Students in Professor Janet Minehan’s developmental psychology class lent a hand to Julie Johnson Smith ’74 last semester. Just as her three sons are leaving home (her middle son attends Westmont, and her youngest is in high school), Julie and a friend have joined forces to raise five children under the age of five.
Julie’s husband Ronald ’74, also a Westmont graduate, died 15 years ago in a tragic accident, leaving her to raise their three sons alone. A Santa Barbara City College instructor of early childhood education, Julie has taught for seven years. She received her M.S. in family environmental sciences from Cal State University Northridge in 1983.
Stephanie Iden ’00, a psychology major and volunteer in Julie’s home is “so thankful that there are people in our community who are willing to take in and adopt five drug-exposed children. Julie’s home radiates love out of every door. That is Jesus’ love being lived out.”
The five children were all prenatally exposed to drugs and/or alcohol, and bear the consequences. Julie’s son Tyron ’00 says, “Many miracles have happened in their progress. Some weren’t expected to talk or walk, but they all do now and are still improving.” The two older girls are able to attend preschool, although only for limited amounts of time. CC, a 3-year-old, has serious speech delays due to seizures and a stroke. All the children (four girls and a boy) have some sort of handicap, including speech impediments and underdeveloped motor skills.
Julie’s involvement with unfortunate children in the Santa Barbara community extends beyond her home and her classroom. Together with five friends, Smith founded a non-profit agency, Noah’s Anchorage, and she currently serves as CEO. Noah’s Anchorage seeks to meet the needs of the Santa Barbara community that other agencies are unable to address.
For instance, in August 1998, they opened a six-bed youth home named Ohana House (Ohana is Hawaiian for family), which serves foster teen-age girls. This Lompoc, Calif., facility provides long-term care and emancipation skills for girls who have no other family or support system.
In November 1998, Noah’s Anchorage took over the Santa Barbara Youth Shelter from an agency that was going bankrupt. The shelter provides emergency crisis housing, counseling, and support to more than 350 teen-agers a year and responds to about 1,300 crisis phone calls.
Julie majored in sociology at Westmont. “The work that I am doing now—at home, at Santa Barbara City College and with Noah’s Anchorage—all ties directly back to my major and the projects and practica I was involved with. Most Westmont graduates do not go into full-time missionary or Christian work, but all of us can take our faith full time into our lives. Bringing children into my home came out of my work as a trainer for foster care education at SBCC. I encouraged my roommate to become licensed for foster care, but little did I know that we would soon have five children living with us, nor that they would all have prenatal exposure to drugs and/or alcohol. The specialized care that our home provides has really been a learning—and faith-building—experience.”
Julie’s son Tyron says, “I’m proud of my mom for the service she has done for these kids and the Lord. She was given a gift from God for raising kids, and she didn’t stop after the three of her own had grown up.”