She inherited a house, then adjustable rates kicked in

Five days a week, eight hours a day, Karen Chaney stands at a Walmart cash register, working a full-time job at 67 to make sure she can stay above water financially and keep her East Oakland house. “It’s hard,” Chaney said as she sat on her living room sofa on a recent day off. “I come home every night and … Read More

Help after daughter’s illness renews sense of empathy

Year after year, Patti Medina answered the phone at the Oakland unemployment office. She filled out forms for strangers laid off from work. Helping strangers was her job. She never figured she’d be the next person needing a stranger’s help. Until she was. In April, Medina’s 10-year-old daughter, A.F., came back from a school camping trip complaining of being tired. … Read More

Mom’s and daughter’s lives only got better after a help up

Life usually changes for the worse when you fall off a ladder. Not always. For Dora Castillo, who fell from a ladder in 2002, things didn’t get worse at all. Even though she broke her foot, and even though she got fired from her job as a San Francisco hotel maid for breaking her foot — and at Christmas, too … Read More

Rick Fisher gets a home, after struggling with housing and health

Rick Fisher loves his three dogs. Even when he was struggling to keep a roof over his head, the dogs were always on his mind. “Deuce and Saucy are like husband and wife,” he said, on a recent afternoon. Fisher, 55, has had the two pit bulls for more than 13 years. He got his third dog, Trey, more recently, … Read More

Fund helps immigrant family find ‘better future’ in Oakland

Abdul Nasiri, his wife and four children left Kabul in 2016 for a new life in Oakland with only several changes of clothes. They wanted to save most of the space in their suitcases for their children’s academic accomplishments — report cards, certificates of achievement and medals they’d won. “We left because of the war … those conditions,” Nasiri, 47, … Read More

Formerly homeless single father gets help with rent

A year ago, Ariel Juarez was alone on Christmas Day at a San Jose homeless shelter and, in his words, “curled up on my bedroll, waiting for time to pass by.” Juarez’s son, Orion, then 5 years old, was spending the holidays with his mother. Juarez was mourning the recent and unexpected death of his father after a surgical procedure. … Read More

Season of Sharing picks up single dad after his serious fall

Joshua Perez had fallen off a ladder before, because falling off ladders happens when you’re a building contractor. He had fallen off tall ladders and he had fallen off very tall ladders, all while he was on the job. Those were times when he was covered by insurance. Fortunately, those times he wasn’t hurt. Some months ago, he fell off … Read More

Food banks expand efforts in wake of wildfires, putting donations to use

Like firefighters and other emergency responders, Bay Area food banks practice responding to earthquakes, fires and other natural disasters. So when a firestorm swept through Wine Country in early October, displacing thousands of families, the Redwood Empire Food Bank knew what to do. The Santa Rosa food bank called its counterparts in the nine Bay Area counties and asked for … Read More

Sonoma County fires can’t keep longtime volunteer away from her work

Wildfires were still raging across Sonoma County the morning Barbara Toschi decided to go to work anyway. Less than 48 hours before, her Alexander Valley ranch had been in the crosshairs of the Tubbs and Pocket fires. She and her husband had packed up their cars and prepared to leave. The evacuation orders came twice. Still, they stayed. Then: Nothing. … Read More

Amid health woes, finding inspiration in music

Music has always been important to Rosita Watson. The youngest of nine sisters and two brothers, she grew up in a close-knit religious family in Oakland. Her father was a pastor, her mother taught piano and her older sisters Betty, Mary, Shirley and Macletus formed a gospel singing group, the Watson Sisters, whose 1963 album “Glory Train” earned a four-star review in Billboard magazine. … Read More