Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Here at the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run, we are often asked what cause or charitable organization our race benefits. For many years now, the Christmas Run has been a fundraiser and donor to Harvest Home, a non-profit residence for pregnant women in need in Santa Monica.
But the best way for us to explain to you what Harvest Home does and how it impacts and even saves lives is to introduce you to a phenomenal young woman who recently completed her stay there. Her name is Larissa Pfoutz, and here she is with her daughter Mya, 10 months:
Larissa, 25, has come a long way in the last few years. Originally from Pennsylvania, she came to the West Coast knowing she needed to change her life. Drugs and alcohol were a problem – she had not been able to stay clean for more than three months at a time. In Los Angeles, she decided that there was no other option for her other than to get sober. She entered an Alcoholics Anonymous-based treatment program, stuck with it, and was living in a sober residence. “My sobriety is at the forefront in my life. Without it none of the people and things in my life are possible,” she said. “I had to work my butt off to get sober, and that continues every day.”
A few months into getting clean, Larissa got pregnant. Jobless and no longer able to stay in her group residence, her social worker handed her a list of phone numbers for possible maternity homes. Harvest Home was the only one that had an opening.
“When I interviewed with Harvest Home, it was like I was interviewing for a job – that’s how seriously I took it,” she recalled. After being accepted into the program, she quickly realized it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. Harvest Home’s future mothers work toward employment and take parenting classes. They are expected to contribute to the household, including cooking for everyone once a week and cleaning.
Larissa admits that at first, the chores and classes felt like a pain. It would have been so much easier to stay in her room and sleep all day. But that wasn’t an option, and that was the whole point.
“I was very stubborn and I now realize that from being at Harvest Home, a lot of my old ways have been broken in a good way. When I got there I only knew how to make boxed macaroni and cheese. When I left I was making full on meals like lasagna and enchiladas. So now, when my daughter gets older, I can cook for her.
When you are there, it might seem dumb and annoying to have to do all that stuff. But it all makes sense when you leave. I even find myself cleaning at night now the way they taught us to do there, so the apartment is ready for the next day.”
The job training courses had a similar impact. She improved her resume and interviewing skills. After connecting with a Venice-based company that had job opportunities, Larissa applied for and landed a position that involved working remotely. Before Mya was even born, she was set up to provide for her daughter on her own.
But perhaps most importantly was the self-confidence building and emotional development that Larissa underwent while pregnant. That growth has continued since having her daughter. She gives a lot of the credit back to her Harvest Home experience.
“They honestly saved my life,” she said. “I really am who I am today because of their help. I thought I couldn’t do this. And now, I have a full time job, I have an apartment. My daughter’s needs are met.” Being a mother has been a transformative experience for Larissa, who was adopted. Her voice fills with love when she talks about her daughter, who is named for the poet Maya Angelou.
“I want to raise her to be like the Maya Angelou poem ‘Phenomenal Woman,’” she said, reciting the verse’s signature line:
I’m a woman
“I want my daughter to know that always. She made me become the woman that I was always afraid to be. I had no idea that this was what a mother’s love was like. It’s real love. She’s really a miracle.”
Learn more about Harvest Home at www.theharvesthome.net