What’s On Your Fridge: A Staff Perspective

by
Shawn Cervantes, FCNI Social Worker as told to Jessi Biagioni
June, 10, 2020 -

Your fridge is much more than a place for groceries and leftovers. In fact, your fridge shows what matters to you. I’m not talking about whether you’re eating a balanced diet, or whether you are trying to save the planet. Matter of fact, I’m not even referring to what’s inside your fridge. I’m talking about what’s on the outside of your fridge.

From a young age, I’ve seen many households display their children’s artwork, family photos, grocery lists, and even report cards on their fridges. A fridge is a blank, magnetic canvas for you to display things that you care about that everyone who comes into your home will see (or not see if you’d rather have an empty fridge door). 

I think a lot of us have taken this simple, decorative measure for granted, as we’re so used to seeing it. 

Until age 22, Mercedes had never seen her photo on someone else’s fridge before. In fact, Mercedes never knew who her father was, and her mom struggled with substance abuse and became homeless. Mercedes was placed into foster care when she was only four years old.

It wasn’t until she met her mentor, Shawn, that her life was changed forever. Allow me to back peddle a little...

Shawn is a Social Worker who has worked at Family Care Network for just over a year. In 2011, way before she started at FCNI, Shawn started mentoring former foster youth with the Smith Society at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Over the years, she has developed many lifetime relationships with the kids she’s mentored. And Mercedes is one of them. Here is Mercedes’ story written by Mercedes herself:

"I have known Shawn for almost 10 years now. We met during my freshman year at UCSC and she quickly transformed from mentor, to friend, to one of the few people I consider family. I was put in my first foster home when I was four years old and bounced between traditional foster homes and kinship foster homes. Due to drugs and neglect, my mother didn't raise any of her seven children, of which I am the youngest. 

Even though some of the places I lived were technically with family, none of them ever felt like home. They all made me feel like an outsider who didn't belong.  Shawn was the first person to make me feel at home just by being in her presence. The door to her home was always open to me, whether for a meal, a celebration, or a safe haven when my life seemed to be crumbling. She was a shoulder to cry on when I was trying to get out of an abusive relationship and feared being homeless, and she was my biggest cheerleader at graduation and award ceremonies.

One of my favorite memories is when I told her I wasn't able to take senior pictures in high school. She spent an entire weekend driving around to different locations taking pictures of me for my senior year of college. 

There are so many little things people take for granted but Shawn really knew how to make you feel loved, valued, and appreciated. I could list a million different memories I have of us together but none of them could make you understand how truly amazing she is, you'd just have to get to know her yourself. I can honestly say I am blessed to know her and my life would not be the same without her." 

Shawn says that mentoring has given her a feeling of empowerment, and provided her the opportunity to exercise her motherhood capabilities to children and youth in need. She loves being the first person Mercedes can call with good news, bad news, or just to talk. It gives her purpose. 

Shawn mentioned that one of her favorite moments she has shared with Mercedes was after Mercedes had graduated college. As Mercedes mentioned, Shawn photographed all of her senior college photos. One day, Mercedes came over for a visit and she froze as soon as she walked into the kitchen. She had noticed her graduation photos hanging on Shawn’s fridge. Shawn asked her what was wrong, to which Mercedes replied, “I’ve never seen my photo on someone’s fridge before.”

You can imagine the adoration that filled both Mercedes and Shawn's hearts in that moment. 

You may not think you have the power to change someone else’s life, but the power is truly inside of us all. In the words of Mandy Hale, “To make a difference in someone’s life, you don't have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care.” 

Mentoring is a powerful way to help a child or youth in need, who may never receive the support otherwise. Not only is mentoring rewarding for the youth, but it is incredibly rewarding to the mentor as well. Help make a difference that will last a lifetime, just as Shawn has to Mercedes (and vice versa), by becoming a mentor. Email us at rbrinkerhoff@fcni.org to begin your mentoring journey today.