Although only officially 3 years old, Almost Home was born in Sarah O'Malley's heart at age 17.
"I recall having a very vivid dream about working with the homeless population and that it was to be called Almost Home. I remember thinking that it was a lovely idea, but nothing more than that. It was just an idea, just a dream. Little did I know that it was actually the first time that I would hear God speak to me about what was to come."
Sarah graduated from high school and became pregnant with her first child, Tommy, just seven months later. Growing up quickly as a new, young mother, Sarah met her husband, Adrian, at her second job. They fell in love quickly, married young, and expanded their family with more children.
As can happen with any family, the sudden loss of Sarah's job forced the Galvan family to make some hard decisions. Barely making ends meet, Adrian was unexpectedly let go from his job, leaving this young family with next to nothing. A year later, the lights were out and Sarah and Adrian's house was in foreclosure. They began to sell their belongings - furniture, electronics, Adrian's tools, the childrens' toys, and their wedding rings. With a plan to live out of their van and in shelters with their five children, Sarah's parents,along with a stranger, pulled them from homelessness with two days to spare.
Sarah promised herself that she would do whatever she could to pay it forward.
"I started a home improvement company for Adrian that has been very successful. He's never been a day without work, and he's usually booked three months in advance. God is good. I no longer worry about money as He absolutely always provides for us."
In early 2015, Sarah joined a Christian women's book club. They were reading, "Carry On, Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton. Sarah was moved by a passage detailing the author speaking to her son about compassion:
"... trust that heartache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heartache. That heartache is called compassion, and it is God's signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion, be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means he trusts you and needs you."
On March 14th, 2015, at the intersection of 87th Street and Cicero Avenue, Sarah encountered four grown men standing in the street, with cardboard signs, asking for help.
"My heart was so full of compassion that I truly thought it was going to burst. I clearly heard the Holy Spirit whisper into my right ear the words, "Almost Home. It's time to begin our work."
Shortly after, Sarah panhandled to raise the $1200 needed to bring Almost Home Chicago to life.
Self-professed as shy and socially awkward, Sarah enjoys her work at the shelters and within the homeless community. Having made lasting friendships with those she serves, Sarah is able to continue her work knowing that her desire to help is well received. Because the need for help is so great, each day is filled with heartbreaking stories, and there are only so many Almost Home can help. Sarah maintains that every phone call, every person who asks for help, is part of God's plan for her.
Sarah credits the success of Almost Home to the love, help, and support of her husband, children, Board of Directors, and the giving people of the community. Stemming from the understanding that the worst time of her life, was in fact the biggest blessing on her life, Sarah remains forever grateful for the lessons learned as a family.
"All of us will need help at some point in our lives. All of us. There are no exceptions. For some it will be little, and for others it will be big. Some will need help once, and others multiple times. And that's ok, it really is. Because everyone needs help sometimes. Everyone."