Big Day of Giving: Woman who experienced homelessness twice now a beloved kids’ chef at Salvation Army

Local News

Sacramento's Big Day of Giving is Thursday. FOX40 is shining the spotlight on the Salvation Army, a nonprofit organization that feeds, shelters and rehabs our homeless population every day.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Elisha Patterson is quickly becoming a rock star at the Salvation Army’s Alhambra Preschool, thanks to her tenacious drive for hard work that started when she was a young girl.

“I was in the foster care system, and I was adopted around five. I was active a lot. I was in after-school programs, went to camp, sports. I played basketball; I played for three years. I did pretty well,” Patterson shared.

To avoid her toxic home life, Patterson stayed busy until things changed when she turned 18.

“Me and my adoptive mom didn’t really get along too much, so she kind of kicked me out, but it was OK,” Patterson said. “I started working.”

She also looked into getting her college degree in African American studies, and she fell in love. Yet Patterson’s life journey was soon off to a tragic start.

“My significant other got murdered around 2015, and right when I was thinking about going to college. After he passed, my life did a whole 180, and I didn’t know who I was anymore,” Patterson shared.  

And in 2016, she became homeless.

“I had a rental car, and so I was living out of my rental car for a minute, but then I had to turn that in eventually after a few months,” Patterson said. “So, I was living out the car for four months, and then I started living from house to house, couch to couch.” 

Even as she was down on her luck, Patterson had dreams of getting a higher education and enrolled in Contra Costa College in 2017. Soon after, an opportunity arose in the form of a flyer for Salvation Army’s Culinary Arts Training Program. 

“Seeing that flyer, I was like, ‘Maybe this is where I need to shift, and this may be my new beginning,’” she explained. 

However, that new beginning was halted by another major obstacle: COVID-19. 

Patterson became homeless for a second time, but it wouldn’t stop her unwavering positivity.  

“This time my mental was better, so I was able to handle it better. My faith was stronger because I was able to get out of it the first time, so the second time I was like, ‘OK, I got this,’” Patterson recalled. 

“I met Elisha last year; she actually came to work for us as a driver, and after she got done driving for the season, we actually ended up having an opening for a cook for our preschool kitchen, and it was just kind of a perfect match,” said Capt. Emmanuel Masango.

Her story is giving Masango and others in the Salvation Army hope that more people will follow suit and join their programs to change their lives for the better. 

“A lot of the people we serve, whether they’re families or children, are coming from a place of need, and she brings the sympathy and empathy that really makes a big difference in our program,” Masango shared. 

“I feel like I’m doing something great. I feel like I’m doing the most good,” Patterson said. “I feel like this is part of my purpose.”

On top of her perseverance through pain and a shiny outlook on life, Patterson makes a terrific grilled cheese sandwich.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Patterson would’ve been able to make grilled cheese sandwiches for up to 60 kids in the Salvation Army’s Preschool Program, but COVID-19 has reduced their enrollment.

If you would like to help their program in honor of Big Day of Giving, click or tap here.

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