About HART of Folsom

History | Partners | Mission, & Values | Leadership | Contact Us

Our History

In 2016, the city of Folsom reached out to local community and faith based organizations with the goal of providing shelter for its unhoused residents during the winter season. In response to the city’s need, citizens of Folsom joined hands, researched and experimented with different organizational structures, and eventually founded HART of Folsom as an official 501c3 charitable organization. Collaborating with local churches and businesses, HART’s winter shelter opened its doors to its first overnight guests in 2017.

HART of Folsom is one of 10 grassroots organizations that comprise the Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART) in the greater Sacramento area. HART is a collaborative movement of community members, faith-based organizations, businesses, and local nonprofits dedicated to serving our unhoused neighbors.

Since our founding, HART’s roots have continued to be grounded in a steadfast commitment to help the unhoused population in Folsom. With remarkable support from the Folsom
community, HART continues to expand its capacity to help those living outside. In addition to orchestrating Folsom’s winter shelter, our organization has seven transitional housing units and provides exceptional professional case management to all our clients. Our leadership is composed entirely of volunteers; our strength is in our people and in our focus on Folsom.

HART is looking forward to productive growth in 2024! Please sign up for our newsletter (below) to stay up to date on our projects and opportunities to help.

Partners

We connect individuals to services or programs that will assist them on their path to a better life. Each organization we work with is skilled in their own mission, and we support and encourage our clients during their relationships with other organizations. Please see the list of our current partners below.

Mission Statement:

We are a non-profit community-based organization helping those experiencing homelessness in Folsom move toward self-sufficiency and greater independence.

Values:

    • It is essential to serve others with empathy, patience, and a sense of community.
    • Every individual deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
    • By providing a non-judgmental environment and access to a comprehensive array local, state and federal services, we demonstrate our commitment to helping those we serve toward self-sufficiency and greater independence.
    • Good choices, hard work, and personal responsibility lead to independence.
    • Compassion, creativity, and patience are essential to developing solutions that are responsive to the needs of those we serve.
HART of Folsom does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers and vendors, and provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, subcontractors, vendors, and clients.

Leadership

Liz Ekenstedt

President

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I was born and raised in San Francisco and met my husband there. We moved to the Sierra Foothills in 1987 and chose to settle in the rural community of Cameron Park with our young family and pursue our careers.

For most of my career as an educator, I focused on professional training, program design, and curriculum development with an emphasis in literacy for El Dorado and San Luis Obispo counties. The programs were focused on helping at-risk youth in middle and high school. After retiring, I enjoyed working with students one on one as a private literacy instructor.

My husband and I were blessed to raise three children as part of a church family. Teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, directing church plays, facilitating bible studies both within the church and in our neighborhood, and participating in studies led by others, were central to our family life and heart.

The beautiful city of Folsom is a special place to me. My youngest child was born at Mercy Hospital, and my daughter and her family live in Folsom. My heart is drawn to the unsheltered folks living locally. I’m honored to join hands with HART of Folsom as we reach out to those in need and help many find a home.

Bev Siess

Vice President

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After living in El Dorado County for 30 years, Bev moved to Folsom in 2014. She retired in 2018 after working 13 years for the State of California in software development. While working downtown Sacramento, she saw people every day who had nowhere to spend the day and night but on the street. She saw that God had always provided what she needed and more, her heart was moved with empathy and concern for these people. We are no different in God’s eyes – God loves and values each one of us. When HART of Folsom began in 2017, Bev and her husband Gary knew that they needed to be part of serving unhoused folks in Folsom. She’s excited to see all the services that HART and other groups caring for the homeless community have been able to provide since that time.

Bev has been involved with the HART Winter Shelter each year since its inception. In 2022, Bev is the Winter Shelter coordinator, following after Judi Alexander. She is always reminded that (1) we are all in this big boat together – what affects one, affects all and (2) we all do better when we all do better. We don’t want to leave anyone behind if we have the ability to help them on to a better situation.

Linda Sweet

Treasurer

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I was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon but when I was 4, my family moved to Camino, California – more recently known as “Apple Hill”. Camino was a unique community by today’s standards; rich in community spirit and caregiving for your neighbors. I always felt blessed for having been raised during one of the best of times (the 50’s), and in one of the best small towns around. I attended the newly constructed Camino Elementary School from kindergarten through 8th grade; then high school at El Dorado High in Placerville; and onto college at Sacramento State.

During those wonderful growing up years in Camino, I was blessed to have been raised in a Christian home with a family that cared deeply about their community. My sister and I were fortunate enough to have those values nurtured in us as well.

I married right out of school and lived and worked in the Sacramento area for about 15 years – during which time I was blessed with the birth of my oldest son. I then relocated to the Yreka area, where I lived and worked for the next 12 years and raised my second son. After that we were on our way to Wyoming, where I lived and worked in the Jackson Hole vicinity for the next 8 years before returning back “Home” to the Placerville area in 2000.

During my years in Sacramento, Yreka and Wyoming, I was privileged to have had wonderful job opportunities, and long term jobs, which allowed me to continually grow in my beloved career of Accounting. I was fortunate to have thoughtful mentors along the way who took the time to teach and groom me in the principles of accounting and the business world at large. With that continued good luck and God’s grace, I found yet another exceptional accounting job upon returning back “Home”. It was a hard and demanding job for sure, but I had such a good boss, a truly fine and caring man who worked hard at building a hugely successful company and I got to help him do that. I worked there for the next 18 years and he honored me in my retirement in 2018 with a fabulous, first class trip of a lifetime……. 4 days in Paris, 5 days in London, and 7 days in Ireland. Such a gift!!!!

In my retirement years I enjoy a simply life on my beautiful 5 acre property in Rescue. My oldest son and his wife live in Washington State, while my youngest son, his wife and my two precious grandchildren live close at hand in the second home on my property. It is a great joy for me to be sharing day to day life with my Grandchildren.

Upon my return to the area in 2000, I became involved with the Oak Hills Church community and continue that membership today. During these past 20 years, I have faithfully served in the Children’s Ministry, the Kitchen Team, along with various other serving opportunities that came along over the years. One of those opportunities came with the introduction to Power House Ministries. This was my first awareness to the homeless and the disenfranchised in our community and my heart was forever touched. I participated in several volunteer programs with Power House which further nurtured my heart. When the opportunity to serve on the Board of the HART of Folsom organization, also introduced to me by Oak Hills Church, it seemed like a natural fit. Utilizing my accounting skills and knowledge for this caring organization is a privilege and I look forward to what the years of service will bring.

Janie Kypta

Secretary

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Janie’s roots are in Honolulu, Hawaii and has been in the northern California region since 1995. Raised Catholic and attended a private Catholic school, she has had her beliefs grounded in God from an early age. She always carries the “Aloha spirit” within her heart and shares it abundantly. Her career has been in office management and her studies in Computer Science and Finance. Currently she is working for the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians and also part time for River Rock Church, which she attends. Among her favorite things to do is volunteer for HART of Folsom winter shelter and is also on the Fundraising Committee. She is also a foster parent for the SSPCA. You can find her volunteering at two churches in hospitality, on the care team, and in administration. Janie has been married to Brian since 2017 and they have three cats Pickles, Sully and recently adopted a third kitten, Camille. She loves to travel locally and internationally, gardens, and is an avid water fan. Her outlook on life is simple – give back generously, and as often as possible.

Creta Adams

Board Member

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We moved around a lot before coming to Folsom in 1979. Sometimes we would live with my mom’s parents, sometimes we would be camping. Sometimes we had a apartment. We even rented a 3 story mansion once. We lived mostly in the country 30 miles east of Placerville. I didn’t realize till later in life that we were homeless at times.

My father always worked but without a high school diploma he didn’t make a lot of money.

I guess I get my heart for homeless from the way I was raised. I never thought about peoples status, I saw everyone as God’s people. My parents used a VA loan to buy a house here in Folsom. A few years later my father seriously injured his back at work, and my mother found out that she was having a surprise baby. Well… We now had NO income. Family friends brought us salmon and steelhead and we held onto the house because dad had disability insurance on the loan. We could have easily been homeless… again but now with 4 kids.

I left home and started working at 16 years old. I met my spouse of almost 33 years at 18. We have 3 grown children, 1 with ADHD and OCD ,1 with Asperger’s and 1 with ADD, OCD and Autoimmune hemographic Anemia.

We started feeding hungry and homeless or as I now like to call them “unhoused” people in the parks of Folsom about 8 years ago.

Today, with many volunteers, we feed 2x a week. We serve them a full meal and sit and talk with them. We get to know their stories and always talk about resources to help them find a better way in this life we are all doing together.

The 1 thing to take away from my story is that….Anyone can become homeless thru no fault of their own.

Lilli Duval

Board Member

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Coming soon….

Eric Gifford

Board Member

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Eric is a new member of the Folsom community but has lived in the Sacramento area for 10 years. A native of Eastern Montana, he came to California, by way of Utah, to work as a fundraiser for UC Davis. After 10 years as an Aggie he is joining his wife Karen partnering to support the online business she has built. Together they have four kids and are excited to participate in the community through school, church and other activities for their busy family.

He was first introduced to HART through their Rancho Cordova branch where he volunteered for their winter shelter program, participating through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. After moving up the hill he was introduced to HART of Folsom and joined the board to serve in building the programs that reach out to reduce homelessness in the community, fulfilling the mission of serving those in need.

Stephen Watters

Board Member

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Mr. Watters has been actively involved in efforts to create a model transitional community with medical and other appropriate training and services since 2009. He served as a volunteer, board member and later, executive director, of Safe Ground Sacramento (a Section 501(c)(3) exempt organization) for several years and then founded First Step Housing, bringing together diverse advisory and executive boards to work closely with public and elected, city and county officials.

Previously, he worked as a Program Director, Technical Director and various Administrative Director positions in telecommunications for many years. Mr. Watters also served as President and General Manager of a Swiss subsidiary U.S. start-up for seven years. He has been teaching cultural anthropology for Los Rios Community College District since 2012.

Mr. Watters supports transitional village proposals and believes they represent a replicable and cost-effective solution to the growing number of unsheltered homeless living unsheltered throughout on Sacramento County. He believes the Folsom HART transitional projects are urgently required to close the gap between the number of those in the homeless community and the number of affordable housing units existing and that can be built in the near future.

Vijay Bhaskar Jonnalagadda

Board Member

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I have been living in Folsom since 2002 and has raised two children here, who are both now in college. I am empathetic to all fellow humans no matter what kind of choices they made, and I would like to help everyone for as long as they need it, as much as I am able.

Since moving to the USA from India 25 years ago, I feel very blessed having experienced two of the world’s best cultures even though they are philosophically different. I life’s purpose to combine the best of both.

I work as an IT manager for the great State of California. I have worked as IT programmer, systems analyst, data and solutions architect and Manager for last 30 years. Having blessed to have the ability, I have volunteered by donating blood, serving on Folsom public library commission, founding, and leading several Indian cultural organizations, volunteering at the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, and HART of Folsom. I love HART of Folsom because it positively impacts the lives of the unhoused. I strongly believe that no human should have to be homeless in this age and time when human civilization is at its best in history.

I would like to thank HART of Folsom for giving me the opportunity to serve on the board where I hope to contribute to its good work.

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