Twelve-year-old Sadie Stokes’s dream home is yellow, with a bright-red garage door and a roof covered by snow.


A large snow-covered tree and a smiling snowman are out front.

It’s a safe haven where inside she can do some of her favorite things, such as reading and cooking while outside she can enjoy her favorite hobby, bike riding.

Her painting of that dream home won first place Friday in the Sulzbacher Center’s 17th annual “Give a Good Night” holiday artwork event, in which 30 children who live at the homeless center created designs for a holiday fundraising card. The event was held at the Southside Woman's Club, which donated the space.

There were seven finalists — coincidentally all girls — and Sadie’s sister, LaShay Hodges, 15, took third place.

“I was so happy,” said a beaming Sadie, who received a $50 VISA gift card, flowers, a trip to Adventure Landing and a family meal at Pizza Hut. “It came from my heart.”

She incorporated her favorite color, red, and was particularly proud of the “beautiful tree” she painted.

Monday her dream comes true — sort of — when Sadie, her sister and mother Lashonda Stokes move from Sulzbacher to a Jacksonville apartment. The colors may be different and snow will be unlikely, but it will be their own place, where Sadie can read, cook and bike ride.

Sulzbacher was a godsend for the family, who moved from St. Louis a month and a half ago on little more than faith and went directly to the center, Lashonda Stokes said.

“The Lord led me here,” she said.

Barbara Gilbert, the family’s Sulzbacher case manager, will provide a range of aftercare services for them for the next 18 months. At Friday’s event, she was just as proud of Sadie’s and LaShay’s artistic accomplishments as their mother and was dispensing hugs all around.

Gilbert said she hopes the children’s artwork will help remind the community to look beyond the stereotypical homeless person.

“They are children ... talented children,” she said. “They are families.”

Also proud of the young artists was Julie Stimson, a Landmark Middle School art teacher who for four years has led art workshops for center children to help them design their “dream home for the holidays.” The experience was emotional for children who have not had a stable home or celebrated the holiday season, she said.

“A lot of them do not have happy memories,” she said. “The typical Christmas card has a two-story mansion. It was hard for them to relate.”

But their work for the fundraiser will help other children and families with similar struggles, said Cindy Funkhauser, president and CEO of Sulzbacher. The center serves about 340 men, women and children on any given day.

“The need has never been greater unfortunately,” she said. “The recession is not over for a lot of people. We are busier than ever.”


Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109



The cards with the winning design will be available in October. Also, the winning design will be on holiday tins filled with white chocolate Macadamia nut cookies, the favorite of I.M. Sulzbacher, the late philanthropist who led fundraising to found the center. To pre-order, contact Linda Hemphill, donor relations coordinator, at (904) 394-8051 or The cards and tins, as well as Hanukkah and other occasion cards designed by Sulzbacher children, will be available online at The website currently has 2013 cards.