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Unique nonprofit struggling for help

Acres of Hope one of only long-term rehabilitation programs in county
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Roxanne Espindola said she prayed and prayed to God to help her. The 31-year-old recovering alcoholic not only knew she needed help – she wanted it – but just couldn’t seem to find a way to completely cure her addiction. “I wanted to save my life,” Espindola said. Now Espindola and her three children are living at Acres of Hope in Applegate and she says she feels she has a real chance to start a new life. Acres of Hope was founded by Regina and Darrell Sarmento about two years ago. It is a faith-based long-term housing program for homeless women and children. There’s no question about how much the staff and residents value the programs and support Acres of Hope offers. What is in question, though, is how much longer the new program can sustain itself in the current poor economy. A matter of survival “We struggle from month to month, but it’s more difficult now that the economy is starting to hit,” Regina Sarmento said. Recently, many of the nonprofits donors have dropped their contribution amounts or put a hold on giving because of they have lost their jobs or experienced tough pay cuts, Regina Sarmento said. She said one donor recently dealt with a 60 percent pay cut and had to drastically reduce the amount of money he contributed to Acres of Hope. Many of the women who stay at Acres of Hope have substance abuse addictions, Regina Sarmento said. Currently, the center houses nine families and there is room for maybe one more family. The program aims to fix those addictions by addressing the underlying issues that lead to them. Women and their children live at the facility full-time usually for two years. “We want to go beyond statistics and get to the quality of life,” Regina Sarmento said. “We want them to have hope and believe in themselves.” That mantra has already helped Espindola. Espindola said the classes and lifestyle at Acres of Hope have been a more effective form of treatment as opposed to other rehabilitation programs she has gone through. “Here they deal with the core issues,” Espindola said. “It’s not just about going to meetings. It’s about finding out why I’m drinking.” In the four months that Espindola has been housed at Acres of Hope, she said she can already feel a difference but knows there is more work ahead. “I’m not there yet,” Espindola said. “I’m still broken.” Get to go to the heart’ Debbie Sarmiento, the education coordinator at Acres of Hope, said the difference between Acres and other nonprofit agencies she’s worked with is “tremendous.” She said she believes that Acres of Hope, if it grows, will start to influence other nonprofit groups in the area. “In other programs, there’s no ability to really help someone change,” Sarmiento said. “Here we really get to go to the heart.” A little more than five weeks ago, Lindsay Bobabe, 25, was not so eager to become one of the families at Acres of Hope. The mother of three was abused as a child and God was used as a justification for that abuse, Bobabe said. “I really wanted to find fault with this program,” Bobabe said. “In doing that, I went the completely opposite way.” She said as she constantly questioned the program, she found that the staff was truly caring and there to help her work through her problems. “It’s not about forcing you to get sober here,” Bobabe said. “It’s a gentle whisper. They’re giving me the information and it’s up to me to do what I want.” While only five weeks in, Bobabe has seen a tangible benefit of the program. In two months she will not be under the eye of Child Protective Services and she can work toward obtaining custody of her oldest daughter. “I want this to work for us,” Bobabe said. Supporters Richard Burton, public health officer and director of the county health and human services department, said he supports the program for a variety of reasons including its distinction as one of the few, if only, nonprofit long-term residential recovery programs in the county. If the program were to lose funding, Burton said he could imagine a strong impact. “I think the women and children currently benefiting from the program would still be having drug and alcohol problems,” Burton said. “There are many resources likely available for them but the sort of life-skills training and stable housing living situation they are currently experiencing at Acres of Hope … would likely not be available.” The program has also received continual support from Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville. The Sarmentos said they’ve appreciated Gaines’ assistance in helping them raise money and by attending their events. Gaines also personally contributes to the nonprofit on a monthly basis. “From my vantage point, we as citizens have an obligation to help out those who are needy,” Gaines said. “We shouldn’t reach for government. We should see what we can do with nonprofit organizations that are faith-based in our community that provide a safety net in our local communities.” Looking ahead The Sarmentos said they know other nonprofit groups are facing similar financial hardships. However, they said as a new organization, they don’t have a significant reserve budget, which makes them more wary of the next few months. “One of the biggest challenges for us is we’re still relatively new,” Darrell Sarmento said. “When you’re new, not everyone out there is looking for a new charity to get involved with so it makes it challenging for organizations like us to pull through. We want to get through this season.” Espindola teared up at the thought of the program no longer being available. “Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Acres of Hope,” Espindola said. “I would fall apart.” After drying her eyes, Espindola’s sense of humor returned as she thought of a different solution. “I would probably go camp on Regina and Darrell’s front lawn,” Espindola joked. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment at Auburnjournal.com. ---------- To learn more or donate to Acres of Hope, visit www.acresofhopeonline.org or call (530) 878-8030 ----------