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Sherwin Sanchez woke up Friday, Sept. 14, feeling familiarly uneasy.
In a few hours, strangers and new friends from Fontana nonprofit Knock Knock Angels and AMVETS Post 77 in Loma Linda would be inside his family’s San Bernardino apartment, assembling new, donated furniture from Ashley HomeStore’s West Covina location and the community at-large.
“It took a long time before I decided I needed to get help,” he said. “I don’t know what made me stop to get help, I just know I was tired.”
Sanchez, 41, and his girlfriend Heather Phillips, herself a veteran, have heard their share of broken promises.
On Friday, a promise to remodel their two-bedroom apartment was kept.
“This has opened my eyes to how real people’s kindness and generosity can be,” Sanchez said a few hours before stepping into his newly-refurbished home. “It’s not a falsity or staged, it’s not a TV show. It’s real. It is absolutely real. And if that can be real, there’s no limit to what I can do.”
Navy veterans Heather Phillips and Sherwin Sanchez, along with their daughter Sulianna, 1, react with joy after seeing their apartment for the 1st time after it was remodeled with new furnishings and decorations on Friday, September 14, 2018. In back is Vickie Lobo, founder of Knock Knock Angels.
For about five years, Knock Knock Angels has provided neglected elderly people, single parents and women escaping domestic abuse new home furnishings. The community is a key partner, founder Vickie Lobo said, with donations of furniture, transportation and, most importantly, time.
Since January, the nonprofit has refurbished more than a dozen houses in Southern California.
Friday’s effort brought Lobo to tears.
“I say all the time, ‘This one is the best one,’” she said. “But this one is the best one, because I want to see (Sanchez) do well so bad.”
Originally from the Philippines, Sanchez said he joined his parents stateside at age 9. He lived in Long Beach and then in Cerritos, and said he was picked on in school for not knowing English. He attended Artesia High and said he served in the Navy from 1995 to 2003.
Sanchez said he started drinking heavily in 1999 to cope with issues in his life. His six-year marriage dissolved in 2012, and he drank through and after his discharge, while struggling to acclimate to life as a civilian.
He became homeless for a time and said he attempted suicide in 2013, before entering rehab. He found shelter at a sober living house, then his own apartment, but became homeless again after losing his job as a drug and alcohol counselor.
Today, his PTSD continues. Outbursts, nightmares, seeing things others don’t.
“Pretty scary stuff,” he said. “Unless there are other veterans that understand, or a veterans organization that understands, people see that behavior and it’s downright frightening.”
Phillips, meanwhile, graduated from Huntington Beach High in 2006, the school’s 100th graduating class.
She joined the military on her 19th birthday, but said she was raped, and to this day, suffers from PTSD related to military sexual trauma.
Drugs helped Phillips numb the pain. She had a daughter in her 20s and would surrender her to the child’s father to get clean. Phillips, now 30, got out of treatment in December 2015, relapsed shortly thereafter and met Sanchez a few months later.
The couple lived in Long Beach, on minimal incomes, for a spell in 2016, until they were served eviction papers about a week after Phillips gave birth to their daughter, Sulianna. They lived briefly in a friend’s Lake Arrowhead house, working mundane jobs, begging for a break, Phillips said.
Earlier this year, Sanchez went to the Department of Veterans Affairs for help, and said Friday his quality of life has greatly improved with medication and therapy.
After visiting the VA, KEYS, a San Bernardino nonprofit assisting economically disadvantaged veterans and their families, helped Sanchez obtain an apartment voucher through the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.
While waiting for a permanent place to stay, Sanchez, Phillips and Sulianna moved into a Motel 6 in San Bernardino. As their savings dwindled and their cupboards lay bare, they said they subsisted by rationing food.
About a month ago, Sanchez’s VA claim came through. He was classified as 70 percent mentally disabled and guaranteed a monthly income. Phillips later found full-time housekeeping work at the Loma Linda VA.
“We’ve definitely had more hard times than good,” Sanchez said. “But if a couple can struggle together, they can definitely flourish together.”
Last month, they moved into their San Bernardino apartment with borrowed furniture.
Thanks to Lobo, Commander Yolanda Smith with AMVETS Post 77 and Ashley HomeStore West Covina store manager Charles Serrano, the couple received Knock Knock Angels’ latest home makeover.
Phillips, who will celebrate two years of sobriety on Oct. 4, said Friday morning that these past few weeks still don’t feel real.
“It’s so hard to catch up when you’re always behind,” she said. “We were doing everything right, doing what we were supposed to be doing, staying sober, looking for employment, focusing on family, and things still weren’t coming together.
“We needed a break,” she added, “and that’s what we got with the (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) program, getting an apartment and with Knock Knock Angels.”
On Friday, volunteers helped build and arrange the couple’s new furniture while Sanchez, Phillips and Sulianna enjoyed a day at Chuck E. Cheese. The big reveal brought several people, including the formerly homeless veteran couple, to tears.
Shortly after embracing Lobo and Smith and taking rounds of pictures, Sanchez sat down in the living room.
“This is my couch,” he said.
For more information on Knock Knock Angels, visit knockknockangels.org ..for MEDIA INTERVIEWS/FEATURES call KimiRhochelle of KRPR Media at 909-543-2978.
Precinct Reporter 12/14/2017 e-Edition
The Knock Knock Angels—
Celebrating their 4th Annual Christmas Miracle Makeover this Christmas Holiday on December 9th at 7:30am!
Every Christmas holiday, the angels come together to give families who are suffering through financial hardships a home makeover. The nonprofit organization coordinates with their local community to accept donations and volunteers to help furnish these families’ homes with furniture, home décor, food, clothes, shoes, and Christmas gifts.
THIS YEAR, two families were selected. Through Facebooks’ ability to reach out and connect resources, Knock Knock Angels asked communities and organizations to submit family names in need of help. From those submissions, two wonderful families stood out and were selected.
Knock Knock Angels is a 501c3, founded in 2013 to provide household furnishings to needy families and individuals in our community. The nonprofit organization facilitates home makeovers for people suffering from debilitating illnesses and victims of financial poverty.
Founder Vickie Lobo is a Realtor in the Inland Empire who started her community service with a small group of friends who received donations of furniture and home décor to furnish small homes locally. Four years later, her dream has grown to assist multiple families yearly with dozens of volunteers and hundreds of items donated to each family.
Vickie Lobo is REMAX star and was one of five realtors from around the country selected for REALTOR® magazine’s 2017 Volunteering Works program. She has also been awarded the Good Neighbor Award from the National Association of Realtors for her community service.
As a television personality, Lobo has been seen across the country talking about real estate woes, the best solutions to buying homes and many other topics as seen on Inside Edition.
“Selling Real Estate and uniting our community with compassion IS WHO I AM!” – Vicky Lobo
- donating furniture
- donating home décor
- monetary gifts to support a family
- gift cards
- perishable foods
- featuring on media outlets
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We’re excited and proud that CVAR member Vickie Lobo, of RE/MAX Champions North Fontana, is one of five REALTORS® from around the country selected for REALTOR® magazine’s 2017 Volunteering Works program.
Lobo started “Community Miracle Makeover,” a nonprofit that facilitates home makeovers for people suffering from cancer or debilitating illnesses, as well as people moving out of homeless shelters and into apartments.
“It started with a group of my girlfriends, I had no idea it would grow to what it is today,” says Lobo. “With the help of so many of my real estate buddies and friends, we are now assisting two to three families at a time.”
It’s members like Vicki Lobo, “who give back to their community in numerous and subtle ways, that make it a blessing to be a part of the REALTOR® community,” says Citrus Valley President Don Gebhard. “We at CVAR are proud to be associated with Vicki and agents like her.”
As a young person, Lobo was “always that person to lend a helping hand.” But it was a bout with cancer that “fed my desire to do more of what my heart was telling me to do.”
“We go into a home and completely change the entire living space—furniture, appliances, TVs, linens, you name it. People come from all over to give,” she says. “It warms my heart to see the love that we have for our neighbor.”
The group even ventured to San Bernardino to organize a makeover there, following the horrific killings that occurred there.
“With all that has been going on with the terrorist attacks, we needed something positive,” she explains.
As part of the NAR Volunteering Works program, Lobo was matched with a mentor, the 2016 Good Neighbor recipient Cindy Barrett. Barrett’s own nonprofit has fixed up nearly 900 homes for low-income owners. She is advising Lobo on obtaining nonprofit status and fundraising more effectively. As a 501C nonprofit, Community Miracle Makeover can accept cash donations as well as furniture and household goods.
Before, “I would ask [donors] to purchase things like dishes, socks for the kids and even Christmas presents,” says Lobo. As a legitimate nonprofit, they can accept funds and purchase what is needed themselves.
Lobo is now looking for more volunteers for the hands-on work, as well as professionals, as her Miracle Makeover expands.
“We need an attorney, bookkeeper, and a marketing person. Everything we do is volunteer,” she says, adding: “My motto is, you aren’t truly living until you experience the gift in giving.”
To contribute time, money or household goods, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
–Laurie K. Schenden, CVAR Communications & Marketing