Tree of Hope Brings Holiday Cheer
By Dianne Anderson
Pamela Foddrell is wrapping up a fast-paced year of getting everything from health care resources and case management services, to food and backpacks, out to the disabled community.
Now comes the fun part.
Around her annual Tree of Hope, Foddrell has gifts piled up for over 200 children and 38 disabled families that have “adopted out” this Christmas through her nonprofit HOPE Foundation.
For the clients she serves, things are looking good this year.
“I’ve been working on it all morning and just today we’ve got five more adoptions. I have new and regulars I have been helping with life coaching, and to maintain their stability.”
Donors and sponsors get to know their adopted families at an annual meet and greet dinner. Some sponsors specifically choose their families’ names from the tree that have children at around the same age as their own children.
Some donors have stayed with their same families for many years, she said.
“They want their children to see that this could be your classmate or your neighbor, that you don’t know what a child is going through,” said Foddrell, founder/Executive Director of The HOPE Foundation, Inc., Helping Others Prosper Economically.
Her clients run a gamut of disabilities and family sizes. Some are single moms with just one child, or a grandmother with children. They serve single dads, or a mom and dad with several kids.
All are families are struggling to make ends meet. They try to provide a decent holiday on a brutally tight income, but they’re not able to make it on their own. Usually, before anything else, the rent must be paid.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “You have to double up, and you have people on disability that don’t have family and friends they can live with. They end up on the street. That’s happened to me.”
Gentrification in Long Beach has rents soaring in recent years.
Last year, she was forced to suddenly relocate when her landlord refused to renew her lease, but then rehabbed her unit to dramatically raise the rent for the new tenants. She recently won that lawsuit.
Foddrell’s battle with disability began in 2004 after she was diagnosed with the rare immune disorder, Sarcoidosis, which has no known cause, or cure. She went from being an assistant property manager at a high rise downtown Long Beach to having to quit her day job. Her income dwindled to about one-fourth of what she used to earn in a month.
But for all the fiscal and physical pain, the disease opened her eyes to the needs of the disabled community. Sarcoidosis is the disease that comedian Bernie Mac died from.
“We used to think it was a Black thing, now we know it’s not. It’s all over Europe,” she said.
These days, she is excited to have received a small grant award from the Port of Long Beach to be implemented in April, Sarcoidosis Awareness Month. She will lead a women’s health and wellness conference on the local impact of pollution on lung health.
For the past ten years, she has also worked closely with Mental Health America, one of several organizations that send disabled clients and families her way. Early this month, she and volunteers partnered with CSULB to fill homeless personal hygiene bags for donation at the nonprofit MHA Long Beach.
“They refer those clients to get help from us for any of the projects that we do. Christmas is one of the big ones,” she said.
But her focus is helping those with a disability survive by providing more access to services.
Especially this time of year, disabled families are challenged with not only trying to afford gifts for the family, but they also need food. She said the community can help in many ways, and no donation is too small.
They also accept grocery gift cards, which helps a family with dinner.
“Most people on disability income do not get food stamps,” she said. “That’s a whole other story. I’m an advocate, but I’m not big enough to ruffle feathers. I stay in my lane and I get things done,” she said.
For more information, see https://www.foundhope2009.org/