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Miss AngelJanuary 23, 2013

This story is from my friend Katie. My day (and my life) is brighter because of it. This is her story, and it's best told in her words, with her permission. (This is the good stuff, friends. This is what it's all about.)

* *  * 

I live in the historic downtown of a small town in the central valley of California. Hanford. You might have seen the sign on the I-5 or even driven thru it on the way to Sequoia. It is the county seat, which means this is the only place where you can get welfare or mental health help or free meals from churches.

We have a huge homeless population, and because I'm out early in the mornings, walking the dogs in the alley, I see pretty much everyone. I'm not talking about the guys standing at the stoplight out by WalMart. I'm talking about the guys who are sleeping behind dumpsters wrapped in trashbags. People who have lost their jobs and been evicted with all their belongings in a Target bag.

This winter has been particularly wet and rainy and foggy and dreary. I was taking out the trash and saw a young woman with two kids...proably school-age but just, so maybe 5 and 6. They were wearing a half dozen t-shirts all on top of each other for warmth because they didn't even have sweatshirts on. They were digging through the dumpster for something to eat and the kids had on FLIP FLOPS. It is rainy and they are digging thru trash for food in flip flops. Mom wasn't even dressed as warmly as the kids and they all had that skim milk colored skin...sort of white and blue at the same time.  Broke my heart.

So I wrote a little note on Facebook, asking if anyone had extra anything could they drop it off at the back of my building. I'm on an alley, so you hardly even need to slow down.

A couple of days later, I park my car and this raggedy guy is digging thru the one cardboard box I have out there and asks me if I'm Miss Angel. Rachael, I am so far from being the A in Angel that I'm the end of the Russian alphabet. He said he had heard that Miss Angel had a box for poor people; a box they could just look thru and get whatever they needed. He had found a pair of pants that would fit but he had found two pair of socks (old ones of my son's) and wondered if it would be okay if he took both of them so his boy could go to school in dry socks. I told him I could not see any reason on earth why that wouldn't be okay.

Then I wrote another little note on Facebook, telling about this guy and within a week, there are four or five boxes of clothes and blankets and stuff being dropped off at the corner of my building. Last night, I saw a little family...dad, mom and a little boy about four (I taught kindergarten, so I can tell when they are little about how little they are.) I'm upstairs with the window open, just checking on things because I don't want some professional yard sellers to be driving by and just scooping this stuff up.

So the grownups are digging through the boxes---people have put blankets in trash bags so they will stay dry--and they find some little blanket that is blue and drape it around the little kid's shoulders. Then, the dad pulls a little teddy bear out of one of the boxes and you would have thought that money was raining down on them. The last little bit I saw was the kid, wrapped up in his blanket, snuggled up on dad's shoulder, clutching his teddy bear. Heck, I don't even know if they were a real family...I just know a little boy had a dry blanket and a teddy bear to sleep with.

In the meantime, people drive by, drop off boxes or bags of stuff as well as little bags of hygiene items...those travel sized toothbrushes and tooth paste and soap.

I'm not running a charity. I'm trying to stay out of it as much as I can but the outpouring of abundance is just amazing me. Two months ago, I was finding crack pipes in the alley. Now I'm finding blankets and socks and tampons...because even homeless women have periods. Someone even dropped off a big box of Tampax (did  you know homeless women use socks and ripped-up tee shirts?) 

I know there are several shelters here in town and also several churches who provide hot meals. But these people are on foot and so transient that they don't have anyplace to keep anything. So the people in my little town are dropping off not huge boxes of fur coats, but extra socks or blankets or sweatshirts. It has sort of taken on a life of its own. I still see home guys in the alley when I take the dogs out and they still will tell me to not go east down the alley because it's not safe. But here? They say it is safe because they keep an eye on it, making sure that the wimmens and chillern can find something dry for the night.

And sometimes I findt little notes...little bits of paper saying "Thank you, I havent had dry feet in so long." or just little scraps of paper saying "Thnk u"
Does it just blow you away? Homeless people around here are not like they are in San Francisco. They are invisible. They sleep behind dumpsters or in the little spaces between buildings or in the little alcoves of the back doors of buildings.....and those are just the ones I see because I'm out with the dogs. I see a lot of homeless guys I had in class in prison....and I feel safer because I know they know I'm a person, just walking my dogs.

All I did was write a couple of little posts on Facebook.

So there is the whole story. If all it does is make you feel as good as it makes me feel, fine. If you decide to share it, dandy. I guess what I'm saying is that even a teeny little bit of help is good for you, for your self. And if people who have yard sales every weekend of the world come in and take every last little bit...that is on them.

But the world is not as bleak as I thought it was. And my life is not as hopeless as I sometimes think it is.


* * * * 

Katie mentioned in a follow-up email to me that there have been SEVENTY-FIVE boxes dropped off silently and anonymously in her alley so far. 


Wow. Thank you for the reminder to be grateful for what we have and to give to those in need.

This is an amazing post, moved me to tears - thanks for sharing and I am sharing it where I can to pass the message on.

Super awesome and inspiring. *heart*

I'm in tears. Thanks for sharing. You might want to check out the blog "I Believe In Strangers". If you hadn't already published this story I would have forwarded it over to Aunt Peaches.

What an emotional read this was! Yes, there are still wonderful people out there. It must be really heartwarming for her to see the boxes keep coming!

::sniffle:: Thank you for sharing this story.

So so wonderful. I live in the central valley north of your dear friend, and it is ground zero here, especially south of Sacramento. People have no idea of the degree of homelessness and poverty that make up the landscape. It is impossible to go through an intersection or parking lot without seeing people asking for help. Our oldest went to the Red Shield Center at Christmas with friends bringing toys so that some children could HAVE Christmas, and our family worked the food bank at the end of December. Just seeing people grateful to get a box of food breaks your heart. There is so much need that is seems insurmountable-until I read this. Sharing for sure. Thanks for putting it out there.

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, I live for these stories. I volunteer at a free breakfast program in Sonora and the number of families and children we are feeding is on the increase. It is heartbreaking how many are living in cars, tents, whatever can be managed. We have vouchers for the local motels, but never enough.
Thank you for sharing the difference one person can make!

This is awesome. And I know where Hanford is, because that's where my baby was born. Her birth parents live in Lemoore, which is just 30 minutes away.

Thank you for sharing this

Rachel: Thank you for sharing this. One person CAN make a difference and inspire each and every one of us.

LOVE it! It is so simple - we should help each other out. I don't know why we (as Americans) make it so difficult.


Holy cow. So awesome I cried.

There goes the waterworks again.

So it's true... we are all in it together.

I know where Hanford is, Steve Perry (Journey) was born and raised there. But what's important is that this shows how true it is, that we ARE all in it together, and that if we'd all just stop being so greedy and self-focused and reach out to help others, we'd all be in a much better place. (Especially when we rise above ourselves to help the ones that, because of some bias we carry, we feel don't "deserve" help.)

What an awesome response. I live just south of there in Bakersfield and I never knew how bad it was there love how one person can make a difference for someone

Thank you for sharing this. Great to hear there are still kind people in the world.

This is the perfect end to my day. There are some days, when I come home from being a social worker, that I'm not entirely sure that I have it to give again tomorrow. This kind of thing reminds me that I do, and that I will continue to do so for a long time. Thank you for the reminder that's going to help me to plug along through the rest of this week!

Bless you Miss Angel. Isnt it amazing how something that seemed to simple to you - has taken off and helped so many!

Heartbreaking. So glad you could get some help for them.

WTF is WRONG with our country that families with LITTLE CHILDREN have to dig through boxes so their kids can have dry socks???What the hell is wrong with us as a society???
It is so beautiful what she has done. But I AM ASHAMED to live in a country that is so rich where there are so many that go without. That we have so many homeless and hungry and have such an enormous rate of child poverty is a shame on us all.

Wow. Just WOW.

I work with a knitting group on the internet that has been sending warm knitted winter clothes to where I work - Atlantic City, New Jersey, victim of Hurricane Sandy.

Right now, I'm sitting in a room that was packed with warm clothing. There is one corner left that has clothing for our children. It was 10 degrees on the Boardwalk this morning. We have very cold children. Without heat in their houses. And these kids have a place to live! What about those that don't? What about Miss Angel's children?

What a wonderful story, wow. I follow another woman's blog, octoberfarm.blogspot.com, if you'd like to read what another woman is doing to help. She's taking it on herself to provide a homecooked meal to a couple hundred people a few times a week! She could throw money at the problem and be done probably but she is doing the cooking and baking and delivering herself. Some people are Angels like your friend.

What a wonderful story - there truly are good people in the world - and often all they/we need is someone to tell them what is needed and where to take it...thank you so much for sharing this inspiring tale.

What a lovely post - well done for starting something so worthwhile and you (and the donors) all deserve to be called Angels!

Wow! The story makes me happy and said at the same time. Awesome.

What a great story. It's inspiring to know that there are people that are willing and able to DO something. Thank you for sharing this.

What a amazing story. Thank you!

Thank you so much for sharing this and thank you to your friend Katie for what she started. I love how it's grown and taken on a life of its own - just amazing.

What a wonderful wonderful story! Warm fuzzies . . . .

This is the loveliest blog. Just full of kindness and good heartedess. Again i thank you.

Thank you for sharing this story,Rachel.It is sad to know that there are people living in such dire conditions,but good to know that there are those who care enough to do something to make their lives more bearable.Needless to say,when I read such stories,I am so grateful that my family and I have a roof over our heads and food on the table each day.

Hurrah for Katie and all her invisible friends who read her FB post!

January 27, 2013
109 boxes and bags have been dropped off since I went to the internet with this story. ONE HUNDRED AND NINE! I am so grateful to all of you who have taken the time to drop something by. Giving makes us different in a good way. It has made me grateful to so many people who have taken that first step to giving where it hurts.

How bad is the family homelessness problem in America? It’s bad enough that 1.6 million American children are now homeless, 38% of the entire homeless population, compared to 1% in 1988.

What a wonderful thing you are doing Katie. If we all just pitched in a wee bit what a wonderful world we would have.

I appreciate your story Katie, seems to be inspiring and encouraging. I am inspired actually. Thanks for sharing.

This is great! I had a similar experience after writing my Christmas 2012 novel, Unexpected Christmas Hero. It's about a little homeless family (mom and two children) who are befriended by a homeless Vietnam vet. Turns out the man whose picture the publisher put on the cover really was homeless, and his grown daughter spotted his picture and contacted me. With the help of lots of media and a fundraiser, we got the family reunited. The man is no longer homeless and he has met his four grandchildren for the first time. So many people responded to help, and it was so heartwarming!

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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