Every year we do the ‘Tis the Season food drive, from which the food goes to the Salvation Army and benefits hundreds of families throughout the year.
To kick off the week, we bring you the story of one family who is a beneficiary.
Every story is entitled to an ending. This one will come to a close at the kitchen table on east 16th street in Chico, across the street from the Salvation Army.
But first, let's go back to where it begins.
An ironic name for a small town of a little more than 26,000. And ironic for Lori Snyder.
“People that were toxic for me was the only thing I knew. It's the only thing I grew up with,” Snyder recalled.
She and her mom moved from San Jose when she was 18-months-old, and let's just say Paradise isn't how she would describe her childhood.
“Chaotic childhood. My mom wasn't always the best mom, you know, in our addictions we don't always make the right choices or do the right thing.”
Addictions. A word all too familiar to Snyder. For her dad, it was heroin. He died of an overdose when she was 8-years-old.
For her step dad, it was dealing drugs, leading to him being shot in the back of the head.
“He's killed, you know. Somebody killed him. Over what? Why?”
For her mom, it was meth and pain killers. She had a bad back.
It was a chaotic childhood, as she called it.
“High school was oblivious to me, like, I don't really remember it all that much because I was worried about where I was going to sleep that night.”
In high school, Snyder started drinking, and at 17, she began smoking meth.
“I never wanted to. Like I always was like ‘I’m never going to end up like my mom, I don't want to drink, I don't want to drink I don't want to do all that… and hanging out with the wrong people.”
Fast forward to 1999, when Snyder was 21, and hit with another blow.
“Probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through.”
After getting a shot of Demerol in her back, her mom drove home and crashed her car. She died instantly on the skyway.
“And I didn't believe them. I ran into the house and I was looking for my mom.”
Life was spiraling downward fast.
Snyder ended up in jail, and 4 months later sought refuge in the Skyway House.
At 24-years old, that's when she met her husband.
She would go on to marry him 2 years later and have James, her first child, and soon become pregnant with two twin daughters, Lilly and Lindsey.
“I was doing the whole life that they talk about. I was married, working, raising kids, cleaning.”
For the first time ever, she was leading a happy, normal life. But that's one of the great tragedies of life, something always changes.
She was cleaning houses and working for a woman who became her rock, and a part of her family. But then she got the devastating news; in 2010, a pill overdose took her boss's life.
“She was my everything. Like she reminded me of my mom, she was my best friend, just absolutely adored her, she adored my kids.”
Once again, Snyder turned to drugs to numb the pain.
“I actually went through a depression for 30 days, I did not come out of my room for 30 days. I didn't even think that was possible.”
Her married life eventually crumbled, and she lost custody of her 3 children who were put into foster care.
It was the first time she felt truly alone, nearly drinking herself to death.
“If my best friend Josh didn't call the paramedic, I would have been dead within a half hour.”
Snyder finally realized she had a problem, and in 2012 went to the Esplanade House to get her life back on track.
She met a man in 2015, and 3 months later became pregnant with her 4th child.
But, her new love left her pregnant and alone.
“I, at that time, wanted to die. I seriously wanted to die. In august of 2016, when she was born, I wanted to die, I did not want to live any longer.”
But that's one of the great joys of life, something always changes. And on that day, it was her life that changed.
“It was like as soon as I saw her eyes, I was like… she saved my life. That's why I called her Liv.”
But the county didn't think she was fit to be a mom, and took her little bundle of joy right from the hospital.
“I started doing services right away. They took her on a Saturday and I went to the CPS office on Monday and tested, what do you need me to do?”
She worked to get Liv back, and before too long, the 5 of them would be living at the Johnson House, not knowing they would soon find their own paradise, about 4 miles south, at the intersection of 16th and Laurel, across the street from the Salvation Army.
“All my prayers have been answered. My baby's back home, I have a community, we're not homeless”
And she's clean.
Her community is the Salvation Army, which has given her kids some clothes, and every week they get groceries for the family.
But that sounds like a lot of taking, and she's not about that.
“I love people. I do. I used to say I hated people not too long ago but I really do love people.”
So much so, that she now volunteers for the Salvation Army.
Every Thursday she spends all day there, helping pass out food to those who need it.
“It makes my day to see people smile and just to be like ‘hi, how are you doing?”
She leaves only to pick her kids up from school, before dropping them off at home and coming right back to help cook in the evening.
She says this place has changed her. She has no desire to use drugs, and wants to make sure her kids never have to go through what she had to.
From coming in as a weary soul not wanting to trust people, she has now found her community, her family, and her home.
Her paradise, at the kitchen table on east 16th street, across the street from the Salvation Army.
“I fought to get here, that's for sure. And I know I couldn't have gotten here without God.”