As a child, Blue Shield of California’s Liz Khachatourians remembers being loved.
Raised by a single mom, she has countless memories of her mother doing anything possible to make sure she was safe and happy. Khachatourians describes the bond she has with her mother to be stronger than any other mother-daughter duo she knows. As an adult, she now realizes how much her mother struggled financially. So when a close friend of hers asked her to be a board member for My New House, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of single-parent families, she couldn't resist.
“I grew up in Maine and we had terrible winters,” Khachatourians said. “We couldn't afford to leave the heat on overnight. My mother would pile blankets on top of me when she tucked me in. She set her alarm to go off 15 minutes before I woke up. She would turn on the heat and lay my clothes on top of the radiator so they could warm up. She then would help me get dressed under the blankets."
The Single Parent Utility Relief program (SPUR) is one of My New House's priority projects in which applicants who qualify receive a one-year relief for their utility expenses. The organization is a 100 percent volunteer group and usually hosts fundraisers like BINGO or silent auctions, but this year all fundraising events have been canceled due to social distancing guidelines.
Soledad Castro received help from My New House's SPUR program last year. Castro is a single mother who is in remission for stage three cancer that migrated from the uterus to the lungs to the neck. Her medical needs forced her to quit a job she held for five years.
“I had to carry oxygen and carry my 1 year-old baby around the house," Castro said. "I had no time, no energy, no health to bring food to the table for my other three kids. My cancer left me as a single mother. It brought a lot of problems to the relationship because I could not do things. I had very low self-esteem. To me, I was dead, but alive. Having the help of My New House has helped us to have more. I do not have to put more money out of my pocket. I can use that money for other important things that we also need.”
'It Both Fills and Breaks My Heart'
Khachatourians said the financial strain cause by the pandemic has not only hit single-parent households but My New Home itself. She used Blue Shield's giving program to maximize her financial donation to My New Home.
“We currently do not have any funds in the bank," she said. "The backlash from COVID-19 has hit us hard. I was happy when the Shield Cares Giving Campaign opened. I donated the max which was matched 2:1 and that will allow us to support three SPUR applicants."
Being on the board has given Khachatourians the chance to really get to know some of the families seeking assistance, which is why she is even more committed to volunteering. She talks about connecting with a domestic violence survivor, one of the women who has sought refuge from My New House:
“When we first met, she was living in a shelter, Khachatourians said. ”Her children hate the shelter. Being there is very traumatic for them, no one gets any sleep and the risk of contracting the coronavirus in that environment is very high.
“Earlier this year she got a job at a local restaurant, which allowed her to pay for a hotel room and bring home warm food. In March she was furloughed, and she is terrified of going back to a shelter. She recently found out her application for an apartment rental has been approved, but now she doesn't know how she will make ends meet without our support."
The story of Khachatourians and the families that come to My New House unfortunately are not unique. The pandemic is taking a toll on everyone, which is one of the reasons Khachatourians wants to encourage others to give.
“As a mother, it both fills and breaks my heart to know the sacrifices my mom made for me. I will always try to help anyone in anyway, especially single parents."
To contribute to My New House, you can donate by clicking here.