All posts by Friendship House

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.

Answering The Call After 30 Years

Several weeks ago my family watched a caterpillar shed its skin and build its chrysalis, right in front of our eyes. I have always been amazed at the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Being able to watch this part of the process was a true blessing. It took just under 4 minutes to build the home where the little body of the caterpillar will live for around 14 days and become something larger and different. Something bringing joy to people through its beauty and peace. Something that offers sustainability to our fruits and flowers keeping the cycle of life going. And throughout this process, God is there. God orchestrated this and every other natural process. And it is truly awe-inspiring. Nothing is left the same after God has been there, and if open to this change amazing things can happen.

 

(Video of the caterpillar we watched forming its chrysalis.)

As humans, do we have a choice to responding to God’s call? Is the caterpillar able to say no to this completely life altering transformation? Just as we are unable to stop the raging storms, the natural process can not be stopped without divine intervention.

However, is not so for us humans. Listening to the call is a choice and it is easy to ignore the voice tugging at our soul. Questions easily arise: Am I really being called by God? Am I worthy? Am I able? Why me? I don’t think a caterpillar asks such questions. It just knows what to do, and most importantly, when. Its natural instincts lead the way for when to eat, sleep, and transform.

With a dedicated staff who have chosen to be part of this mission, 1,500 annual volunteers searching for a way to give back, and over 100 faith communities offering various levels of support, Friendship House has been answering the call to serve our community of homeless individuals for the past 30 years; individuals who came to Friendship House in need of a pathway forward, and someone who can offer hope that the pathway exists for anyone.

Friendship House is a chrysalis in its own way. It is within our cocoon of loving and caring people anyone open to God’s call can be transformed into someone different; someone capable of an enriching life giving back to our own cycle of life.

As long as the call is answered, we can continue to serve for another 30 years. Saying yes to the call, we are blessed with the opportunity of becoming more faithful servants. By saying yes we open ourselves to the opportunity of inner transformation that can be life altering.

As Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy, “Keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the good news, and fully carry out the ministry God has given to you.”

With the need growing in our community and resources thin, the call is just as real today as it was 30 years ago when Friendship House first started. There is no time like today to say yes to the call. I pray you will join us to serve those who are looking for a path to a life we know they are worthy of living —worthy because they are our brothers and sisters. Walk with us, as we walk with those who are losing hope of  a path that leads to their own inner transformation. Together, we can answer the call.

The life cycle of the monarch caterpillar. We saw it eating milkweed, shed its skin and build its chrysalis, and then become a butterfly.

Faith, Hope and a Miracle

This story, as part of our 30 for 30 campaign, comes to us from Donna Johnson, one of our housing graduates, who we have been blessed to walk with over the past year.

My story is truly one of hope, faith, love, support, prayer, and a miracle.  Five years ago, my life was a train wreck.  The grace of God landed me on the doorsteps of Friendship House (FH), which changed my life. With the help of the staff I was able to build the foundation that would support me for the journey I was about to take. I remained clean and sober, became employed, gained self-confidence, earned my GED, rebuilt my relationships with my family and started attending Delaware Technical Community College.

After I graduated from FH,  the staff remained my biggest support system. They were always there for me whether it was in laughter or tears. With only two semesters until graduation from Del. Tech., I came into some difficulties with my living situation. I was so blessed that Marcy opened her doors to me once again to enable me to complete school.

In my last semester (Thanksgiving night), I found a lump on the side of my neck that was diagnosed as Stage 4 throat cancer.  Now I began a physical and emotional rollercoaster ride that, through God’s grace, everyone went on with me. The next month and a half was crazy. I was taking two classes, doing my internship, working and traveling back and forth to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia PA. I was blessed that when my professors heard what was happening they allowed me to work at my own pace. This allowed me to complete my classes and my internship before treatment started.

The first month and a half of this journey was figuring out what type of cancer I had and how to treat it. There were several CAT scans, PET scans, a Laryngoscopy and Biopsies done.  The results of the test resulted in a new diagnosis and treatment.   It started with the mildest type of cancer I could have to the worst type. The first treatment was two major surgeries with radiation and chemotherapy; that changed to taking a trial drug along with radiation and chemo because the cancer had spread and surgery was n longer an option. This was a very emotional time and I was so grateful for the support from everyone at Friendship House.

The first two weeks of treatment were tough because I had a mega dose of chemo and was having radiation every day (twice on Friday). For the first five weeks, I was able to drive myself to Philly but that was about all I could do. The chemo made me sick and the radiation was building in my system causing a lot of fatigue. I did manage to attend my graduation with Marcy and Mary Ann by my side. I was then given the second mega dose of chemo and that is when things went very bad. We realized that the cancer was not responding to treatment, in fact it had mutated and was growing. I was told that we would continue treatment but that I probable only had a year to live. I was so blessed with a group of prayer warriors from Friendship House that gave me the faith to move forward.

At this point, I was no longer able to drive myself to the cancer center. Without a second thought, Bill and Marcy and 2 FH Board members began to drive me every day. They were so humbling that they made me feel as if I were doing them a favor. On one trip with Bill and me, I was so sick I could not stay conscious. Bill stayed by my side for hours while they stabilized me and I was admitted to the hospital.  Only a few hours from then Marcy and Mary Ann drove up to make sure I was okay.  When I was released, the daily treatments began again.

When the treatments ended, I was in the worst shape of all. My throat continued to blister on the inside and out. Everyone at the house continued to care for me. They came several times a day to check on me, bringing me support and smoothies. I am getting better every day but could never have gotten through this journey without the friendship house. They have supported me spiritually, physically, financially, and in any other way they could. Thank you will never be enough for what they have done in my life. I am forever in your debt.

On July 18, 2017, I received the best possible news:  I am cancer free!  Miracles really do happen.  Thanks be to God.

My Journey to Independence

A story from one of our housing graduates, now part time employee at the Clothing Bank.

I left it all behind, everything familiar and comfortable to me was left in New Jersey: family, friends, home, addictions.  I started over in Delaware.

Nearly penniless, jobless and just completing another program in Delaware where I gained a greater understanding of God and faith, I needed a safe place to live a clean and sober life.  I knew I needed an additional program, something greater to keep me on my journey to an independent and clean life that I had started in Delaware.  Grace led me to Friendship House.

I knew nothing about Friendship House but applied for the Transitional Housing Program.  At my first interview with Marcy Perkins I knew I was going to be okay.  I had no ID, no social security card, no birth certificate, NOTHING!  What I remember most of that meeting with Marcy was what she said when she learned that I had no documentation of my life.  She simply said, “We can help you”.   I arrived at the Epiphany House on February 15, 2016.  This is when my new life began.

This was not my first attempt to be clean. I have struggled with addictions since the 80’s and attempted recovery many times in the past.  Recovery is difficult; it takes a lot of work.  When you lose belief in yourself, have no money or family, no job, do not recognize your skill sets, and have no self-worth, it is easier to” just use.”   This is where I was when I left New Jersey and made my way across the bridge to Delaware, to my new beginning.

Walking into the Friendship House housing program, I found a safe haven.  It was as if my own mother’s arms were wrapped around me.  The housing staff spent hours getting my ID, social security card, birth certificate and marriage certificate.  If that was not enough, they help me gain employment at the Clothing Bank of Delaware.  My first paying job in a very long time.

All of a sudden, I began to feel like a human again!  I was contributing to my community and society in a meaningful and constructive way!

Many events happened to help transform me.  Meeting with my caseworker, Maryanne, every day to share what I did and late night talks with Shirley helped me gain confidence that I was capable of making good choices.   After a while, I was comfortable enough to meet with her once weekly.  I was taught to budget (which was not fun for Maryanne) but it paid off big for me.

The staff would leave the office on Friendship House budget review days. Working at the Clothing Bank of Delaware, I felt like a valued employee.  Working with Kathy, I was not judged for my past; I was valued for the skills I brought to the job (I had forgotten I had skills)!

I also learned how to communicate better because of all of the Friendship House programs.  I found I was no longer angry at the world.  Everywhere I turned there was someone from Friendship House working  to help me: everyone in housing, Marcy, Maryanne, Shirley and Shawn, board members Sharon and Kay, the Clothing Bank, Marc, Kathy and the Main Office, Roxane, Mr. Bill and Kim.  It just seemed impossible that this many people want to see me succeed and truly care about me.

The entire process helped me to obtain my new job at BJ’s Wholesale Club. But, it was no secret that I really wanted to work at Friendship House.  If I could work at Friendship House, I, too, could possibly make a difference in the life of another person.

Life has a funny way of working out when you start doing the right things and make the next right decision.  I graduated from the Friendship House in January 24, 2017.  Now I have INDEPENDENT housing, a savings account, a checking account and a 401K plan!  As I said earlier, that time spent with Maryanne paid off!  (My apologies to Maryanne for being difficult).  Then to add a cherry on top, I was invited to interview for an open position at the Clothing Bank of Delaware.  So, I now work at BJ’s and at the Clothing Bank of Delaware.

My journey gets better every day.  I am not saying that there are not difficult times but I know that I have the strength and courage to get through any challenge.  I have reunited with my family in New Jersey.  They are very proud of the person I am today.  I have gained a new family in Wilmington, Delaware.  Marc Marcus, upon my hire at the Clothing Bank, ended our meeting by saying that what mattered more than the job I was taking was me.  I was worth the investment that Friendship House had made in me over the past year.

I am brought to tears (ask anyone in Friendship House) each time I talk about my journey at Friendship House.  I am in awe of the path God has laid out for me.  My soul is filled with gratitude and thanks to Friendship House for reminding me that God is not done with me.  I am here, I can make a difference and I matter.

~ Eileen Taylor