- Vickie Lobo founded a nonprofit to help people starting over after overcoming personal challenges.
- She collects donations to furnish homes so people can get a fresh start after personal tragedy.
- In six years, her group has completed more than 90 home makeovers.
Roberta Rodriguez survived years of domestic violence and overcame drug addiction. After transitioning out of a shelter in Southern California in 2017, she made the decision to stop the cycle. She got sober and focused on attaining stability for her children. Soon, Rodriguez found steady employment, secured an apartment, and regained custody of her four kids. But she needed a helping hand to make her new place feel like home.
That’s when Knock Knock Angels stepped up to help Rodriguez, through a referral from the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County. The Fontana, Calif.–based nonprofit provides housing essentials to help single parents, veterans, and elderly individuals transition out of homelessness and back into society.
“I will never forget that makeover. All she wanted were beds for her children,” says Vickie Lobo, founder of Knock Knock Angels and a salesperson with Einstein Realty in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. It was the holiday season, which made the makeover all the more special for Rodriguez and her family. “Someone donated a three-tiered bunk bed. During the reveal, Rodriguez’s son William, who was 6 at the time, climbed to the top, shouting ‘Merry Christmas!’”
Rodriguez and her children finally had a dining room table where they could all sit down for dinner. “It helped me get started and built my confidence,” Rodriguez says.
Lobo launched Knock Knock Angels six years ago after a scary bout with thyroid cancer. The ordeal, coinciding with the deaths of several friends around that time, made her pause and reevaluate her priorities in life. “Why did I live? Why am I still here?” she asked herself. Lobo found a way to help people who have experienced trauma of one sort or another—whether it was a period of domestic abuse, homelessness, or serious medical conditions—recover and reestablish their households.
Her first makeover was in December 2014. She and eight girlfriends took to social media, asking for donations of gently used furniture and household goods to help a 74-year-old woman who had recently lost her husband and undergone a double mastectomy, and was living in dilapidated conditions. They received donated couches, beds, tables, and other furnishings. Lobo and her crew showed up with a moving truck, sent the woman out for the day with her daughter, and got to work. When the woman came home for the big reveal, everyone in the room was sobbing. Lobo livestreamed it on their social channels so their friends could see where their donations had gone.
“It changed the lives of all of us,” Lobo says. “We hugged and loved on her, and we walked out, hugging and crying, saying it was best thing we’d ever done.”
Finding Their Calling
Today, Lobo partners with several community organizations that provide counseling and housing services to survivors of abuse and sex trafficking. By the time she meets home makeover recipients, they have gone through a support program and found a job and are beginning to restart their lives.
“I’m doing what God wants me to do and I’m using my real estate platform to show the world what we can all do. It’s a ‘love thy neighbor’ approach.” —Vickie Lobo
Local businesspeople have also become involved in Knock Knock Angels, including real estate brokers, investors, and designers who provide help in various ways. By 2017, Lobo’s network of donors and volunteers had expanded significantly and enabled more home makeovers. She credits social media with providing the exposure that fueled their growth to 13 makeovers that year and 23 in 2018. Lobo livestreams every makeover and reveal on Facebook, which also helps her reach real estate peers who may be interested in donating.
“I couldn’t believe the growth in volunteers,” she says. “People would see our videos and share them. They wanted to be part of it.”
Ava Jackson was one such person who reached out. She connected with Lobo through a mutual friend after seeing the Knock Knock Angels videos on Facebook. She offered to lend a hand during a makeover, helping move out old furniture, cleaning, and setting up the new and donated items. Now in her third year of volunteering, Jackson serves as Knock Knock Angels’ volunteer coordinator and intake specialist.
Jackson’s urge to help others stems from her brief experience being homeless 24 years ago when her son was 2. “I was excited to help because I was a victim of domestic violence myself,” says Jackson, who lost nearly everything she owned when she fled her abuser. “I got the strength not to deal with it anymore.”
Rodriguez has also become a highly active involved volunteer with Knock Knock Angels since her home makeover. She helps interview potential recipients, shop for products, and pitches in during the makeovers. She’ll even bring William, now 10, who carries a toolbox with him so that he can help assemble furniture. “I feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says. “Hearing clients’ stories gives me the opportunity to tell them, ‘If I can get through this, you can get through this. You’re not alone,’ and that makes me feel good.”
Knock Knock Angels now has more than 60 volunteers who take turns participating in makeovers.
The Power of Coming Together
Since 2014, Lobo and her volunteer team have raised more than $1 million in monetary and in-kind donations and helped 90 families recover from major setbacks.
But the group is hardly resting on its laurels. In 2018, Lobo expanded Knock Knock Angels by providing “random acts of kindness.” One of her first referrals was from a family member who knew a woman battling ovarian cancer. Jazzmin Warner was terminally ill and wanted her five kids to experience Disneyland. Lobo rallied her connections to secure donated tickets and a hotel stay, and volunteers filled a suitcase for each child for the vacation. “When we got to Anaheim, the kids were screaming because Minnie Mouse was there,” Lobo says. And, of course, Lobo livestreamed it, too.
Sadly, the mother died three weeks later; the children moved in with their father.
“We take this really seriously and when people who donate to us, we put it on social media because we want them to know we’re using their items and that people’s lives are being filled with joy,” Lobo says.
Growing Through Generosity
Knock Knock Angels has stepped up its work since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March, doing three to four makeovers a month. When they go into homes, they take extra safety precautions, working in shifts, wearing masks, and doing extra cleaning.
And new donors continue to step up. Recently, the nonprofit Hope to Dream Foundation, run by Ashley Furniture, provided 20 new mattresses, bed frames, and pillows. Twenty pallets of sheets and comforters came from a nearby church foundation. “I’m doing what God wants me to do and I’m using my real estate platform to show the world what we can all do,” Lobo says. “It’s a ‘love thy neighbor’ approach.”