Christian Church Homes

Super Nana Denise Norman Gives Back to Those in Need

CCH Community Resident Denise Norman considers herself a local activist, dedicated to helping seniors find available resources to make their lives more enjoyable. A two-year resident of Sylvester Rutledge Manor, Denise is happy to have found a place to call home. She recently celebrated great news that will make an enormous impact in her life.

For many years, Denise worked as a home care provider for her husband and brother. After their demise, she fell on hard times and found herself homeless, despite having previously worked office jobs with Bank of America, the US Postal Service and other organizations. She temporarily moved into crowded living conditions with her mother before transitioning into St. Mary’s Center for homeless seniors. She jumped at the opportunity to apply for and to be accepted for residency at CCH’s Sylvester Rutledge Manor.

“It feels good,” Denise explains. “It’s home and I’m no longer on the streets.” Yet, with a fixed income, she continues to live paycheck to paycheck to make her rent and other expenses. She considers herself among the working disabled. Recent medical conditions have added to her financial burdens. She is now unable to pick up occasional odd jobs to supplement her limited income, which is why Denise was elated to hear about qualifying for Section 8 with the Oakland Housing Authority.

“Currently, 45 percent or more of my income is going towards rent,” Denise explains. “It’s not easy. I’m not able to save or put money aside. I’d like to be able to get a car. Receiving Section 8 will take a tremendous burden off me and give me more peace of mind.”

CCH has been successful in working with agencies, such as the Oakland Housing Authority, to help residents lower their rents while providing building renovations and upgrades. Sylvester Rutledge is one of three CCH properties in which most of the residents will be moving to Section 8. “How many owners are able to say they are helping residents lower their rent while still making improvements?” said CCH President and CEO Don Stump.

Denise is now able to rethink her life again. She is focused on helping others and currently serves on several boards, including United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County, and St. Mary’s Center’s Senior Advocates for Hope and Justice. If there’s a need, Denise pushes for change. She lobbied and was successful in getting a bus bench outside her building to help disabled seniors. She is currently pushing the city to install a traffic stop sign to help seniors safely cross the street. An outspoken advocate, she lobbies legislators in Sacramento for increased SSI benefits and programs for the elderly.

“Some people can slip through the crack,” Denise says. “You can’t help everyone but I work with those who are willing to try to help themselves.”

Denise is considered a super hero by many. A proud mother of three adult children and 13 grandchildren, she’s been dubbed “Super Nana” and her caricature is portrayed on the walls of a community-inspired mural. Wearing an apron and wielding a rolling pin, the mural depicts that strength comes from within and Super Nana is able to channel her strength through the rolling pin to help others.

“Super Nana helps people who feel depressed and in need of attention,” Denise writes. “She helps people face fears, discover strength within and make a more peaceful and enjoyable life. Super Nana also can make you a mean sweet potato pie!”