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“Depoe Bay’s Miracle for Kids” by Steve Sparks 2010

Neighbors for Kids (Based on true events)

Our Mission

“Neighbors For Kids is an Oregon nonprofit 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting families in Lincoln County during out-of-school-time hours by providing quality after school and summer programs to pre-school and school-aged children in a safe, affordable, fun learning environment”

June, 2010

steve sparks
Steve Sparks, Board Director and Officer 2010-2016

As written by Steve Sparks, NFK Board member, including contributions from NFK Board members, staff, students and other stakeholders. The community of Depoe Bay and surrounding areas will be forever grateful for the special contributions of NFK’s original Board and team: Dr. and Mrs. Jack and Maggie Brown and Loretta Hoagland.

Loretta Hoagland

The history of Neighbors for Kids and the Kids Zone After-School Program begins on a beautiful afternoon along the Oregon coast while Loretta Hoagland was sitting on her porch overlooking Depoe Bay, the “smallest harbor in the world.” Loretta observed several young teens walking by her home and up the hill.  They looked like good kids, dressed nicely, full of enthusiasm, and handsome, probably just got out of school.  They were approaching another home up the hill. No doubt they were going to have a fun gathering of friends after school. Loretta always worried about kids not having any place to go or anything to do in this little town 12 miles away from Lincoln City to the north and Newport to the south.   But while she watched, something happened as the kids walked to the steps of the home they were approaching. To her dismay, Loretta observed the kids completing a “drug buy!” She was shocked and angry. “This can’t happen in my town!” she wanted to shout.  As the true events of this story unfold, it becomes clear that love, faith, big dreams, passion and the determination of ordinary people resulted in what many perceive as a “miracle.”

What happened next is compelling and heartwarming. That moment in time ten years ago changed Loretta Hoagland’s life forever.  Loretta couldn’t sit back and allow the town she loved and its future to be turned over to drugs. She was moved so much that she immediately called a meeting at her home with neighbors. That evening almost 20 of her neighbors showed up and demanded to know what the emergency was all about.  Neighbors Against Drugs and Alcohol, later known as Neighbors for Kids (NFK) and Kids Zone, was born that evening when residents got together with Loretta and angrily and passionately decided to make a stand against the increasing use of drugs and alcohol by the youth in their town of Depoe Bay.  Almost single-handedly, Loretta was on the way to inspiring the entire town of 1200 citizens on the central Oregon coast.

Jack and Maggie Brown

Jack and Maggie Brown always loved the Oregon coast, especially Depoe Bay. This little town with a beautiful small harbor to moor their boat was perfect to start their retirement years. Jack and Maggie had lived in Richland, Washington for 30 years while Jack pursued his career as a nuclear scientist with Battelle Labs. After moving to Depoe Bay, Jack started a rowing club in the harbor offering kids free classes. Both Jack and Maggie heard about the new community action group, Neighbors for Kids, and were instantly drawn to the cause of fighting drugs and alcohol with the idea of giving kids something to do after school.

Our First Location

Although it started with the rowing club, soon the group was offering tutoring along with other activities, and curious kids began to show up after school to find out more. As its popularity grew and news of the after-school program spread, the group of dedicated volunteers was offered the use of part of a small building owned by the City of Depoe Bay.  Soon a small nonprofit community service organization was in the making, attracting more kids and supportive parents along with many community volunteers. Eventually the entire 700 square foot building on Highway 101 was turned over to Neighbors for Kids as a gift from the City of Depoe Bay.

Volunteer carpenters and other contractors came in to help remodel the building to make it more suited to serving the needs of an after-school program, including a kitchen area to serve meals. The NFK Board of Directors decided to call the after-school program “Kids Zone.”  The program continued to grow, and there was never enough space. Eventually, the Depoe Bay Fire Department had to inform the NFK Board that the fire code would limit the number of occupants in the building. With a growing waiting list and no more space for expansion, “What will we do now?” became the big question for the NFK Board to answer.

The Dream of a New Facility

This is when the scientist in Jack Brown turned a dream of building a big new facility for Kids Zone on the same site as the tiny cinderblock facility into a reality. Jack’s dream was a building that would not only have plenty of space for the after school program but that would also offer the community as a whole the potential for much more. A strategy and plan emerged, and Jack and Maggie Brown led the charge, getting the support of federal, state, county, and local government. Jack Brown’s role on the Depoe Bay City Council was a huge help in getting access to the right people and resources. Dr. Brown describes the NFK vision and evolution in the following way:

NFK began with a dream to give local kids a safe place to go after school and be with adults that deeply care for them. This devotion to kids by adults outside their blood family fulfills one of the key assets identified by the Search Foundation as critical to any child’s development. NFK has grown primarily due to the leadership of several professional directors and the tireless volunteering of local adults that give over 4,000 hours of volunteering each year. This success story motivated Oregon’s congressional delegation, many of the premier grant foundations, state, county, and local governments and private citizens to provide funding in support of NFK’s new building. This new facility combined with our tremendous professional staff and cadre of dedicated volunteers stand proud to serve the children of mid-Lincoln County.

The new facility became a symbol of community vision for the future of NFK. All the memories and successes, especially the stories of kids who benefited, transferred to the new building and served as a foundation upon which the future organization was built. The old building was taken down soon after the new facility opened its doors, but its role in bringing an after-school program to Depoe Bay will not be forgotten. It will always represent the blood, sweat, and tears of many volunteers and donors, including a significant historical event in the community of Depoe Bay and surrounding areas.

Steve Scopelleti

NFK’s former Vice-Chair, Steve Scopelleti, was the real hero behind getting the new building completed, and his story of giving back to the community follows.  Steve became involved with Neighbors for Kids in the spring of 2008. As it turned out, his background in construction and project management was perfectly suited for NFK’s next big challenge. Steve had experience with a similar project some years previously in St. Louis, Missouri. The welcomed award of significant federal funding through Housing & Urban Development (HUD) meant that NFK now needed to complete the construction of a new 7,000 square foot building for the expanded needs of Kids Zone and to build a foundation for the future of NFK’s larger vision to serve the broader community’s educational needs. Steve believed strongly that this would become his best work, and motivation came directly from his heart and a belief that anything is possible with the right timing, chemistry, and team to pull it off.

The Dream Becomes a Reality

Steve Scopelleti, along with the NFK Building Committee that included Jack Brown as chair, Maggie Brown, Toby Winn, Dee Dee Howard, and Bruce Silver, set about to launch this daunting construction project. The NFK Building Committee knew immediately that finding the right architect to assist with the design of a special building with unique requirements was critical. Steve was appointed Vice-Chair of NFK and project manager for the new building. This new official role gave him the responsibility and authority to move efficiently and quickly to get the project underway.  Scott/Edwards of Portland was selected and immediately agreed to provide the design at a 50% discount! Scott/Edwards was also chosen, because they had extensive experience designing buildings for schools with stringent code requirements and special needs to allow for long term occupancy and safety features for children.

The project was broken down into three phases; Phase 1: building the shell; Phase 2: completing the first floor; Phase 3: completing the second floor and parking lot. The plan was to get the building completed for Kids Zone first, move-in, strengthen and expand the after school program, then begin planning for the building’s optimum use in the future, which would require additional funding dictated by the programs that might be offered, such as information technology and science programs. The building was also designed to include a half-court basketball gym and hoops to support basketball and other sports programs as well as providing a large area for group activities, conferences and fund raising events.

The New Facility Opens

The NFK Board and the community as a whole were very proud when the new building was opened to the public in April 2010 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Some 200 community members and leaders came to the grand opening and many spoke of a dream fulfilled, even a miracle for this small town on the central coast of Oregon.  Ordinary people with a passion for helping our kids grow into responsible and caring adults made it happen. Steve Scopelleti believed this was his best work and one on which he could be most proud to have had the opportunity to contribute and make a difference in the community. Doing something good for others and from the heart has no boundaries for personal satisfaction and reward.

Finding the NFK Program Director

Most educators would agree that finding a teacher with empathy, one who has lived through a challenging childhood, and one who has leadership qualities, is a blessing to have on your team.  Toby Winn was, and continues to be, our “blessing” as Program Director of Neighbors for Kids.

Toby Winn, an educator from the San Diego area, moved to the Oregon coast 18 years ago while still in high school, when his mother decided it was time for a change. Toby was still living with his mother at the time and felt the change would be good for him too, and he wanted to be supportive.  He grew up as a disadvantaged youth who struggled through a life of poverty in a neighborhood challenged with substance abuse and gang activity. Toby was resilient and found the hope and support he needed in a local Boys and Girls Club program and from the coaches of his soccer teams.  These formative years helped Toby decide that what he wanted in life was to use his past experiences to become a career youth educator.

After graduating from the University of Oregon with honors, Toby dedicated his life to serving at-risk youth and families in the very programs which had helped to save him and inspire him to succeed. While living in Eugene, Oregon, working for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley, Toby grew into an effective leader, touching the lives of hundreds of children in Lane County. Then, while browsing through the local paper one day, Toby noticed an employment ad seeking a program director for a small after-school program on the central Oregon coast. Toby felt that this job, Neighbors for Kids, “Kids Zone” in Depoe Bay had his name written all over it, so he applied.  And Toby got the job!  As with Loretta, Jack, Maggie and Steve, this career move would change Toby’s life forever as well.

Toby immediately became a transformative leader for NFK.  His leadership and skills in mentoring kids were evident from the start. His energy and enthusiasm was quickly recognized by the NFK Board and the community.  NFK at that time didn’t have a whole lot of money, but they were able to carve out a budget to make it work for Toby and a small but dedicated part-time staff that included Ernestina Brady, Amberdawn Howe, Travis Harris and Vivian Arends.   But money is never the prime motivator for anyone with a passion for the work they do.

Toby loved his work and adopted the Oregon coast as home for the long term.  He and the staff introduced new ideas and improved existing programs.  He went to work creating relationships in the community to help build support for Kids Zone. The result was that more kids and parents wanted to be a part of Kids Zone. And more volunteers came forward offering their time and skills. As a result of Toby Winn’s leadership, the talents of Kids Zone’s outstanding staff and the support provided by a visionary NFK Board of Directors, NFK became a well-recognized after-school program in the region.

Strong Community Partnerships

It is our belief that strong community public and private partnerships like Neighbors for Kids are the way of the future. We cannot possibly meet all the challenging community needs relying solely on federal and state government.  NFK‘s goal is to join hands with other community members and leaders, including private and public entities, to achieve the long-term goal of building a stronger society by focusing on our most valuable resource, our children.  

Communities must take a more proactive role in improving the educational opportunities and personal growth of its next generation of adults.   Our future depends on what we do to make a difference for our kids in our respective communities.  We know that public schools can’t do it all, especially with ever-increasing financial challenges.

There is a critical three-hour time slot after school for most children. Research and experience suggests this three-hour period can be the most dangerous and unproductive time of the day for children who cannot participate in after school sports or other structured programs. After-school programs can be tailored to local needs and have proven to be a complementary adjunct to the public school learning experience.

We know our kids do better all the way around when after-school programs are offered.   And with additional community support and funding, the building and facilities for after-school activities can be used more effectively by offering educational and recreational programs for all ages for the entire day, including evenings and weekends.

The miracle of this story is all about ordinary people coming together to create a better environment for kids.  All it took was the courage, passion, and perseverance of one citizen like Loretta Hoagland, who took ownership of a potentially serious problem in this small town of Depoe Bay where kids bus 12 miles to public school.  If it can happen in Depoe Bay, it can happen anywhere in the country.

“Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley, Chapter 1, excerpt 3…

“But I couldn’t take living in the moment, and didn’t know how. I was sick and didn’t know it then. Most troubling is I never knew why. I only knew flight/flight 24/7 alert and wanted to run after something that was never out there. More stuff to prove that I could show my father and the whole world that a ‘kid kicked to the curb’ could make it in the world if I took ownership of the universe, I alone could do it, I alone. I already showed the world this…why would I want to go right back out there and do it over and over again?”

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, & Mental Health Advocate. Tap my photo click here for Steve’s author page. c1990 Icicle Valley near Leavewnworth, Wa click. We found home at last!

It gives me huuge joy to share the following excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

I will not pretend to be a subject matter expert in psychiatry, science, or medicine. I’m proud and privileged to be a survivor of childhood and young adult trauma, abuse and maltreatment. I suffer from a life long mental illness, ‘acute agitated depressive disorder’. As a lay person I help others as a peer, friend and colleague. My work is about community building and healing as a broader collaboration of stakeholders, partners and consumers with a common mission.

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

Children Abused by Religion.

“Lambert defines spiritual abuse as “a type of psychological predomination that could be rightly termed—religious enslavement.”[47] He further identifies “religious enslavement” as being a product of what is termed in the Bible “witchcraft,” or “sorcery.”[48]

Click here for more…

Religious abuse will surely hijack the soul of a child. I left home on my 17th birthday in 1963. But sadly and tragically didn’t have my soul in my backpack. I was also mad as hell at Jesus! A relationship with Jesus Christ was a scary proposition for me then and still is. I was programmed to fear God. The thought of this evil stuff is horrific to live with and damages a young soul forever. This is what happened to me and my family growing up in the 50s. And I didn’t acknowledge it until now…

Religious cult behavior, especially in a profoundly dysfunctional family dynamic, literally kills young souls, like me. This is a family in a perpetual cycle of emotional pain and persistent mental illness, including religous and alcohol abuse. No kidding, this is very serious stuff to have conversations about so that we can help each other.

The baggage follows young adults who suffered at the hands of abusive parents who were sick themselves. Probably, in my life time the most insanely agredious religious cult tragedy was the ‘Jim Jones’ mass suicide long ago. I remember living and working in the Bay Area when it was front page news. It is still sickening, disgusting and disturbing all at once. This is how common folks get a divorce from Jesus and never recover. This kind of trauma is a moral injury, at the evil end of the spectrum.

This side bar research is helping me fill in the blanks and close the door on a traumatic childhood, including adding religious abuse to the tool kit. Kids who leave home without a soul, a moral compass so to speak, make bad choices and too often die too early. We must get smarter on the ‘religous abuse’ implications of our most vulnerable citizens especially kids. The initial interaction with a person suffering from religious abuse, like me, is to feel shivers up the spine, and look for the nearest fire exit when someone in the crowd cries out, “Jesus loves you!” The fear of Jesus Christ is outrageous and causes too much emotional damage to kids of all ages and adults alike. We have to start talking about this…

In my view, the awareness created with Mental Health 1st Aid USA training is a great start. But I see an opportunity add a section dealing with the symptoms of religious abuse.

I have been in denial about religious abuse for most of my life until now, age 73. I can’t say why it took so long to revisit this very important life changing factor in my religious upbringing. I feel the freedom of the challenges of my spirit life now. It is never too late to find renewed faith. It’s hard work, especially when there is so much trash to empty…

My own extensive research, including first book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story (2011) and in a professional capacity, serves as evidence of my personal journey. In addition, open and honest conversations with family members revealed a consistent pattern of religious abuse making us feel extreme shame over many years. It is akin to brain washing, so you have to go through an extended ‘brain-failure-recovery (BFR1.0)’ process to feel love, trust and faith again. I didn’t know love until much later in life. Religious abuse in my mind is as close to evil I can imagine, if not evil itself.

No child should ever be subjected to this kind of horrific injury to the core of one’s soul. It might take a life time of ‘soul search and rescue’ to find peace of mind, if we are so lucky. As a “Recovering Catholic” I try to look back at my roots to understand that this behavior is not part of the church, it is part of the “tool kit of abuse and maltreatment” in a profoundly dysfunctional home…click here for more…on how the Catholic Church explains…

Thank you for coming with me on my personal healing and spiritual journey…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate click here for my author page.

"Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley" Chapter 2, excerpt… Conquering fear of God…

Eskimo Kisses in Stehekin, celebrating 30 years of our spiritual journey as a family… Steve & Judy Sparks 2018

Religous Abuse as a reference, click here… “Child Protection and Cults”

“I have been in denial about religous abuse for most of my life until now, age 73. I can’t say why it took do long to revisit this very important life changing factor in my religious upbringing. I feel the freedom of the challenges of my spirit life now. It is never too late to find renewed faith. It’s hard work, especially when there is so much trash to empty…”

It gives me huuge joy to share the above excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate click here for my author page

Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley Chapter I excerpt2

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, & Mental Health Advocate. Tap my photo

It gives me huuge joy to share the following excerpt from my new memoir, a work in progress. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

I will not pretend to be a subject matter expert in psychiatry, science, or medicine. I’m proud and privileged to be a survivor of childhood and young adult trauma, abuse and maltreatment. I suffer from a life long mental illness, ‘acute agitated depressive disorder’. As a lay person I help others as a peer, friend and colleague. My work is about community building and healing as a broader collaboration of stakeholders, partners and consumers with a common mission.

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

My soul is speaking to me. Think it’s a ‘coming home’ feeling in this 30th year of my journey to reconnect my lost soul. You get this, I know.”

From Chapter I…

“It was never enough. It’s exhausting to have a 24/7 racing mind and negative self talk. I never stopped thinking about the next move. It was sick, and obsessive behavior as I think back to that time. I behaved as a ‘self serving’ bully at times when anything got in my way. I didn’t know yet that I was sick, and didn’t want to.”

Leavenworth, Wa

Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley… Chapter I…excerpt

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, & Mental Health Advocate. Tap my photo

It gives me huuge joy to share the following excerpt from my new memoir. I just finished a draft of Chapter I! The spirits and my creative juices are flowing and my soul is hungry for spiritual growth. All the angels in my life have gathered and encouraged me to write, and do it now. The words flow from my heart and the deepest places of my soul. I will share excerpts from each new chapter in the coming weeks and months.

I want to engage my friends and colleagues while writing this profoundly touching journey of love and healing for my family. I published my first memoir, Reconciliation, a Son’s Story in 2011 and launched my website Children and Families in Life After Trauma at the same time.

Please forward your comments of support and feedback to me… stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

My healing journey has indeed entered a spiritual phase now that I feel truly safe. A gift of the spirit life at this time of my life draws me closer to God. I never felt peace of mind until now. It’s a deep feeling in my soul that moves me to a more peaceful place.

“It was 30 years ago, when my soul first spoke to me with a harsh but firm nudge, a confident whisper, “this ain’t working duude, find God. Go find your soul. You are worthy of grace. You can go home now with your family. Go home dude! GO HOME!” So, with the faith and strength of my family and a higher power, the journey of healing begins in the Icicle Valley in 1990. Little did I know then what a very hard road of both a reconciliation of a painful past and finally, forgiveness. Forgiveness of myself first and the capacity to find my soul would come, but not without hard lessons of love and gifts from a God I didn’t know yet…

I believe it was here in this truly heavenly valley when I felt God’s presence for the very first time. Native Americans, who lived in Icicle Valley long before the white man arrived, believed in the healing spirits of the Icicle Valley. All of us felt closer to God. I felt safe.. We could be safe as a family now.”

From the right, Sarah, Judy, Steve and our beloved Mocha at the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth Wa fall 1997…

stevesparks.associates@survivethriveptsd.org

Does the President of the United States of America Love All of Us? Or just some of us?

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/veterans-organization-seeks-trump-apology-for-comments-about-head-injuries

Is it too hard to show empathy and compassion, with a heartfelt, food for the soul, patriotic apology? For this President, maybe it is too hard….sadly…

I remember my father saying often when I was around 5 years old, earliest memories, “President Roosevelt loved all of us, not just some of us…” I don’t remember much during those chaotic years following WWII, but do remember Dad’s loud confident and often scary voice. I remember his bellowing oratory, just like a hardened angry old Master Chief Boatswains Mate who survived Pearl Harbor and the Pacific War would sound like. He was sure as his soul was speaking to him that President Roosevelt loved all of us, not just some of us…

You know, President Roosevelt was struck with polio too, just like me and so many from my generation. President Roosevelt loved all of us, not just some of us… President Roosevelt loved me!

Franklin Delanore Roosevelt, 32nd POTUS “A Date That Will Live In Infamy!”

With great sadness in my heart, a new hole in my old soul, and tears streaming down my face, I now ask myself this question for the first time in my 74th year in this life as a patriot of this great country. “Does the President of the United States love all of us, or just some of us?”

As a 73 year old born July 6, 1946; senior citizen, US Navy Vietnam era veteran, college educated, retired corporate executive and public servant. And like so many other boomers who were born into war, suffer from serious mental illness, and all sorts of stuff we happily make adjustments and heal as a single All American Family. We are privileged to be alive to make a difference for all of us, not just some of us. Starting with our fathers and grandfathers, we fought the wars after our Dad survived Pearl Harbor, WWII Pacific War and finally the Korean War.

The tears flow uncontrollably down my face everytime I return to reading Dad’s US Navy medical records from 1936-1960. I do this to be reminded of the extreme and inhuman sacrifice of veterans of all wars. To be reminded of not only the physical damage, loss of limbs, and crushing brain injuries, but far worse, the emotional damage that continues to this very day in all of us, not just some of us.  My soul cries out for those who serve America and the families who serve too.

We need a President who loves all of us, not just some of us. We need a President who goes to work for all of us in America, not just some of us. More than anything else, we need a President who can feel the humility and humanity of all America’s people, not just some of us. President Trump needs to learn how to love all of us…not just some of us… Then, only then, is there hope for empathy and compassion for all of us, not just some of us…

Steve Sparks, US Navy Vietnam era Veteran and Navy brat post WWII. click here for my author page.

"Learn to Love Others, Learn to be Free." Celebrating The Life of Chaz…

“Learn to love others, learn to be free.” Chaz

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/06/relucant-undertakers/563969/

Flowers rest near a grave marker that reads “Gone but not forgotten, these people of King County October 2017, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Renton, Wash., following a service for 180 people who died in the county, but whose families either could not be found or could not afford a burial. The service was organized by the King County Indigent Remains program and the King County Medical Examiner’s office. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

‘So moving and healing to my soul, a peaceful feeling came over me…’ This is a powerful story of hope. But it saddens me deeply. My heart and soul reminds me that all too often homeless men and women die in the streets way to early than the rest of us.

In the case of Chaz, he died on a cold lonely pavement of a parking lot. I was so taken by this loving tribute to the life of Chaz that keeping his story alive permanently in my archives seemed so appropriate and healing. I want to share Chaz’s story with a broader audience as ‘food for the soul’ for others to see and learn from.

Chaz lived the spirit life… Chaz, and many other brothers and sisters are loving members of our local community just like the rest of us. We are all the same…

I believe we should think about how to remember the homeless population in ways that reinforce programs like the Stepping Up Initiative, designed to help the most vulnerable folks among us find a healthier and sustainable lifestyle. Most importantly to stick around with us much longer to make a difference for others.

Chaz was a mentor, who provided peer support to others who struggled to find hope for a better future. Chaz is not here anymore, but his spirit survives and thrives… As a caring and loving community we should never forget Chaz… How we care for the most vulnerable citizens in our community is a reflection of who we are…

Steve and Judy Sparks, Depoe Bay, Oregon. Click here for Steve’s author page.

Hug and Appreciate Your Caregiver Everyday & Often…

Here’s how you know if you are in a caregiver role. Do you assist a Veteran who needs help to: Quote from this reference link…

• Make medical appointments or drive to the doctor?
• Drive to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions?
• Get dressed, take a shower, or take medication?
• Get in and out of bed?
• Complete physical therapy or give injections?
• Feed self, with feeding tubes or complete similar procedures at home?
• Talk with doctors, nurses, social workers, and others to understand about their medical care or benefits?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are a caregiver and may be eligible for caregiver services at VA.

To know that you are loved is golden to the aging souls who we owe so much to our freedom… I feel just like the ol’ dude in the photo. My bet is he served during the Vietnam era like me…

https://www.caregiver.va.gov/

VA Caregiver Support Home

Without my caregiver I would not be here, period!

Judy and Steve Sparks, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Hug your caregiver everyday and often. Tell this most important person in your life how much you appreciate them. It’s hard when you’re in serious physical and emotional pain to stop for a moment when possible to say I love you… I see the stress and tears from my loving wife when the going gets tough. We try to work as a team to focus on empathy and compassion for each other. Judy puts her hand on her heart and gives me that beautiful smile that heals my soul. Love wins over the demons everytime. A new day is born with hope. The triggers then stay at a safe distance.

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

Caregivers Give Heart and Soul to The Most Vulnerable Among Us… Compassion Fatigue is Real!

Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project

I can never appreciate enough all the love and support received over the years from the person who has been my rock for over 35 years, my soul mate, and wife, Judy.  As a person seriously affected by addiction and mental illness with lifetime recovery implications, I would not be here today at age 73 without the profoundly life saving unconditional love of Judy… This is what I truly believe…

With all the decades of loving support from Judy and caregivers like her everywhere, it takes its toll and often presents a risk of Secondary PTSD on the person caring for a loved one or as a friend, colleague, clinician or peer support professional. Along with the joyful times in our life together, my physical and mental health issues have been ever present from day 1, and a work in progress, indeed. I was in denial for most of my life so the “work in progress” part was much harder and reactionery with bad results. Now, in these later years with a much higher level of awareness, we work more as a team and help each other as a family. Healing is a team effort. Don’t try it alone, please!

Judy Sparks on New Years Eve 2019, Tidal Raves, Depoe Bay Oregon

Take a moment each day to thank the caregivers in your life and hug them often, Check out the reference links above to learn more about how to support your special caregiver(s).

Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true!

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Child Advocate, and member, Lincoln County Oregon Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC) Click here for my author page…