In her own words…
“Whenever I am asked why I do what I do, I say the journey that began as a child. I grew up in the projects – Washington Park Homes – in a home where alcoholism and domestic violence were common.
I am the second of seven children. My mom was the best I could ever ask for. She made the best out of the worst situation. This environment’s normal was almost daily gunshots. We were located right between two rival gang members. Running home after school – yeah, it was normal – ducking behind cars in between the gunshots – you became good at it. Then it would stop – until the next time. 25 years of character building, I call it.
I believe that it is what gave me the courage and compassion needed to reach back into those same communities to show kids what normal really looks like. This was the driving force behind the outdoor community gospel festivals, which began in July 1998.
When I became a teenage mom at the age of 17 years old. Choices that were solely my own. As a single parent of four kids,I learned early about consequences for the decisions that we make. Those choices led me into a relationship that caused me to endure 14 1/2 years of domestic abuse. Another hard lesson that I had to learn. But, I never blamed anyone for my choices. My mother always taught her kids, you make the bed that you must lay in. So now, my story and my journey is my why.
My liberation came that night when fear opened the door again, I had had enough beatings. I needed just enough so that I would not judge other women or men for the choices that they made. This prepared me for my work with the Shama Ministries.
I was the child of an imprisoned parent who would receive gifts from various churches during the holiday season. This experience was the reason I began supporting kids through the Angel Tree Program. We started with 40 kids, but because of people like Dani Jachino and a host of other co-workers, we began supporting over 250 kids through Angel Tree and over 100 kids at Maria’s Shelter.
For a long period of time, I would go into prisons as a volunteer with Prison Fellowship Ministry. I would wonder what happens to individuals when they are released. This question led me to use my home as the answer.
I began receiving individuals directly from incarceration in 2008 – our first was as hardcore as they could come. She was my training. I had never done anything like this before, but in my heart I wanted to see lives change and I wanted to be a part of that process.
What began was first a home for women then a second that would house men. The residents could not understand why I would give up my homes for people I didn’t know – I would answer “love”. They would look at me with disbelief. There are so many other reasons over the years – the “why” to what I do – that I would gladly share. But, it is important for me to note that without financial and volunteer support over the years these efforts could not be possible. These wonderful people are the wind beneath my wings, and they never ever say I can’t fly. My absolute faith in God and belief in my journey led me to my purpose.
And now House of Refuge will begin a new journey, it will become a Rescue Home for adult women fleeing human trafficking.”
Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!***