Check out these March highlights from our 45th Anniversary series. This month, we sat down with two Guest House alumnae, a Residential Case Manager, and a volunteer to learn more about their involvement with Friends of Guest House. We are so lucky to work alongside these four incredible women.
From intern, to monitor, to her current role of residential case manager– Jessica’s work with Guest House has evolved since 2014, but it’s always been focused on building relationships with the women to help them achieve their individual goals and create positive and lasting change.
Jessica meets her clients where they are at, taking into account their unique stories and needs. “It’s really a partnership. We are not here to do the work for them, we’re here to come along beside them and help them in the work. When you get (a client) who is here, and they’re ready to do the work, and you talk through the options with them, and they start making better decisions, and they see the benefits from making those better decisions – whether it’s getting a job, getting into school – seeing people make changes in their lives is powerful.”
Since her graduation, Helenia has stayed involved with FoGH. “I take [the women] to cultural events, like a black opera performance, so I’m showing them I’m an example and that you can change your life – the inner part of you – it’s never too late to change. You don’t have to be the product of whatever environment that you came from. They appreciate and respect me because, while most of the staff at FoGH has book knowledge, they weren’t incarcerated or addicted. I was all of those things – incarcerated and addicted. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – I’m proving that wrong.
This year, at age 62, Helenia will graduate from Marymount University with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She plans to start her own nonprofit called SHE, Seeking Higher Employment. “When women are coming out of prison, I want to connect with companies and corporations in the community to give these women an opportunity.”
“I was in and out of institutions for years. I always knew that my life was a struggle, you know what I mean? Life never prospers when you’re on drugs. Nothing good comes out of it. I was so lost. Well over 30 years of my life I was in and out of the system.”
Finally, in her 50s, recovery became a possibility when Renee was accepted into Guest House. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. At first, I was nervous but I was also at the point in my life where I was like ‘I’m going to do this.’ I was ready for it. I’m 51 and struggled with addition for 30+ years. I’m the most proud of myself because I’ve been drug free for about two years now. It’s the longest I’ve been clean ever in my life. Two years, it’s like, wow, it’s such a miracle. I’m so happy.”
Four years ago, Marty was visiting Del Ray United Methodist Church where they had a call to action for work suits for our clients. Marty jumped on board and immediately took suits of her own to Guest House. Here, she witnessed firsthand the women and the community of our clients. “It was after work and the women were in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. For me, it opened my eyes to the need for the work done at Guest House. These were just women who needed another chance. It could be anyone of us.”
Through her work within the UMW organization, Marty has invited FoGH to numerous events on both local and district levels to help us increase awareness of the necessary work FoGH does daily. Marty has been a steadfast volunteer for our mission and her work has been invaluable. Marty vows “to continue this effort and spread the word in all of the organizations I am involved with.”
We have many more stories coming up in the month of April, so be sure to follow along on our social media pages!