From her home in North Richmond, Thelma Sutton beams with pride. Thelma’s only living son Warren accepted a full-ride football scholarship to Washington State University.
“I’m insanely proud of my son Warren,” Thelma said. “He once asked a teacher at school if he’d die in North Richmond like his brothers. We’ve lost so much to violence, to know he’s somewhere he doesn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder brings me peace.”
Warren, who attended El Cerrito High School, landed at Washington State University to a complete change of culture, Thelma said. She is eager to share photos of her son signing autographs for kids who watched him during a scrimmage game. Thelma said she cannot express how happy she is that Warren is out of the trenches in North Richmond.
When Warren was 5 years old, he lost his eldest brother in a drive-by shooting. By the time Warren was 8 years old, he was Thelma’s only living son, having lost 2 more children to gun violence. Thelma said she was dedicated to making sure Warren’s life would be different.
Thelma said Warren excelled in school, and that he would use his pain as fuel. Thelma said she always stressed education with Warren.
“He never got into gambling, he never got into drugs,” Thelma said. “He’s known so much violence because he grew up around it. But I’m so proud he used it as motivation to rise above it.”
Warren, now, when interviewed says his dream is to help his family leave the dangerous streets of North Richmond.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends and family to gun violence,” Warren said. “I just want to get my family out of the trenches so they can be safe.”
Despite Warren’s success, life is still very hard for his family in Richmond. Thelma’s sister, Warren’s Aunt, died from COVID-19 complications during the pandemic. Thelma’s mother, who is suffering from dementia, came to live with Thelma because there was no where else for her to go.
“I was waitressing, but with my mom here I can’t really do that anymore,” Thelma said. “I’ve been trying to make do by working as an in-home care giver when I can, but it’s been very tough. I feel very blessed to have met some very amazing people at Church who are with St. Vincent de Paul, the help they’ve provided me has truly been a blessing.”
Shortly after having to step away from work to care for her mother, Thelma said she called 211 and was connected to a local St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County branch. At the time, Thelma was struggling with rent, food, and utilities. Since she was not working, her bills were piling up and threatening her ability to stay housed.
Thelma said St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County volunteers from the St. Mark Church branch in Richmond came to her home, met with her, and prayed with her. She said the volunteers not only helped her with her water bill and her rent, but also have been helping her find support for her mother, so she can truly get back on her feet.
“I’ve been so blessed by the amazing volunteers at the church and at St. Vincent de Paul,” Thelma said. “The food they’ve given me is always helpful, and I was so moved when they helped me with my rent. When they were last here, they helped me fill out the paperwork to try to get In-Home Support Services for my mother. They’ve truly been a blessing, and not just to me, I was able to introduce them to a few other people I know that need help, and they opened their hearts to them as well.”
A strong and admirable person, Thelma does not let the tragedy that has befallen her family, or hardship keep her down. Thelma said she’s incredibly thankful for the help she’s received, especially because it came at such an important time in her son’s education.
“It can be hard to ask for help when you need it,” Thelma said, “But I’m so thankful that it was there when I needed it.”
It will continue to be a tough road ahead for Thelma and her family, but with help from supporters like you, SVdP can help families like Thelma’s. With SVdP’s help, families can get through their tough times, find resources within the community that help. Most importantly, our most vulnerable neighbors know that they have a friend who leads with compassion and love when they call SVdP.