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September 25, 2020
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A young child making a big difference

  • From left to right are Church of the Oaks Minister Patrick McCarty, Birthday girl and donor Sierra Lovoi, and The Living Room volunteer coordinator Katie Phillips Photo by Robert Grant

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
July 5, 2019

The Living Room, a day center in Sonoma County that serves homeless and at-risk women and their children, received a $400 donation and a pile of much needed sleeping bags, tarps, blankets and tents on June 27 thanks to 6-year-old Sierra Lovoi.  Sierra, a Cotati resident and member of Church of the Oaks, turned six on June 10. In lieu of receiving gifts, she decided instead to ask church members to give donations or items needed by the center. The church, a small tight-knit community of people who often strive to give back to those less fortunate, showed an overwhelming support for Sierra and her cause and within two weeks raised a sizable donation of both money and necessary items.

 According to Sierra’s mother, Heather, her daughter, like many her age, adores and looks up to the fairytale princesses in movies and story books and got inspired by their stories of compassion and kindness to others.

“She’s obsessed with princesses, and Patrick [McCarty, minister at Church of the Oaks], calls her the “princess of Cotati,’” says Heather Lovoi. “In each fairytale they all care about their family, or their community and want to help others…We’re always out and about in Rohnert Park and there are always homeless. She’s always telling me ‘Mommy let’s give them some money.’ She’s starting to really care.”

When Sierra and her mother give money to homeless they encounter in the community, they discuss how good it feels to help others. Over time this has fostered the feeling of empathy in 6-year-old Sierra. She was so happy to receive the donations and Heather believes she would like to make this an annual birthday tradition. 

Last Thursday Sierra was allowed to present her gifts in person to The Living Room, who were so thankful for the young girl’s dedication.

 “We have a women’s program and a mother and child program,” says Katie Phillips, Volunteer Coordinator for Santa Rosa-based The Living Room. “Especially for those in the women’s program who are chronically homeless, we often distribute these kinds of items to them. But the reality of living outside is that many of these things get lost or stolen. So, we always need more, and they are critical for the health, safety and well-being of these women.” 

The Living Room provides participants with a place to be during the day when overnight shelters are closed and provides a supportive place to heal while in transition.  A majority of the women have suffered from exposure to domestic violence and have experienced either physical or sexual assault.

Besides providing hot meals, on-site counseling, a computer center, a mailing address, phone access and community referrals to help with housing, health care and employment, the center also provides daily necessities such as hygiene products, clothing and diapers. Last year The Living Room provided services to 1,200 participants including over 900 homeless and at-risk women and over 300 children. 

Monetary donations are accepted anytime via mail or online at thelivingroomsc.org, and donations of needed items are accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the center at 1207 Cleveland Ave. in Santa Rosa. Please check the website for The Living Room’s current urgent needs.