When Cynthia Newton walks through the door at the Golden 1 Center in October for work, she’ll probably be carrying a vintage Sacramento Kings tote bag.
“I actually do not remember getting this [bag]. It has to be about 12 years old, if not probably older,” the longtime Kings fan and Sacramento native said.
Newton was recently hired to be a greeter for guests at the arena. Her close friend, Tarrah Irwin, will also be working there in elevator guest services.
While the Golden 1 Center is exciting for many Kings fans, the arena means a little bit more to Newton and Irwin. Both are recent graduates of the program at Women’s Empowerment, a Sacramento non-profit organization that helps women and children struggling with homelessness.
“Actually, I was sleeping on the sidewalk outside [Women’s Empowerment], and I came here initially when I was still [living] outside,” Irwin said.
Irwin used to work as a cosmetologist. But when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2008, her life began to spiral downward. She didn’t have health insurance – this was pre-ObamaCare, and she had a pre-existing medical condition – and she quickly burned through her 401(k) and savings.
“I was homeless … When my son turned 13, he went to live with his dad because I was still kind of struggling,” Irwin said. “In 2012, my sister committed suicide at a rehab facility here, and in 2014, I lost my mom to hepatitis C.”
Irwin said she felt like she didn’t have a future – until she found Women’s Empowerment. Volunteers helped her prepare her resume, practice interviewing and get ready to reenter the workforce.
“Mock interviews were great. I’m not a very confident person, but confidence is huge when you’re trying to go get a job,” Irwin said.
When the Kings were about to begin hiring for the new arena, they went to Women’s Empowerment first. Irwin ended up getting offers for two jobs, to which she credits Women’s Empowerment.
“It’s awesome to have someone who just believes in you so much. It’s hard not to believe in myself, too,” Irwin said.
In total, forty women at Women’s Empowerment were offered jobs at the Golden 1 Center. Sacramento Kings President Chris Granger said it’s part of the organization’s commitment to the community.
“From the beginning, we’ve said this is bigger than basketball, and from the beginning we’ve said we want to make Sacramento proud,” Granger said. “Doing things with Women’s Empowerment gives us the chance to do things that are meaningful, beyond what happens on the basketball court.”
As for Newton – who has been struggling to support herself and her daughter – she couldn’t agree more with Granger.
“It feels really good. It makes me feel like I have a lot to give and can be confident, and really soon, I’ll be independent on my own and able to support myself and my daughter, Newton said.