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Sherie Williams was working a job she loved and approaching the home stretch of parenthood, with two pre-teens and a 19-year-old, when her life was turned completely upside down.

Her sister, who was going through a rough patch, could no longer take care of her own children, and Williams felt like she had no choice but to step up and adopt her two little nieces.

So she quit her job of 11 years as a security guard at Wells Fargo to take care of the girls. Three years later, her sister had a son, and Williams adopted him too.

It wasn’t how Williams pictured her life turning out. Just as she should be preparing to become an empty-nester, she instead is now 45 and raising 3-year-old Shawn, 7-year-old Renyce and 9-year-old Makalah as a single mom with no income apart from child-support payments.

It might have been impossible if it weren’t for one organization: Saint Vincent’s Day Home. The West Oakland daycare, preschool and kindergarten offers affordable care and education for low-income children while their parents work or search for jobs.

To Williams, Saint Vincent’s is an oasis of stability in what could easily become a chaotic life.

“I know that my baby’s in a really good environment,” Williams said of Shawn, who is in the “dragonfly” class at Saint Vincent’s. “I leave him in good hands and I feel good and I have no worries.”

For the past 111 years, Saint Vincent’s has been serving Alameda County parents who can’t afford the exorbitant cost of private childcare. The center’s 133 kids ages 2 to 6 spend their days playing, listening to story time, napping and learning numbers and letters — but they also get a nutritious breakfast and lunch each day, as well as screenings by nursing students from Samuel Merritt University to check for health problems. The center helps parents too, offering parenting classes and a food bank.

Preschool students take part in playtime activities at Saint Vincent’s Day Home on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. The home was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1911 and provides educational classes, child care and other services for low-income families. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

The majority of Saint Vincent’s kids come from families making up to 85% of the state’s median income — about $95,000 a year for a family of four. Families typically pay on a sliding scale depending on their income and number of children, for a maximum monthly rate of $700 — far less than the going rate for private daycare. The center stopped charging families during the pandemic, and doesn’t expect to start again until at least July 2023.

Saint Vincent’s hopes to have a total of 200 kids enrolled within the next few months, and is working on hiring more teachers — despite a nationwide shortage — to make that happen. There are more than 100 kids on the center’s waitlist.

For the holidays, Saint Vincent’s wants to give the families of each of those 200 children a $50 gift card. They get donated toys and books to give out as presents, but those gift cards — for Target or a local grocery store — can help families buy winter clothes, food for a holiday dinner, and more during an expensive and stressful season, said Bianca Lewis, Saint Vincent’s director of development.

To accomplish that, Saint Vincent’s is hoping to raise $10,000 in donations through the East Bay Times’ annual Share the Spirit campaign. Every year, Share the Spirit highlights nonprofit agencies that are helping the neediest among us.

Preschool students have lunch in the dining room at Saint Vincent’s Day Home on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. The home was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1911 and provides educational classes, child care and other services for low-income families. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

Williams has benefited from those gift cards.

“Without the gift cards, Shawn, the girls and my kids would have a very dim Christmas,” she said. “I would not have been able to provide as many smiles as I’ve been able to.”

Saint Vincent’s also plans to start offering counseling for kids who need mental health care. Many of the program’s children already have experienced trauma in their short lives — the death of a parent or other tragedy, or just the daily hardships of living in poverty.

“We try to help at this early level when the child is developing to help prevent and/or reverse the negative impacts of poverty and family instability,” Lewis said, “in hopes that they will go on and attain that education that will help them and their future families.”

It’s a method Williams knows well. After all, she also went to Saint Vincent’s as a kid.

Williams was raised by her aunt, who left her at Saint Vincent’s while she worked as a nurse in San Francisco. Williams remembers Saint Vincent’s being “too much fun…almost like a miniature Disneyland.”

So when history repeated itself and Williams found herself raising her nieces and nephew, she returned to the place that had given her so many happy childhood memories.

Now that her nieces are in elementary school, Williams is back on the job market. She leaves 3-year-old Shawn at Saint Vincent’s from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. while she looks for work.

“Without them, I’m not certain of how I would be able to continue this search of looking and getting something that will help myself and my family,” she said as Shawn, who calls her “TT,” snuggled into her, his wild curls sticking up every which way.

Saint Vincent’s also made a big difference in the lives of Marco Gudiño and his son, Bodhi. Gudiño was desperate when he happened to ride his bicycle by Saint Vincent’s one day 15 years ago. He had just become a single father to his 3-year-old son, after the boy’s mother left, and he had no idea what to do. Bodhi was acting out, and Gudiño had no one to watch him while he worked two jobs loading airplanes for FedEx and driving forklifts at the Port of Oakland.

Gudiño applied to Saint Vincent’s and was accepted. Bodhi learned to read and write there. And today Bodhi, now 18, is studying sports medicine at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. Gudiño is so proud he can hardly talk about it without crying.

But he doesn’t think any of it would have happened without Saint Vincent’s.

“They kind of gave us the hope that we needed,” he said, “or that I needed to be able to believe in myself to be able to raise a child.”

Share the Spirit

The Share the Spirit holiday campaign, sponsored by the Bay Area News Group, provides relief, hope and opportunities for East Bay residents by helping raise money for nonprofit programs in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

How to help

Donations will allow Saint Vincent’s to give the families of 200 children a $50 gift card, to augment donated toys and books, to help families buy winter clothes, food, or other necessities during the holidays. Goal: $10,000

How to give

Go to www.sharethespiriteastbay.org/donate or print and mail in the coupon.

 

Preschool students take part in playtime activities at Saint Vincent’s Day Home on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. The home was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1911 and provides educational classes, child care and other services for low-income families. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

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Housing | Three-bedroom home in Oakland sells for $2.2 million

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Raheem Sterling was ‘FOURTH Chelsea star to be hit by highly organised gang’ after terrifying raid on his mansion

RAHEEM Sterling was said to be the fourth Chelsea player hit by the same gang after his mansion was robbed for £300,000 worth of watches and jewellery.

The distraught Three Lions star rushed back to comfort his family - and has vowed to return to England’s World Cup campaign only when his family are “safe”.

3England ace Raheem Sterling - pictured here with fiancée Paige - has vowed he will only return to England’s World Cup campaign when his family are 'safe'Credit: Getty - Contributor 3The horrific raid took place on Saturday night - less than 24 hours before England’s clash against SenegalCredit: Getty Images - Getty 3A private security patrol is seen outside Sterling's estate in Cobham, SurreyCredit: LNP

Police understand his fiancée Paige Milian, 27, discovered the raid on Saturday night, less than 24 hours before England’s clash with Senegal on Sunday.

Raheem, also 27, met with detectives from Surrey Police on Monday who are investigating the crime.

It comes after one of the other Chelsea victims, defender Reece James, 22, was raided by a gang who targeted his home in Cobham, Surrey, in September 2021.

They stole his safe containing his Champions League, Super Cup and Euro 2020 medals.

Two other teammates have also suffered similar crimes in recent months, with cops now looking into potential links.

It is feared a highly organised criminal gang has the club’s wealthy players in its sights.

Raheem and his family moved into his ­property in Oxshott, Surrey, after Chelsea paid Man City £47.5million for the winger this summer.

It is understood Paige returned to the UK from Qatar with his three young children after cheering on Raheem in the group stages.

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She had a work commitment related to her property firm.

Raheem pulled out of Gareth Southgate’s squad and dashed home after learning of the terror.

He is hoping to return to Qatar for Saturday’s quarter-final against France — but only if he thinks his home is secured and his family are not at risk.

A source said: “Raheem has told everyone, ‘There is no way I’m going anywhere unless I’m 100 per cent sure that my family can be kept safe’.

"He is security conscious and part of the reason they moved into the property was that it is on a very exclusive estate, with regular security patrols.

“Despite this, he has still managed to be targeted, which is very upsetting for Raheem and Paige. They have just moved back to London and want to feel safe.”

England ace Harry Maguire today blasted the thugs who ­targeted Raheem.

Man United star Harry, 29, said: “It’s extremely disappointing to hear that when we are out here playing for our country and giving everything, there are people back home targeting us.

“The game could have gone different and we might have needed Raheem.”

And England skipper Harry Kane, also 29, was helping to calm his teammates worried by the raid.

A Three Lions source said: “Harry knows the players’ families are really shaken up by what has happened and that is a worry for the players themselves.

"He sees it as his job as skipper to keep the morale of the team up and to focus everyone on the France match.”

England manager Gareth Southgate said that he and the FA had discussed security arrangements with the squad prior to leaving for Qatar.

When asked if the FA had offered to increase security, he said: “We had offered that to players. I think there’s a little bit [for Raheem] in the midst of moving house that played a part in that.”

And other Wags have offered Paige their support.

Surrey Police said there were no reports of any threats of violence linked to the incident.

They also dismissed earlier suggestions that the burglars were armed.

However, Raheem plans to beef up security at his home once the police have finished their investigations.

A source said: “He has a firm on stand-by to go straight in to install 24/7 security with enhanced infrared night vision. He’s looking to get dozens of cameras installed.

“And he’s going to employ a security firm to patrol his house night and day, and will keep them in place until the World Cup is over.”

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Last night, a security guard ­provided by Chelsea FC stood watch outside the house.

Police said no arrests had yet been made.

Topics
  • Crime
  • Football
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