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Life and Work with Ashley Kelley and Janea Perez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Kelley and Janea Perez.

Ashley and Janea, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Our children went to preschool together. We knew each other as acquaintances when Janea posted on Facebook about a volunteering experience she had. Ashley saw the post and then decided to join Janea at the next opportunity. We volunteered together through that same organization for about two years until it kind of dissipated. At that point, we had become good friends and often had taken on opportunities to lead some of the events together. We realized we both really wanted to continue to help the communities we had formed relationships with.

We wanted to continue to serve others. We decided to create our own nonprofit that would help the many underserved men, women, and children in San Diego, especially in the East County communities that we both grew up in. We think it is extremely important to include children of all ages in the volunteering opportunities. We want children to grow up to see every person as a human and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, no matter what their circumstances may be.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Feeling like we aren’t doing enough. There are so many needs. We are constantly adding things we want to accomplish and provide for the homeless community. We oftentimes have to stick some things on the back burner while we try to figure out how to get the resources to make it happen. Then we end up feeling as though we are failing. We want to fix all of the problems and keep everyone happy while doing it. We try to remind ourselves that we are just starting our journey and we have a long road ahead of us. As long as we are helping in some way, that is enough. One person at a time, we will make a difference.

For any woman starting a nonprofit or even a business, be patient with yourselves while also never losing the passion you had when you first started. When things feel overwhelming, take a step back and reprioritize your goals. Remember why you started in the first place.

Please tell us about Made to Change.
We believe that if we open our hearts to know more about these individuals, we can create a space where we do better to serve them. Like we previously mentioned, we try to offer as many family-friendly opportunities to serve as we can. We have done hygiene kits and then together, we take them to hand them out. We meet people, hear their stories, see their living situations and find out what other needs they have. The kids learn their names, see their faces, they learn that they may have bravely served our country, lost a loved one, etc. They are able to see them as the people they are and have compassion for them. This is what we are most proud of, the family participation we see when we hear kids asking to come to our events or offer ideas for future outreaches.

We enjoy working with other organizations in San Diego. Last year we created a Dressed for Change event for some of the women at the San Diego Rescue Mission who were ready to begin the next chapter of their new lives. We offered them a dignified shopping experience where they were able to shop for some new and gently used work-appropriate clothing and also get a haircut.

Over the summer, we did a playroom makeover at a family shelter. We turned a plain room into a safe, beautiful space where the children could play, ready, create, and work on their homework. For the holidays, we went back to the same shelter and threw a festive Christmas party filled with food and crafts. Santa and Mrs. Claus even made a special appearance and took pictures with all of the children!

We put 100% of the donations we receive right back into our outreaches. We have done hygiene items, sock, and clothing drives. Anything we can do to make the next event possible!

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
We find out inspiration from the people we serve and other organizations doing similar work. There are so many amazing organizations in San Diego and all over that are coming up with some brilliant ideas to help the homeless.

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Image Credit:
Made to Change

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