Years ago I started dropping items off at the doorstep of what was then a mobile home. Apparently, I dropped off enough stuff that someone decided I could be helpful in offering ideas for the construction of the Sloan House, a home for women in need of shelter while in transition from financial despair to becoming productive members of our community. My involvement led to my being appointed to the Community Action Partnership Board of Directors, overseeing the work of the Sloan House.
I am not alone in the volunteer work that I do to help others less fortunate. This site has been created to recognize the efforts of those who care so deeply about others that they have most likely never met, an exclusive group known as the Sloan Angels.
The Sloan House emergency women's shelter bears the name of Eddie Mae Sloan, a courageous woman dedicated to improving the conditions of those living in poverty. Eddie Mae committed the later part of her life to resolving the poverty she saw in her community by empowering those most affected by it.
Before moving to Sonoma County in 1953 Eddie Mae was living in the Hunter Point neighborhood of San Francisco with her husband and three children. It was a dangerous neighborhood with limited opportunities. She realized she wanted a different kind of life for her children so the family purchased a 10 acre plot of land in West County and began building a home room by room.
Before taking a job as a psychiatric technician at the Sonoma County Developmental Center Eddie Mae worked any odd job she could to support her family. From cleaning houses to picking fruit she never turned down an opportunity to work. She also used the land to grow vegetables and raise chickens. Once she even traded hard work at a neighbor's farm for a pig. According to her daughter, Johnice Shura, "My mother showed us there was always an opportunity as long as we were willing to work for it."
Eddie Mae didn't limit her self to helping only her family. This was because she believed it took a community to raise a family. She would share her vegetables with neighbors and would bring them home cooked meals when they were sick. At one point she befriended a woman who was in an abusive relationship and down on her luck. Eddie Mae helped her gain the confidence and access to the tools she needed to improve her situation. It was these values that would set the precedent for the larger successes Eddie Mae would go on to achieve.
One of Eddie Mae's strongest beliefs was that people had the ability to change their circumstances if they were given the right tools. She became an enthusiastic supporter of changing the effects of poverty. She began attending meetings and became a member of an organization called "Grass Roots." Along with several others she went out into the community to learn the needs of those in poverty and helped organized programs to meet those needs.
Grass Roots would eventually evolve into "Sonoma County People for Economic Opportunity," which is credited as being the foundation for the current Community Action Partnership (CAP) in Sonoma County. Eddie Mae would spend five years with the agency as a community worker before becoming the Executive Director in 1971. A position she would hold until 1989.
While serving as director Eddie Mae never lost touch with those she served. She is fondly remembered for personally picking up people she saw suffering on the street and bringing them into her office for guidance. During her tenure as the leader of what would become one of the largest and most successful poverty support networks in Sonoma County. The agency would serve 20,000 people through programs including Head Start, family planning, food support, and emergency shelter. For Eddie Mae the opening of a shelter that catered specifically to the needs of homeless women was a major accomplishment.
She wanted them to have access to education; training and meaningful experiences that would help them improve their situation without having to worry about where they would sleep or where their next meal would come from. This shelter would later be rededicated in her honor.
After retiring from the agency in 1989 Eddie Mae moved to Sacramento, she often joked it was so she could keep an eye on the politicians. She would pass away while living in Sacramento, but the impact of her actions can still be seen in the communities of Sonoma County and especially in the women's shelter that bears her name, The Sloan House.
Throughout her career she received numerous awards and recognitions. Her family however, believes that The Sloan House would be the one she would hold highest. According to Johnice "My mother would be amazed and honored that a women's shelter has her name and she would be extremely grateful. She always had a soft spot in her heart for the difficulties that homeless women face, especially those with children." The legacy of Eddie Mae lives on in the hard work and commitment of those who dedicate themselves to helping the women The Sloan House serves.