The Housing and Opportunity Foundation of Kern is celebrating its one year anniversary. The non-profit part of the Housing Authority is throwing a gala Friday night to not only raise money, but to let the community know how donating time can improve the lives of people who find themselves needing help. People like 68-year-old Margie Pretari.
"We went to the finest restaurants, you know. I had the jewelry and the clothes, and I thought we are living the American dream," said Pretari of her life of luxury years ago.
Pretari had a big home, a housekeeper, and a nanny. But, when she lost her husband to cancer, life as she knew it slowly died too, with more illness and more bills.
"You go to having a nanny to receiving brown bags from the Housing Authority and churches and things like that. But, it's so humbling. It makes you very humble to have to live here," said Pretari.
Here is in a low-income senior housing development. It's where Margie and many others are living their golden years. And, there's been more glimmer in the gold this last year since the formation of the Housing and Opportunity Foundation of Kern, a non-profit trying to enrich the lives of low-income residents.
Last month they were able to take their mature members to the Senior Olympic Games. That was a first for the group. And, the foundation posted pictures of a luau they held for seniors. They are little glimmers that get the seniors out and connecting.
"When you come out to that celebration, you see them dancing," said Norma Rojas-Mora, Executive Director of the Housing and Opportunity Foundation of Kern. "You see them karaokeing. You see them interacting with one another in a way they don't often get the opportunity to do."
"When we have activities here most people show up. And, so it's very important just to get them out of the room," said Pretari.
And, the foundation doesn't just help seniors. It has provided clothes, books, and tutoring for students. It's also awarded scholarships to help expand horizons.
"We want to see that you can see beyond your existing circumstance and that's really challenging when you come from an environment where that's really all you know," said Sarah Ketchum, Event Chair of the Board.
The foundation, in its first year, still doesn't have a sign in front of their office and needs to community to help them succeed.
"A lot of times we think 'oh, here's another non-profit asking for money.' But, it's not just about the money. It's about if you are a retired teacher and would like to come in and help tutor some of the kids. Give us an hour or two of your time," said Rojas-Mora.
Anything to help others from getting caught in the cycle and help those, like Margie, enjoy the rest of their lives not living in the past, but with dignity.
"But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm hoping the light is this gala," said Pretari.
If you'd like to help, the first ever Dreaming Beyond the Stars red carpet event is Friday night, November 2nd, at 7:00 p.m. at The Padre. It's black tie and 21 and over.
There's a silent auction, wine tasting, a poker room, and Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe impersonators. Tickets are $150.00 which includes all food and drink.
For tickets, visit www.kernopportunityfoundation.org
. The Padre also has tickets for sale.