of partners who are kind and compassionate.
Chris Moonsammy - Director of Food Services
"I love working for The Living Room because each day I am able to connect with different women about all that they are doing to improve their lives for themselves and their children. I feel inspired by these women and am so honored to be part of their experience. They are the ones who do the work, we supply the safe place for them to address these goals and provide resources to assist them."
Annie Valentine - Housing Manager
Housing Team
"I love working for The Living Room because I love to see the companionship of our participants. Some of these women prep, cook, and eat meals together. It is a warm overwhelming feeling and I know we are doing great things here."
Julianne Casano - Housing Care Coordinator
Our Resident Update
An update of our residents in our transitional program. 

We have two new residents in our shared living unit, one of our ladies has secured employment and transportation, and is becoming increasingly independent; the other is working towards reestablishing herself as an independent contractor in a business she was once successful in. 

We just filled our newest 2-bedroom house with a family of three. Mom who works full time says she feels like she’s living in a dream and is excited to move forward towards her future. 

Two of our longest residents recently moved into permanent housing and an interior design agency that we partner with styled and furnished their homes free of charge. 

Another resident in shared living has successfully begun the process of building her credit by securing her first credit card. Although she is very prudent with her finances, she has purchased her first item, a much-needed rain/winter jacket for her walks to work. She is excited for her first bill so she can pay it off! Her new roommate was just hired for a new job which will increase her income--a first step for her to be able to move towards permanent housing! 

One of our single moms has gone back to school and just landed a job in her field of choice! Our ladies have been working hard towards their goals in our program. We are seeing transformation and successes among our residents every day and are blessed to be a part of their process! 

Congratulations to all our residents! 
Grow Towers
Sue works on maintaining all of the 12 grow towers at our campus. She makes sure that our grow towers are getting all of the nutrients that they need, checking the PH levels, and harvesting all year round to ensure that our kitchen is able to get the fresh produce that it needs. 

Thank you very much to all who supported us during our annual fundraiser, Loving The Living Room. Because of you, we were able to purchase these grow towers!
Outreach Team
Yanin Torres - Community Outreach Coordinator
Thomas Alexander -
Director of Supportive Services
Hannah Bunker - Care Coordinator/Outreach
Outreach Updates
There has been great growth this year in developing new working partners. Sonoma County Acts of Kindness (A.O.K) and Sonoma Applied Villages Services (S.A.V.S.) are both teams that have been a huge part of our street outreach network. Since April of this year, we have been able to have a greater impact in street outreach sending women to The Center for help and supporting the health of those living in cars and on the street.
From April to November 7th we have provided 3,417 hygiene kits which include the essentials of soap, shampoo, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand wipes, masks, and band aids. We have provided 4,332 snack packs that include a protein, salt, sugar, and carbohydrate to equal 1, 000 calories in each pack. With the joint team effort between our campus walk ups and partners, we have served 1,097 women and 2,573 men on the streets. We also have put over 1,000 pair of new socks and other items needed for survival in the streets.
We have hired Yanin Torres as our Community Outreach Coordinator to help us with cultural ideas and awareness and to expand our outreach. She is cultivating new partnerships with the Latinx community and local Latinx nonprofits. We are extremely excited and blessed to have her on our team..
Photo: Yanin working at The Living Room Life Center
These are just a few of the highlights of the growth of The Living Room street outreach program this year. As we continue to work on this and build a greater network, we can make more of an impact on those who are in the most need.
Want to help with our outreach?
Here are 3 ways to help!
Monetary donations are extremely helpful to get what we need for outreach fast!
Contact Rebecca, our Donor Relations Officer for gift card drop off details.
Rather do some online shopping? Check out our wish list on AmazonSmile.
Center Team
Our Life Center provides a place of community, dignity and hope. You will find friendship and experience the sweet sounds of laughter all around in this warm and loving environment.
Peer-to-Peer Support
What I love about working at the Life Center is that we are nurturing hope with the ladies we serve. Our womanly nature is able to pour out like watering cans on women who have felt invisible. 
Roes Smith - Peer Support
Peer Support: By shared experience we help to develop goals and strategies for self-empowerment and are able to take concrete steps towards building fulfilling self-determined lives for our participants. I love being able to watch people bloom and breaking the walls of stigma that prevent people from healing from past trauma. 
What do you love most about working at The Life Center?
"What I love about working at The Center is seeing the growth and progress in our participants and how that directly increases their self-esteem. The center staff, volunteers, and participants share unique daily experiences of hope that radiate throughout, it’s a magically energetic feeling!"
Melissa Oliver - Care Coordinator
"What I love most about working at The Center is being able to offer a safe place for our participants. I enjoy building a rapport with them which allows us to provide support through both challenges and accomplishments. Seeing all of the individual growth is unforgettable."
Angelina Coleman -
Life Center Coordinator
"What I love most about working at the Life Center is watching the ladies begin to trust us more each time they come in. After they understand how supportive and generous our team is, they can be themselves and begin to open up to us. It’s beautiful to see them trust us and feel trusted by us."
Hannah Bunker -
Care Coordinator/Outreach

Center Pets
Pets play a crucial part in most people’s lives. Pets become a part of our families and many times will mean almost as much as our human family members do. This is the same for our participants here at The Living Room Life Center.
Our ladies rely on their pets not only for emotional support, but also consistency and unconditional love. These ladies are constantly encountering people that have preconceived judgements about who they are and what they deserve, but their pets never have those thoughts. Their pets don’t even know they’re experiencing homelessness. Being able to take care of something and love something that loves you back so entirely is such an important aspect of these women’s lives.
Therefore, we have an open-door policy for pets, we welcome them in with their owners and even partner with agencies that will help with all pet related needs. We also have Obi (my therapy dog in training) here for anyone that doesn’t have a pet of their own but would like some of that unconditional loving. He's available for snuggles and hugs anytime the Life Center is open. --Hannah
"I love the energy you feel when working at The Center. We may not know the answer to a participant's problem right away, but we all work together to find a solution. We work with amazing providers and agencies that we can trust to refer our participants to."
Lori Rhoads - The Life Center Intern
Admin Team
Meet the lovely ladies of our administrative offices. The work we do here is a lot of behind-the-scenes communications, such as marketing, accounting, donor relations under the guidance of our Executive Director, Cindy Pasko.
Board Member Spotlight
"I have been involved with The Living Room as a board member for many years, valuing the importance of helping unsheltered women and children find services to alleviate the stress of not having a home. The Living Room Center is successfully providing housing, food and outreach to women and their children and I am proud to be part of it. I embrace the vision that all Sonoma County women and their children are valued; that they are safe, have food and a home. I am happy and proud to give to The Living Room Center." “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."--Winston Churchill
Liz Uribe - Secretary
I’m a retired social worker. I came to The Living Room as a volunteer and board member in early 2017. It was a perfect fit to give back to the community and utilize my experience. I was drawn to TLR as its mission and purpose is to serve the most vulnerable population, women and children who are in various ways unsheltered.
Kim Hinde - President
Staff Spotlight
My name is Juliana Vergara and I work for The Living Room as their Videographer and Social Media Coordinator. I take photographs and videos, run our social media accounts and work on creating educational and informative posts about our organization.  

-Juliana Vergara (Videographer & Social Media Coordinator
Our Staff Memories
"One day a woman asked me if I worked for The Living Room. I told her I did. She said I was lucky to have such a good job with so many nice people. She told me it was a 'special place.' I said, 'It sure is.' She responded with a heart-felt 'Thank you for your service.' My brother is a retired marine sergeant. People tell him that too." -Cindy (Executive Director)
"The memory that I think about the most and that I feel has truly touched my heart happened in our art therapy room. We were working on making thank you cards and a new participant came in to join us. She was very quiet in the beginning until there was one moment when she started letting out silent tears. Roes quietly closed the door gave her a tissue and reassured her that this was a safe space. We continued with our task until the participant finally spoke and asked us 'How can you forgive someone that has done unforgivable things to you? How can you even begin to heal when you feel that you will never be able to forgive and move past what has happened?' The conversation that followed was beautiful to watch as I was able to see participants help each other with their pain and trust one another in allowing themselves to be vulnerable with each other as well as with myself and Roes. There was no answer to that question, but the participant left knowing she is allowed to heal without having to forgive first. Forgiving and healing don't necessarily have to be a journey that happens at the same time. We were a group of people with separate lives who were strangers making cards but at that moment we were able to connect, and I think that was a beautiful thing to be a part of." -Juliana (Videographer & Social Media Coordinator)
"A participant recently said to me 'I’m so glad you have opened The Life Center because I now have somewhere safe to be during the day. You’re all so kind and it can be felt throughout.'"
-Melissa (Care Coordinator)
"This year has been an amazing growing experience for both myself and The Living Room. All the new Outreach partners we have a relationship with now that we can provide supplies to from our amazing donor base. Big area for me is the Grants for some of our facilities to get completed and now they are homes woman and children. Getting the Life Center completed and remodeled to have our grand opening with Senator McGuire. As well as all the new staff this year to make this amazing team work so smooth. I am grateful for all of these little, medium, and BIG items."
(Director of Supportive Services)
"A memory I will likely never forget was the time one of our residents got her dentures after going without for over 10 years. She popped her head into my office while I was on the phone in the midst of a conversation and smiled. She walked away without saying a word. She had been fearful of the dentist and had been avoiding it for years. This was one of her primary goals in the program when she first entered back in 2019. " -Annie (Housing Manager)
"When Liliana Vargas accepted our request to serve as our Loving The Living Room passion speaker and specifically her sharing her 'warrior woman' metaphor, we knew Liliana personified our wrap around services and the supportive services provided by The Living Room’s Life Center."
-Rebecca (Donor Relations Officer)
"We had our first house meeting with new participants and old. We circled up in the backyard and told jokes. Laughter roared for the majority of the meeting, and it felt like we were all old (and new) friends. One of the ladies really opened up for the first time. It was astounding to see her laughing, lighthearted and comfortable in her skin. I remember feeling a sense of elation and gratitude to be part of the experience."
-Julianne (Housing Care Coordinator)
"I remember the day we had the grand opening of our Life Center, and many people came, including those from various organizations. The excitement for what was to come, our purpose and mission that we set out to do, touched everyone's hearts. It inspired the community to be involved and partner with The Living Room. It was truly validating that the work we do is so important, and it makes me enjoy coming to work every day and being a part of something that is making a meaningful difference."
-Marti Lynn (Marketing & Social Media Coordinator)
"One of my favorite job duties is meeting with the Housing Team each month. At these meetings, I hear about the women and children that are living in our transitional housing, their progress, and accomplishments. Annie and Julianne share some stories as we discuss the programming and it warms my heart that the women are here--safe, sheltered, nourished, and supported. It's a lot of work for Annie and Julianne to get these gals setup in the program, keep them on course for success, and eventually secure permanent housing for them. Their compassionate efforts for these women and children can be emotional and stressful. I admire the work they do, their positive attitudes and I'm grateful they are here at The Living Room and that I get to work alongside them every day. "
-Robyn (Accountant)
"One day at the campus I met a former participant who was starting a new job, but needed a gas card right away. I wasn’t sure I could help her, but folks on campus worked together and got her the gas card. I heard she phoned back the next day to say she started her new job and was so appreciative of the help we gave. It felt good to be a part of that." -Julie (Executive Administrative Assistant)
Noel Glab - The Living Room Volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight
We love our volunteers!

Everyone loves volunteering in our kitchen, and that is where our amazing volunteer Noel Glab started too. It didn’t take long to realize that with her background in business, Noel could help with our marketing and technical issues. She has been invaluable in helping us get ready for our annual fundraiser Loving The Living Room. From helping set up our fundraising platform and organizing our auction to creating amazing spreadsheets, Noel contributed so much! She also helped clean up our database and streamlined our internal communications.

We are thrilled that Noel plans to continue to help as we plan for our upcoming 30-year anniversary. With her fantastic imagination and awesome technical skills, we know that exciting things will be happening. Thank you, Noel. You ROCK!
The Living Room Life Center
Watch this trailer to learn more about our services and programs we provide to our participants who visit our Life Center. Listen as they share their stories of how we have supported them through their journey.

Look for the full-length video in our next issue.
Please consider an annual, monthly, or one time monetary donation. Thank you!
The mission of The Living Room is to ease adversity, promote stability, and support self-reliance for women and children who are experiencing homelessness, or at-risk of homelessness, in Sonoma County.
The Living Room |