Family members get help with home of their own

The Rev. Aaron Kumlin was used to providing help, not receiving it.

He and his family – wife, April, and three daughters – found the tables turned in the fall of 2009.

That’s when Aaron Kumlin, who had been working as a church pastor in San Francisco, lost his job without warning, April Kumlin became unemployed and her mother revealed she was dying from liver cancer.

Trying to make ends meet while coping with the devastating news, April Kumlin moved away from her husband and girls in Pacifica to take a job in Los Angeles. The income it supplied, however, was not enough to sustain five people, and the stress of living hundreds of miles apart proved draining.

Unable to afford rent in the fall of 2010, Aaron Kumlin and the couple’s three daughters – Morgan, 15, Noel, 13, and Paige, 9 – moved into two spare rooms at his friends’ house while April Kumlin continued to work in Southern California, visiting every six to eight weeks.

“It was like the perfect storm,” Aaron Kumlin said. “All hell broke loose and there weren’t enough rafts on the ship.”

He had begun selling insurance after losing his job, but the income was sporadic and unpredictable.

Moving into a place of their own seemed unlikely. The overcrowded space sustained them for more than a year, but piling three adolescent girls and their dad into cramped quarters was challenging.

“We tried our best,” he said. “We tried to make a game of the situation.”

While the couple worked to provide some semblance of normalcy for their daughters, the girls struggled emotionally.

They were embarrassed to have friends visit, and while they were grateful for the generosity of their hosts, not having anywhere to call their own made day-to-day living difficult and stripped special times like the holidays of their usual joy.

“Christmas just wasn’t Christmas last year,” Morgan told her father recently.

This year, thanks to re-employment and a grant from The Chronicle’s Season of Sharing Fund, the family is celebrating again.

In October, Aaron Kumlin started working at San Francisco International Airport, and he has been volunteering as a chaplain at a medical center in South San Francisco.

“It’s less church politics and more being there for people during tough times,” he said. “That’s been a blessing.”

In July, April Kumlin was able to rejoin the family in Pacifica, and in August began working at a speech clinic in the East Bay. A trip to the Pacifica Resource Center in September put the family in contact with Ann Cooney, a case manager there who told them about Season of Sharing. The grant, which paid the security deposit on a two-bedroom apartment in Pacifica, allowed the Kumlins to move into a place with rent they could afford, near the girls’ schools.

“They wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this great opportunity without Season of Sharing,” Cooney said. “I think they are an extraordinary family. They are always thinking of other people.”

Aside from the physical benefits the grant has afforded, it also has allowed the couple to begin re-creating a sense of home for their daughters.

“Having our own home, we’ve been able to put up the Christmas tree and create the routines that are so important to family life,” April Kumlin said.

The tree sits in the living room, adorned with family ornaments. Monogrammed stockings hang nearby, and Paige has created holiday decorations out of construction paper.

The girls are thriving academically, and while they still share a room, they have a place to spread out homework and entertain friends.

“The girls wanted to be able to hang out with kids who have their own homes, and now we have someplace to bring people,” Aaron Kumlin said. “We’re very thankful.”