Timikel Sharpe vividly remembers wondering, as a young child, why some children had homes and nice families while others did not. Though she grew up in a loving home with two parents, Sharpe was aware not everyone was so lucky.
“I remember saying, ‘Mom, why doesn’t everyone just adopt one kid, and then there won’t be any in foster homes or orphanages?’,” she recalled. “To me, as a child, that was my simple solution to making a difference in the life of a child. I have always been focused on what can be done to help children.”
Eventually her professional path led Timikel to child nutrition; she has been working with Los Angeles Unified School District since 2006, and currently serves as Deputy Director of Food Services under director Joseph Vaughn. Although she was living and working in Los Angeles, by 2008 Sharpe was thinking about purchasing property back home in Montgomery, Alabama. She didn’t have a clear plan in mind, but Timikel asked her mother to keep her eyes peeled for potential properties. Around Thanksgiving, Timikel’s mother ran into the daughter of an old friend who was en route to meet a realtor to see about putting her childhood home on the market. One thing led to another, but the house never did get listed—Sharpe bought it herself instead.
“Now what?” wondered Sharpe. She returned home to spend Thanksgiving with her mother, still without a clear plan for her new house. After discussing what to do one evening, Timikel retired to bed where she had what she describes as a ‘vision’ of the future.
“There is a difference between a dream and a vision, and in this vision I saw children playing in the front yard, and I wondered why these kids were in my yard!” she laughed. “I saw them get down out of the tree, go in the house, but when they came out they were different children.”
The next morning, Sharpe told her mother she had a plan to transform her new house into a transition home, and the idea for Vision of Grace Transition Home was born. Today, Vision of Grace Transition Home provides a place for working homeless families to live while they get back on their feet. In 2015, Vision of Grace added a second four-bedroom home where a second family in need can receive assistance.
Sharpe says it was a casual conversation about Vision of Grace at an SNA dinner which led to her nomination.
“I was at a committee meeting when Jen Lewi [at SNA] asked casually how my foundation was going,” recalled Sharpe. “Mark [Bordeau] happened to be sitting next to Jen. He overheard our conversation, and after dinner he asked me more about it. I was happy to talk about it. Then he asked me if I would mind if he submitted my name for the School Nutrition Hero Award. I was astounded. Mark didn’t really know me. It was exciting, and a little overwhelming, to have someone who didn’t know me well take the time and effort to put the [nomination] package together.”
Whether she is at work in LAUSD schools or managing Vision of Grace, Timikel Sharpe finds fulfillment in service to others. It’s a responsibility, but one in which she takes great pleasure.
“In school nutrition we have to treat the whole child. If the food is good, if it’s a good environment, if I can talk to my friends, if the people who serve me are happy that I’m there and smiling at me and treating me nicely, my whole day is better—and that’s our responsibility to the children we serve.
“What I take into my body, what my spirit receives, how I’m treated—our role in child nutrition is all-encompassing.”