Community Hero: La Jolla resident Lois Ream continues lifelong homeless outreach mission at White Sands
La Jollan Lois Ream has spent much of her 91 years helping others.
A tradition that started during her childhood in Missouri with her father giving odd jobs to “drifters” in the 1930s and ‘40s has continued to the present day as Ream makes weekly trips from her home at the White Sands retirement community to take food to homeless people at Mission Bay.
“[My father] would always say, ‘You never know when you might be entertaining angels unaware,’” Ream said. “He really believed that anyone that would come by that was homeless, needed a job or a meal, he would always see to it that they were fed, or if he had a job for them to do, they always had a place to work. He was a very caring man.”
After meeting her husband, Dale, in Missouri, the two moved to Colorado, where they were “always very involved with helping people in need.”
Ream volunteered with the local rescue mission and would take food and clothing to be distributed. “If they had a holiday dinner, we would always bring a frozen turkey,” she said.
After Dale died, Ream moved to a condominium complex, where she continued to collect clothing. One year she collected 300 coats for military veterans and their families and more than 100 pairs of mittens for their children.
When Ream moved to White Sands five years ago, she started accompanying its director of activities, Pat Guerrero, on her weekly trips to Mariner’s Point at Mission Bay to deliver food to people experiencing homelessness.
“I just want to give them hope and let them know that someone cares for them. I want them to know that they are important and they are on this Earth for a reason.”
— Lois Ream
“Every Monday we go down there, we take hard-boiled eggs, crackers, cheese and applesauce,” Ream said. Soon after, Ream started collecting socks to also take to Mariner’s Point (socks often are cited as the most requested item at homeless shelters).
“I put up a poster in the halls noting I wanted socks,” she said. “I would try to make them fun and say things like ‘Sock it to me’ or something like that.”
Word got out and people from outside the White Sands community started donating socks. Before long, Ream had collected 20,000 pairs. Since then, when a fellow resident cleans out a drawer, Ream will find a bag of clothes at her doorway for her to donate.
During a recent visit that coincided with her 91st birthday, Ream brought cupcakes for the people she helps serve and they sang “Happy Birthday” to her. “I wish I got that on tape; it was the best birthday,” she said.
Ream said she is driven to help because “it gets me involved with the community out there. It’s my mission.”
“I’m not there to change them,” she added. “I just want to give them hope and let them know that someone cares for them. I want them to know that they are important and they are on this Earth for a reason, and that needs to be recognized.”
But part of it is personal. She noted that some homeless people struggle with drug addiction, and she lost a great-grandson to a drug overdose in Colorado.
“He had such a battle with it,” Ream said. “He would get off them then get back on, and eventually he took something that took his life. He was in a park by himself when they found him. … That didn’t need to happen. I don’t know if there were programs out there or if anyone ever walked up to him and said, ‘What do you need?’”
Doing her small part “fills my whole being,” Ream said. “I want to keep doing this for as long as I can.”
The La Jolla Light’s Community Heroes series for the holiday period highlights people who aren’t often in the news but make a difference in the lives of others. If you know such a person, email Editor Rob Vardon at email@example.com. Please limit suggestions to people who live or work in La Jolla or otherwise have strong ties to the community. ◆
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