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Realtors fill local single mom’s empty kitchen

Woman in financial trouble gets helping hand

Posted: October 26, 2009 11:08 p.m.
Updated: October 27, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The once-empty cabinets are now filled with donations made to the Mandolese family of Newhall.

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When Santa Clarita resident Ginger Sugerman heard the family of her daughter's boyfriend had no food in the house, she just couldn't sit and do nothing.

The 50-year-old woman got on the phone and called a real estate agent she knew. Soon, word spread and Sugerman was at the family's doorstep in Newhall on Tuesday with a carload of groceries and hundreds of dollars in gift cards and cash.

Sophie Mandolese, the donation recipient, said her children were thrilled to see the gifts.

"They were in shock somehow to see that so many people could help," she said.

The 41-year-old single mother, originally from France, said she was struggling to provide for her family's needs.

"The refrigerator was empty," Mandolese said.

Her four sons, ages 7 to 19, live with her. Mandolese said her financial difficulty began a couple of months ago when she first became a single parent.

"The house is upside down," she said. "We're living paycheck to paycheck. ... It's the situation where you don't want to knock on someone's door."

Mandolese, who was reluctant to ask for help, went to the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry but only received a couple of bags of food with instructions to return in a couple of weeks, she said.

The Newhall resident was later surprised to learn that a group of about 15 employees from Realty Executives and Valleywide Escrow in Canyon Country had pulled items from their own refrigerators and cupboards to help feed her family.

Realty Executives agent Denise Mitchell, 44, said she spread the word to co-workers as soon as she heard the news because she also used to be a single mother in financial distress.

"It's not a comfortable feeling to be in that situation," Mitchell said. "It's nice that we can all just come together and help somebody in need ... (and) her needs are not going to stop. Once the food's gone, she's going to need again."

Mandolese said another great need is employment for her two older sons, a 17-year-old high school senior and a 19-year-old College of the Canyons student who will likely be responsible for paying his own tuition next semester, she said.

The single mother added that she is thankful for the help she has received and that she has learned she is not alone.

"Everyone can know there are good people out there and not to be ashamed," she said. "If you're in trouble, (then) you're in trouble. What can you do?"

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