Tonya and her family are among the more than 3,400 guests of honor at our first community outreach of 2014 in Bay Point, Calif. When they make their way to the front of the shoe line, her girls scream with delight at the many colorful choices they have for new shoes.
“Are you sure this is real?”
In a line of hundreds of people waiting to get their kids fitted for new shoes, 29-year-old, Tonya, is keeping her five kids in check and in line.
“Stay over here,” she tells them. “You’re about to get new shoes!”
Tonya and her family are among the more than 3,400 guests of honor at our first community outreach of 2014 in Concord, Calif. When they make their way to the front of the shoe line, her girls scream with delight at the many colorful choices they have for new shoes.
“I want these!” squeals her daughter, also named Tonya, as she points to a pair of pink and purple sneakers.
“Is this really happening?” says Tonya, watching her kids pick out their shoes. “When I walked in here and they said everything is free, I said, ‘are you sure this is real?’”
Tonya describes herself as a supermom that stays at home to take care of her kids. Her husband works, but she says times are still thought.
“My husband supports us the best he can,” says Tonya. “But it’s challenging and very hard sometimes. Sometimes the kids go without things like decent shoes and that’s sad for me. And sometimes my husband and I don’t even get to eat because we don’t have enough food.”
Tonya says this day has given her a brand new outlook on life.
“I’m still in shock that this is happening to my family today,” she says. “If I could afford it I would donate to something like this so I’m very thankful to everyone who made this happen. It’s incredible.”
Is this really happening? When I walked in here and they said everything is free, I said, ‘are you sure this is real?’
“I’m blown away!”
Just a few tents over from where Tonya and her family are getting new shoes, Randy, 56, walks out of a tent after receiving a free dental exam with a giant smile on his face.
“This is a great day!” he shouts for everyone to hear. “I’m blown away!”
Randy’s exuberant proclamation elicits a few stares and a number of returned smiles from guests of honor and volunteers.
I quickly approach Randy and ask what he’s so excited about.
“This is remarkable,” he says. “I’ve gone to the dentist for the first time in probably 20 years. I never expected this. I didn’t expect such a large- scale event to help others.”
Randy says he’s had a rough few years in the job market. He used to have a full time career working on boats but a few years ago, he was laid off and has struggled financially ever since.
“I had everything,” he says. “I had a steady income, life insurance, a 401k, health insurance — and now it’s all gone.”
Over the last few years Randy and his wife have relied on good friends and food stamps to put food on the table. He says the job market has been his biggest challenge.
“Come to find out, the older you get, the harder it is to find a job,” he says with a chuckle. “I never thought about that until it happened to me.”
As a recovered meth addict, Randy says his love for life and his grandchildren are keeping him clean. And he adds, “it’s also events like this where humanity shines through that keeps me going. God bless everyone who made this happen. This is so much more than I expected — it’s people getting together to help others without expecting something back.”
Quick facts from the Bay Point, Calif., Community Outreach:
Guests of Honor: 3,495
Plum Organics product distribution: 15,000 packets
National Breast Cancer Foundation guests served: 549
Community partners: 45
Family Portraits: 600
Medical partners: 10