On October 3rd, North Valley Caring Services celebrated the life of founder
Verna Mae Porter who passed away 14 years ago.
In the Great Depression era, the San Fernando Valley saw its first rise in what would become a permanent residence of homeless. Just twelve years old at the time, North Valley Caring Services founder Verna Mae Porter watched her parents offer this overlooked group of people the same warmth and hospitality that she would begin to offer forty years later.
With nowhere else to go and no one to turn to for help, homeless individuals slept in fields behind her father’s Van Nuys chicken farm. Seeing how they’ve been overlooked, Verna Mae’s parents regularly cooked them dinners and packed them oranges to take as they left, creating the foundation for the kindness their daughter would carry on to practice throughout her life.
Forty years later, the stouthearted woman offered the same warmth and hospitality that she saw in her parents. After noticing another uprise in the homeless population, Verna Mae knew exactly what she had to do.
At the Sepulveda United Methodist Church, the very church her parents helped build, Verna Mae noticed an immediate need to serve individuals experiencing homelessness and asked her pastor if she could open up a soup kitchen. “She asked the pastor first if she could start cooking breakfast and he said yes. Then at church, she stood up in front of everyone and said ‘there are people out there who are hungry! We need to do something to help feed these people. I’m going to cook breakfast tomorrow morning.’ The next day, she got up early in the morning and cooked for them,” said Danny Rathbone, who still volunteers at NVCS’ Breakfast Programs, keeping Verna Mae’s legacy alive.
Her mother always told her that a good breakfast was necessary to get through the day, so Verna Mae followed that principle and for 30 years, woke up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to cook breakfast for all who were in need.
Eventually becoming known as “mom” by those whose lives she touched, Verna Mae Porter changed lives beyond providing a hot meal. She continuously welcomed everyone with open arms, and later extended her arms to those in need of assistance learning English, bringing to life our Adult Education ESL courses for people in the community interested in furthering their education.
What started as a humble soup kitchen has now evolved into a model organization that offers educational development programs for children and adults, resources for those facing food insecurity and an array of assistance for those experiencing homelessness.
Determined to follow the same selflessness rooted in Verna Mae Porter’s character, NVCS continues to carry on the Porter family legacy of never turning their backs on anyone.