All posts by Friendship House

Clothing Bank Graduate Story

By Kathy Griffin-Graham, Clothing Bank Director  (November 2018)

It is difficult to be a teenager. Try to fit in, be a good friend, a good sibling, a good cousin, a good student and, as it so often happens, trying to do all these things while avoiding peer pressure and making poor choices. This story is so common among many young people, including Tayra.

Tayra, a bright student and high school basketball star wanted nothing more than to be loyal to all her friends and family. Falling prey to peer pressure was something she never dreamed would happen to her. She truly thought she was stronger and smarter than that. At 18 years old, she learned the difficult way peer pressure sneaks up on you and before you know it, you are making the worst choice of your life. In Tayra’s story, the wrong choice left her scared, scarred and incarcerated for 3 years.

We met Tayra at the beginning of 2018. It took only a few minutes in her interview at the Friendship House Clothing Bank for us to know there was a bright light hidden beneath the shame of her past choices. When she began working with us, she was reserved and scared. The thought of people judging her for her past was unsettling and embarrassing. Slowly, though, she began to see that we embraced the young women and she was not the same girl who made a mistake. She began to show her work skills and ethics. She began to trust us and was an active participant in our Empower Hour. She invested in herself, searching for ways to improve herself, rebuild her reputation and focus on a bright future. It was not easy. There were many tears when her background kept her from getting the job for which she had interviewed. But, she kept pushing through.

Tayra showed so much effort, dedication and promise in herself and to the job that we moved her to our senior sorter and extended her position from our 15-week training program to 22 weeks. (A great benefit to accepting no state or federal dollars.) We also sent her to be an office assistant once weekly in our administrative office. No surprise, she excelled in that environment as well.

It did not take much longer for another employer to see the same bright light and dedication we saw at the beginning of the year. Tayra’s hard work paid off when a local, popular hotel hired her for a great room service position. She is exceeding their expectations of performance and reliability. So much so she is currently in training to be a front desk customer service representative.

Today Tayra is still happily employed and looking into advancing her education. She has said her experience at the Friendship House Clothing Bank was a huge part in renewing her confidence, giving her hope, forgiving herself for her past choices and giving her the strength to take the next step to becoming successful. We have no doubt there is no stopping her from reaching any of her dreams and goals.

Ashley Shares Her Story

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.

~ Ashley

From A Graduate – Andrew’s Story

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.

Spring Is Just Around The Corner

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

Shirley’s Reflections

Reflections–Shirley Pritchett

I started working at Friendship House on February 13, 2000. At that time, Epiphany House was located at Fourth and Rodney Street (1411 W. 4th Street) and we were renting. A lot has changed since then.

Unlike now, most of the residents at that time were women who were homeless because of economic reasons or domestic violence; only a few came from drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

In 2000, Marcy Perkins was the Director of Women’s Ministry, which included the Women’s Day Center, the Clothing Bank of Delaware and 3 women’s transitional housing properties.  Now, the Clothing Bank has its own ministry director. The Men’s and Women’s Day Centers have been combined into the Wilmington Empowerment Center, and we have added Empowerment Centers in Newark, Middletown and Mill Creek.

My how things have changed.

Currently, we have six (6) women’s houses. In 2000, we had three, renting one. Now we own all of them. In 2000, we owned two (2) men’s houses out of three (3). Today we have six (6) houses for men, including the first Friendship House site outside the city of Wilmington (Corner House).

As I look back over the time I have been at Friendship House, I see the hand of God at work in the Housing Program and in the lives of the women who passed through the program. Starting in 2004, events leading up to the addition of each house have been a marvel to me.

My years with Friendship House have been a bitter/sweet experience. Bitter/sweet because of the women I have encountered there: women who continue to live clean and sober lives; women who continue to struggle with addiction; those who have died being addicted; and those who have died from the damage which addiction had done to their bodies.

I also think of the times we have had to ask women to leave the Housing program for one reason or another. Some have gone on to improve their lives while others have not. There are always interesting circumstances surrounding the issue of asking a woman to vacate the Program. Some circumstances are heart wrenching and some are very surprising–almost funny–but these times are always memorable. You just do not forget them.

Lasting memories are often created at the dinner table. The women will let their hair down (so to speak), be themselves, and share some of the interesting moments in their lives. Then there are the private moments when we get serious about what is ahead for them. As I interact with the women, lo and behold, I am learning things about myself also.

The Housing Program is constantly changing to meet the needs of the individuals who enter into partnership with the Program. If an element is no longer working, it is deleted or adjusted to accomplish what the program anticipates. Even though changes may be made to the Program, each participant must put in the necessary work to see the change in themselves and in their lives as they make progress toward getting their own lives back on track.

This is the Partnership that the Housing Program has with each individual that enters. We owe it to each resident to do our best so that they can get the best from the Program.