Community Voices
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The author and her children. (photo: Tammy Khan)

Like most of you, around this time of year, I start to ponder: Where did this year go? 

As I approach the end of 2023, I find myself reflecting on how we’ve spent the months together in these pages, with the intention to share and listen to diverse voices. 

And as I reflect, what I feel most is thankful. Thankful to be part of a community that is open and gracious, tenacious and caring, and while we may not always agree, we keep the conversation going. I love that.

This month, we revisit some of the folks who so generously spent some time with me this year and learn what they feel most thankful for.

Shauna and Koa. (photo: Tammy Khan)

Shauna Castle: Shauna shared her struggles with navigating the system to get housing for her and her dog Koa. Life is full of good days and some not-so-great ones, but Shauna is grateful to have a home to come to, no matter what the day brings. 

 “I have been through quite a bit in the last six years, and there have been several times when I felt like I didn’t know how [I] was going to get through the next day and then, boom, a stranger shows me kindness. I am most grateful for the people who have helped me survive and feel better about myself. And, as corny as it may sound, Amber is one of those people and someone I’m most thankful for knowing and calling my friend,” says Shauna.

Manny Ortega. (photo: Tammy Khan)

Manny Ortega: Manny loves bikes, so much so that he is endearingly known as the “bike whisperer.” Grappling with being unhoused off and on for several years, Manny recently started working at a local bike repair shop. 

“I’m so thankful for my new job! It is a dream come true,” says Manny. “I’m so thankful for those who believed in me and to my friend who connected me to Harbor Connects. I’m thankful to the editor and staff of San Pedro Today and to my boss, the owner of The Bike Palace. I’m thankful for having this grand opportunity in life. Thank you all so much.”

Mitch Riggin (right) with younger siblings Rachel (left) and Nathan in 2012. (photo: Mitch Riggin)

Mitch Riggin: Mitch shared the struggles his brother experienced while being unhoused and the immense pain and sadness of losing a loved one, especially too soon. 

“I’m thankful for our community — people trying to make it a better, more inclusive place, while also embracing the change that is certain to come with the port expansion. I look forward to our future,” says Mitch.

Kent Wallace-Meggs. (photo: Facebook)

Kent Wallace-Meggs: Working in social services for over two decades, Kent shared how sometimes a simple solution can make a huge difference to someone’s quality of life. As the executive director of the nonprofit Harbor Connects, he wholeheartedly believes that each of us has the ability to move the lever and make a difference for someone else. 

“I am thankful to live and work in a community in which the rhetoric of caring is demonstrated collaboratively by providing us with the resources and support to do our work,” says Kent. “I am especially grateful for the LAPD Harbor Division’s commitment in working with service providers to compassionately assist the unhoused. It makes a huge difference, so thank you.”

Shari Weaver. (photo: Tammy Khan)

Shari Weaver: Shari shared her own lived experiences and how this drove her to be the person that makes it better, one person at a time, one day at a time — for so many. 

“I am grateful for the privilege to help others and letting them know that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than their current situation,” says Shari.


My kids, Allegra and Zayd, are my favorite people and North Star. I am so freakin’ thankful for their love and for being able to share my life with them. 

They have often joined me on trips to deliver food and supplies to encampments. It is important to me that they understand that not everyone has access to the same things. I have tried to answer their questions openly and honestly, helping them understand that not everyone has a place to call home and that a home looks different to each person. Their insights and instincts around solutions sear through the complexities most of us adults are lost in.

The author and her children. (photo: Tammy Khan)

As I listened to these other expressions of gratitude, I wanted to give my kids the chance to also share what they are most thankful for:

Allegra Ginsberg, 8 years old: “I’m thankful to be alive. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if this is really happening or is it a dream.” 

Zayd Ginsberg, 6 years old: “I’m thankful for my parents and my life. I’m thankful for everything that I have. Some kids don’t have a lot of things.”

We’d love to hear from you — what are you most grateful for as 2023 comes to an end? spt

Amber Sheikh

Amber Sheikh is a San Pedro resident, mother of two, community advocate, and owner of Sheikh/Impact, a nonprofit consulting firm. She has nearly two decades of experience working in and with organizations solving homelessness and income inequality.