What they do: Two years ago, Ashley and Tamara started collecting and purchasing blankets, clothes, socks, shoes, toys, toiletries, feminine hygiene products and food for Fresno’s homeless.
They’ve handed out hundreds of these gifts – including the jackets off their backs upon seeing children shiver in the cold, as well as their own toys – to homeless near Poverello House. Their eighth delivery was earlier this month.
In addition, they volunteer with animal rescue groups and are beloved at Golden Living Center in Fresno. Their visits include free massages and nail painting for the elderly residents.
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Ashley also works to prevent domestic violence through the Marjaree Mason Center’s Know More program for youths, and Tamara extends her philanthropy through a leadership club at her elementary school.
Why they do it: “You don’t know how they got there. You don’t know their story,” Ashley said of the homeless. “I don’t like to see people suffer. I don’t like to see people in that situation, so that also inspired me because I have a roof, I have warmth, and I thought maybe it would be nice if they had the same. But they don’t, and that’s what’s sad.”
Their mother, Paula Franco, also is an inspiration.
“I think she’s one of my goals,” Ashley said. “I want to be like that when I’m older. When someone has a struggle, she always helps them, and she’s very caring.”
The turning point: Ashley got the idea to start helping the homeless after receiving free braces through the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation as a fifth-grader.
“It made me think maybe I should give back because I felt like it was a lot. It meant a lot to me, and it would be nice if someone else received something as big.”
Details, details: The sisters recently pooled together $50 (Tamara pitched in $20 that she received for her birthday, and Ashley put in $30 of a $50 gift given to club members of Know More) to buy blankets for the homeless. Tamara also recently started knitting scarves for them.
“Spread the word … we need help because we can’t just do it all by ourselves,” Tamara said. “And also, like my sister said, you don’t have to be rich to help.”
“I want to let people know that they aren’t only adults,” Ashley said of Fresno’s homeless. “There are also kids out there that need their help.”
What others say: “They are amazing,” said their mother from the living room of their small Fresno home crowded with donations for the homeless earlier this month. Her eyes welled with happy tears. “All the time, they make me cry.”
How you can help: Anyone wishing to donate items for Fresno’s homeless can call Paula Franco at 559-412-1418 or email email@example.com.