by Karen Leslie, writer with heart
Venturian, Jeri Bendot has found purpose in her life. She possesses an innate compassionate heart in making a difference for what she terms, the ‘Houseless”, giving people without homes a kind of dignity for those struggling in life to have a roof over their heads. She has become “Relational” in her efforts to find solutions to this surmountable ongoing community challenge.
Her story starts out with one that had many curve balls. In the mid 70’s she was diagnosed with sudden-change, rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder. She battled numerous illnesses, had several surgeries, and survived two marriages. Jeri has four grown children and five grandchildren. In 1997 she began another relationship that changed her destiny.
Twenty years ago, Jeri met her husband Joe when he worked for the Navy as a rocket scientist. Then came the slippery slope of back problems for both, which lead to an addiction to pain killers for Joe. Joe spent one year in Ventura County jail, and so he would not need to do time for 7-11 years, he ended up residing in a recovery program.
One day Joe was riding his bike and took a different route than was usual. This turn led them to a new life, a life of meaning and purpose. Music caught his attention from a special Sunday service, in the Fellowship Hall of the Presbyterian Church. Run by college kids, the hall was full of people, food, coffee and a laid back atmosphere. Jeri shares “The Pastor would stop and let people discuss among themselves or pray”.
Through her healing process and a developed tenacious attitude, they found a home like no other home they had ever known. Jeri shares, “The Presbyterian Church loved us when we didn’t love ourselves.”
Jeri started volunteering at the church one day a week, and after 3-4 months they offered her a part time job as a receptionist. Joe and Jeri got married in 2008 and now live on the church grounds in a lovely apartment as caretakers. Jeri shares, “God put me in the perfect position to help others facing hardships” and added “most people really have no idea who the homeless consist of, or what is worse how to really help.”
Through Jeri’s struggles and triumphs, her soul mission and quest is to educate and find roofs to house and preserve the less fortunate. She works diligently hand in hand with many Ventura organizations working to lower the staggering homeless statistics.
`Jeri touchingly shares, “I can only do so much to make the world a better place. While I want to help everyone, I may only have the chance to help one. As long as my heart is pure and my deeds are righteous, I have hopefully made a positive life changing impact on another human being, to be kind and help others who are struggling to live in this world.”
Life can turn on a dime. Many fear they are only one paycheck away from living in the streets. One misstep, one choice, one wrong decision can lead to misfortune. As a people, we deserve the most basic of human needs such as food, clean water, shelter, a bed, companionship and a chance. We are living in abundant times where resources and education are just a click away.
If one step for mankind can send a man to the moon…one step for humankind can feed and house the world!