Effort under way to expand the Ashby House

By Jana Rossi, Mountain Democrat

For more than 50 years New Morning Youth and Family Services has been providing essential assistance to families in El Dorado County. With David Ashby at the helm, New Morning grew from a small, three-bedroom shelter to what is now known as the Ashby House — a place up to 12 homeless, runaway and struggling youth call home at any given time.

Ashby has since retired, after 23 years of dedicated service and last year Victor Antonio stepped in to continue the work where Ashby left off. Already having large shoes to fill, Antonio took the reins amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, during which not only the demand for New Morning services intensified but so did its need for increased space.

In addition to offering a safe haven for homeless and runaway children, New Morning provides counseling and support for those dealing with matters such as substance and physical abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide and more. It’s the only 24-hour emergency youth shelter in the area, serving as a “safety net” for families. The Ashby House is a welcoming respite to many who drop in for a place to shower, eat a meal or just hang out and do homework.

Last year New Morning leaders and staff immediately felt the impact the pandemic had on the shelter. The large, single story, multi-roomed house started to feel much smaller when the common area became a place for learning, homework, meetings and the recreational hang out spot for its residence. Expansion became the necessary next step and the New Morning Capital Campaign fundraiser was launched.

With donations from the Marshall Foundation and private donors and eventually partnering with HomeAid Sacramento, a local nonprofit developer, 400-square-feet of additional space was added by enclosing the Placerville home’s large outdoor deck, providing a separated educational space plus an area to conduct private meetings and trainings. Dawson’s Floor Fashions of Placerville provided and installed vinyl plank flooring. Much-needed storage space for the overflow of donated and essential items was also added below.

It was a start.

After visiting the Ashby House during lockdown, New Morning Board of Director President, Don Sacco witnessed first hand the difficulty the student residents faced while attempting to participate in various online classes as they were sitting around the single dining room table together.

“We are excited about the prospect of adding additional space,” Sacco told the Mountain Democrat. “Study kiosks will be provided to enhance their learning experience and we believe it will be an important asset for the residence and for their learning.”

To date, New Morning has raised close to $100,000, a third of its $300,000 goal to further expand the space. The fundraiser kick-off in Gold Hill scheduled Oct. 24 was canceled earlier this month due to the recent COVID surge and the Caldor Fire (now 100% contained), which hit close to home for many New Morning staff members who needed to evacuate. The campaign instead moves online.

In addition to monetary donations, non-monetary items on New Morning’s wishlist are gift cards to stores such as Ikea and Home Depot; the Ashby House is always in need of clothing, especially larger sizes for older boys and girls. The children who move on from the shelter are able to keep any items they are given during stay, no matter how short or long their time.

Shelter Director Kristen Patterson acknowledges it is the community’s generosity that keeps the shelter running and, just as David Ashby called upon the community to help build the home 11 years ago, raising $1,000,000, they hope people will once again step up. To donate visit newmorningyfs.org.