Our news from spring of 2019.
Category Archives: Mothers Day Garden
By Marcy Perkins, Friendship House Assistant Executive Director and Director of Transitional Housing
In this blessed Spring of 2019, my thoughts turn to gardening. Like so many before me, the garden represents my relationship to creation and to my Creator. Planting seeds, tending plants, watching them grow and mature are deeply satisfying activities. Nurturing the soil and the plants feels as if I am giving thanks to God who has given me so much.
At Friendship House, we have actual and symbolic gardens. Through our “Mother’s Day Garden” fundraiser and with the help of hundreds of volunteers, we have created a small paradise behind each site in Women’s Transitional Housing. As we weed, plant and prune the actual garden, I am reminded of the living “flowers” whom we also tend: the women and children living in our houses. The creation of beauty in the garden is symbolic of the re-creation of the lives of our residents.
Gardening also reminds me that God’s seeds, whether in my garden or in my women, always bear fruit.
Back in the 1990’s, when the Wilmington Empowerment Center was known as the Women’s Center, I had just started working for Friendship House. In the basement of St. Andrews’ Church (as it was then known), there was a drop-in center for women. Some of them were “hard core” street women. Some were seeking emergency shelter. Some came for the coffee and community. And then some to use the phone, receive mail or, sometimes, all of the above.
On a book shelf running through the middle of the Center, was a plant (a philodendron), housed in an old plastic food container which was filled with the hardest, driest dirt one could imagine. It was a miracle the poor thing was alive, being in a dark basement, in hard crusty soil, mostly ignored, quietly living its life waiting for someone to give it a bit of water.
It occurred to me how much that little plant was like our clients. They, too, had been abandoned, ignored, waiting for just a bit of attention so they could try to make it one more day on the streets. The tenacity of the philodendron was symbolic of the tenacity of our women who refused to give up or give in. Some were quietly persistent; others were loud and, frankly, obnoxious at times. Mentally ill, drug/alcohol addicted, rambunctious, in need of a shower or quietly hoping for help, our clients came in day after day, year after year. Some of them, over 20 years later, still come in to share their woes and their joys.
Fast forward to 1999 and the purchase of our Lincoln Street property which would become Palmer House, in memory of our friend Rev. Mark Palmer. One day, starting up the front steps, I saw a small petunia growing in a crack in the cement. It had obviously been seeded by a passing bird or a gentle breeze. It seemed to me that this small flower, so vulnerable yet so pretty, was symbolic of the women who lived in those houses: growing up starved, but still growing. Awaiting their chance to blossom.
Since that day, I have noticed more flowers growing in crevices around our properties. Indeed, we even have a thorny old rose bush growing in the wall at the front of Palmer House. It has the most beautiful roses!
As Jesus told the disciples, “Feed my sheep,” I can hear a similar call: “Tend my garden. Be gentle with those who have been mistreated. Give them space to grow and to blossom.”
In response to this call, Friendship House offers beautiful houses, beautiful gardens and a structured program to help women blossom into their truest selves. Some residents take root immediately and thrive, while for others, this is not yet their season. The seeds are planted but not yet ready to bloom. Faith teaches us that the plants will emerge when the time is right, perhaps in a way that we cannot anticipate.
The miracle of Divine Love is that the Creator keeps the garden ready for all of us, waiting for us to find our way home.
I came to Friendship House in August of 2017, after spending four months in an inpatient rehab in Wilmington. My drug of choice was alcohol, and I spent a lot of time trying to justify my drinking because I was just a college kid, and it was legal. I was a full time student, I worked 40 hours a week, and I paid my bills. I didn’t think I could possibly be an alcoholic, because to me alcoholics were always much older and their lives were in much worse shape. But looking back now at my two DUIs and two public intoxications, I don’t know how I thought my drinking habits were “normal.”
Sobriety has allowed me a chance to see where I was wrong, but it has also showed me an entire life that I didn’t know was possible. If you asked me a year ago, I would have told you I couldn’t see my life without alcohol, and I wouldn’t have seen a reason to. My life has changed tremendously since August, and I couldn’t have done it without Friendship House. Now I am able to have a full time job, and be a reliable employee. I have a savings, which I have never had before. Not only do I get to set goals each week, I am able to achieve those goals. My biggest achievement recently is purchasing a car, which would not have been possible without doing any budgets at the house.
Friendship House is re-teaching me how to be independent, and Alcoholics Anonymous is teaching me how to do it sober. I never pictured my life being where it is today, but I can say I am grateful for what I have learned. Friendship House has given me so much in these short seven months, and I am excited to see what these next few months hold.
Hello. My name is Andrew Zebley, and I am a sober, recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I never thought I would be able to say those words. The plan I had for my life before sobriety was to miserably live out my days on the streets until I was in jail, or if I was lucky, end up dead. But, that isn’t my life anymore. I have been blessed with the right people, circumstances, willingness, and open mindedness to do something different with my life.
Nothing in life made me an alcoholic and a drug addict, but it was the way I dealt with the problems in my life. By the age of 21, I had lost control of my life through the use of drugs and alcohol. I was homeless, living on the streets, and running from legal issues. I had become a liar and a thief. I had accepted my circumstances at the time and thought for sure I was going to die that way. Toward the end of my time using, I found out that my mom was re-diagnosed with cancer and was dying. At this point in my life, I didn’t care about anything but finding a way to escape my reality. I hurt everyone I came into contact with, with little to no regard for their feelings or well being. I started to use up all of my resources. I was running out of options, and knew something had to be done.
I got sober November 7, 2014. I was a 22 year old child with no understanding of responsibility, and no direction for my life. To be honest, I had no idea my journey from that day until now would lead to long term sobriety. When I walked into detox I was dirty and sick, weighing 125 pounds. I never could contently sustain my habit, and it was getting cold and I needed a warm place to stay. I followed suggestions and went to treatment. When finishing my stay at treatment I remember being so scared of leaving because I did not have a plan and I had nowhere to stay. I still had no intentions of staying sober at the time because drinking and doing drugs was the only way I knew how to live. It was suggested that I go to Friendship House, and I was open enough to give it a try.
From the moment I was interviewed at Friendship House, I could tell it was a special place. The counselors really cared about me and they had just met me. It was a place that gave someone like me a chance, even when I felt I didn’t deserve it. I had no idea how I was going to stay sober, let alone work a job, pay bills, handle fines and legal issues. I was truly lost and needed direction.
While at Friendship House I had a healthy dose of structure, and began to build relationships I hold dear to this day. I started working with a sponsor, got connected with other sober alcoholics and a fellowship of people who were also trying to maintain sobriety. I learned the importance of honesty and facing the troubles in my life head on. I learned how to become a functioning member of society and a responsible adult. I planned financially to take steps forward in my life, and after my stay at Friendship House, I moved out with the roommate I had there. We are still best friends to this day.
The life I live today is beyond my wildest dreams. I may not have everything, but I have a positive perspective on my life. I have a solution to deal with everyday problems.
I still hold Friendship House close to my heart. In January of this year, I lost my mother. Within a week, I found myself sitting in Friendship House talking with the counselors and crying. This organization is not just my old halfway house, with counselors and house managers. Friendship House is my family. The staff care so much and I have grown to love them. I still pop in during free moments in my week and I am always so happy I did.
The thing in my life I have the utmost gratitude for is my sobriety. I am also thankful that Friendship house was a part of my story and helped make that possible.
If anyone reading this is struggling, just know, you’re not alone. There is always a hand ready to reach out, all you have to do is ask for help.
As the east coast managed it’s fourth nor’easter in March, many people wondered out loud, “Will spring ever come?” I heard many respond with, “Don’t worry, spring is just around the corner.” That reminds me of the children’s story collection about two of my favorite characters, Frog and Toad, created by Arnold Lobel. One story in particular is called “The Corner,” where a grumpy yet loving Toad expresses dread at their ruined day due to cold rain. Frog, with his ever consistent optimism, makes tea and distracts Toad with a story about how his father once explained to not fret because “spring is just around the corner.” This led young Frog on a search around every corner looking for spring.
Why does Frog go looking for spring? Is he not patient in waiting? Or, has he lost hope that spring will come? Maybe he feels he has to find it in order to believe it is actually there.
Many of our clients and residents come to us after looking around corner after corner for their spring, their new life, and often hope that has been lost. They come to us broken from harsh winters of their own: drug addiction, homelessness, abuse. Often these men and women wonder if spring will ever come. It is Friendship Houses’ mission to remind them that spring and new life are always right around the corner.
All too often hope fades away when one is stuck in a dark place and wandering lost in the wilderness. It takes deep faith and hard work to find the best pathway out. Many pathways lead to other dark places, but finding the pathway home is a journey of its own. And it is a journey Friendship House takes with thousands of individuals every year.
For many spring brings the celebration of Easter; a time to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At Friendship House we experience Easter every day as we work with our clients and witness new life born out of darkness. These moments, although not uncommon for us, are always special and beautiful. They are the moments when a resident hits a milestone—1 week clean, 1 month clean, 1 year clean. Easter for us happens when a client, who has been living in the shadow of her dead daughter’s overdose, lets the past go and whispers, “I am going to be OK.” This miracle happens when a homeless man finally gets a job, then an apartment, and then sees his son for the first time in three years.
At Friendship House, we witness new life no matter the time of year and regardless the weather. We get to be part of someone’s journey as they find a pathway out of the dark woods where they find spring—just around the corner.
What happened with our friend Frog from the story “The Corner”? As he went around his fourth and final corner, Toad asks his friend Frog, “What did you see?” Lobel writes:
“I saw the sun coming out,” said Frog. “I saw birds sitting in a tree. I saw my mother and father working in their garden. I saw flowers in the garden.”
“You found it!” cried Toad.
“Yes, I found the corner that spring was just around.”
If you find yourself in a dark place, keep faith and remember: Spring is always around the corner.
~ Written by Kim Eppehimer