All posts by Kim Eppehimer

Zella Was One of Gods Little Ones

Zella was one of God’s Little Ones, a unique being who made us laugh and cry and rant and rave.  She was both vulnerable and indestructible, intelligent and erratic.

To the casual eye, she was a crazy street lady, even after she secured independent housing.  She was somewhat scary to those who didn’t know her and she was unpredictable to those of us who had known her for years, even decades.  Disruptive, demanding, argumentative and, at times, out of control, she was a tormented soul who heard voices and battled with them every day.  She was known all over Wilmington, at least by homeless service providers and by the “authorities.”

Yet every now and then there would appear glimpses of a gentler spirit.  She never held a grudge against us for putting her out of the Women’s Center when she lost control.  And, likewise, we didn’t hold a grudge: it was just Zella.  She was who she was.  She was a spiritual woman who kept the High Holy Days (often borrowing money from us so that she could keep the feasts).  She sent money she couldn’t afford overseas to Save the Children or a similar charity because her heart was touched by the plight of suffering children.

So many of us began our relationship with Zella trying to rescue her: trying to get her to Mental Health (“No, there’s nothing wrong with me!”), trying to get her clean clothes (wrong color), trying to find her housing (wrong neighborhood).  She resisted all our attempts.  A survivor, she made her own way through the world.  As the song says, she did it her way.  On the rare occasions when a staff person would give her a ride, we were instructed what route to take and woe betide the person who didn’t follow her instructions!  Ultimately we realized that her rigidity was her way of battling the chaos of her life and those tormenting voices.

When Zella became ill this last time, the Women’s Center Staff were her “emergency contact.”  We followed the bouncing ball that was Zella from one hospital to another to a nursing home in Delaware back to the hospital to another facility in Delaware to several more facilities in other states.  Her travels were partly her own doing and partly because she just didn’t fit anywhere.  She was too mentally ill to be in a nursing facility and, apparently, not eligible for state facilities.

Eventually, we lost touch and had no idea where she had been placed.  We fretted and worried because we didn’t know if she was alive and what was happening to her.  But it seems our part in Zella’s story was done.  It was time for another set of people to look after her.

God always provided for Zella.  She lived a life that would have killed me within months.  She was strong minded, strong willed and somehow she made it through with her integrity intact.  Yes, she worried the life out of us sometimes, but she never surrendered, never gave in to the pressure to conform.  Perhaps that is mental illness; perhaps it is also total dedication to one’s own spirit.  Not something we often see in this world of masks and manipulation.

The best gift Zella left us was her acknowledgement of our friendship. We will not forget Zella ending one of her last phone call with the words, “I love you,” a rare and precious admission.   She taught us that we are called to be companions, not saviors.  We walked with Zella, stumbled with Zella, pulled our hair out with Zella.  In the end, we were part of her story, just as she is part of ours but we were not her whole story.  We intersected and hopefully learned from one another but she is God’s Child and God was with her through every part of her living and dying.

I will miss Zella, but I am grateful we were part of one another’s story and I am so glad that our friend is at peace now with her God.

– Marcy Perkins

How Has FH Affected You?

“How has Friendship House affected you?” This question was posed to residents, former residents, staff and interns, to be answered for this Newsletter. It seemed reasonable that I, the Director of Housing, should also reflect on it.

The short answer is: how long do you have? Over 23 years, I have watched Friendship House grow and change, then grow and change some more, all the while preserving its integrity, its commitment to God’s people and its reliance on faith. I have seen beloved residents rise beyond their wildest imaginings and I have watched them fall and even die. My heart has been expanded and crushed and then restored to try again another day. I have always known that it is God who gives us–the staff and the residents–the courage to keep on trying. On several occasions, God’s actions have left my mouth hanging open in amazement.

The year 2003 is memorable for many, many reasons, some of them sad and some wonderful. In that year, my father passed away in September. During that Fall, our former Epiphany House–located at 4th and Rodney Sts–also began to die. The 100 year old plumbing could no longer take the stress of prolonged use. We had to move. We had no money and didn’t know what to do. A month after my Dad’s death, our dear friend Jane Ashford died in the same ICU department, a few rooms down from where my Dad had been. Jane’s family asked for donations to Friendship House in lieu of flower money. Friendship House received $100,000 in “flower money.” Tragedy became miraculous bounty as we purchased the house at 720 N. Union Street, which is now known as Jane Ashford House. Our first residents moved in on April 13, 2004. One of them had been a victim of human trafficking.

The only drawback to our new abode was that it was significantly smaller than our former residence. The Assessment Committee recommended that we search for another house in Little Italy that would be close enough for staff to supervise both properties. As I returned from that meeting, I noticed a “For Sale” sign on 718 N. Union Street–the house next door. When we approached the seller, he said, “I would love for Friendship House to buy this house.” Again, we had no money. However, within a short while, Frank Patterson approached Bill Perkins to say that his recently deceased daughter’s trust fund was available to Friendship House. Frank asked if we might want to “buy a house or something in honor” of his daughter.

The trust fund was generous but FH was still about $50,000 short of the asking price. Two couples familiar with Friendship House had dinner across the street and discussed the dilemma. One person said, “Well, I can put up $25,000, if you can.” Friendship House was able to purchase the house now known as Patterson House. Our first residents moved in during the summer of 2005.

Along with these two properties, we had Palmer House, making four houses available for women. I was content; I was ecstatic. All four properties were located within 3 blocks of one another. I did not want any other properties. We had enough, so I thought. I was wrong.

Early in 2009, the owners of 722 N. Union Street told me they wanted to sell their property and, again, they would love to sell to Friendship House. “Oh,” I said. “We are not in the market for another house.” Shortly thereafter, Christ Church Christiana Hundred asked for agencies to submit grant requests. They were tithing their capital campaign and expected to have $100,000 to give away. It’s a long story, but you know the ending. Friendship House was blessed with the grant and we bought a former barber shop which is now known as Epiphany House. Our first residents moved in on June 7, 2010.

God was still not through. One of our Lincoln Street neighbors asked if we were interested in another property, this one on 9th Street, right between our Lincoln and Union Street properties. “No thanks,” I said. Then, Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church tithed their capital campaign and, voila, Elizabeth House was born.

I have always considered myself a pretty down-to-earth believer. I am not a mystic (much to my chagrin). I believe God is always present, always loving, but not really taking a direct hand in our affairs–at least, not in my affairs.

I can no longer make that claim. I have watched our dear God stretch us and grow Friendship House. I have watched as God has given us beautiful houses with wondrous gardens in safe neighborhoods. And I have felt God say, “These houses are for my beloved children. They are for the poor; the lost; the abandoned; the wounded. Treat my children with respect and reverence.”

How has Friendship House affected me? My faith is deeper; I have seen a glimpse of God’s infinite compassion and love for all of us. I pray to be faithful to this miracle-making Creator.

– Marcy Perkins

Our Next Executive Director Is Named!

Friendship House of Delaware is proud to announce that Kim Eppehimer is to be the next Executive Director effective January 1, 2018.

Kim has been working at Friendship House since 2014, after volunteering through Red Clay Creek Church Presbyterian Church for several years.

After working over a decade in the multi- family and low income real estate field as a loan officer, a Vice President, and a software engineer, her family moved to Delaware while she worked from home as a consultant to be with her two young boys.

Once she found work at Friendship House, she knew she found a vocation and a place to call home.

“This is truly an honor. I am humbled to have been chosen for this role and I am committed to both the mission and people of Friendship House,” Kim says.

During her time with Friendship House, Kim has been actively involved at each ministry. From ministering to volunteers at winter sanctuary, mentoring interns, and walking with clients in the suburban empowerment expansion ministry she helped to establish, Kim has developed a knowledge and a passion for each of the ministries.

Kim comes to us with a Masters of Accounting from the University of Maryland, and recently received a certificate in Theology and Ministry from Princeton Seminary and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Delaware.

Bill Perkins, who has been serving as Executive Director of Friendship House since 1989, is pleased with this choice. “Ever since Kim began volunteering at Friendship House, it was clear she has the passion to serve the homeless and our community, as well as the capability of running such an organization. I could not be more pleased with the selection of Kim as Executive Director. As we celebrate our 30th year of operation and move into the next phase, Kim will be the kind of leader that can continue the mission of Friendship House.”

Marc Marcus (Assistant Executive Director and Director of Day Ministry), Marcy Perkins (Director of Transitional Housing), and Kathy Graham (Director of the Clothing Bank), are in agreement with Bill. “Kim will be a wonderful Executive Director. We are looking forward to continuing to work with her and supporting her in her new role.”

Please join us at our annual meeting Sunday, April 23 to congratulate Kim!
Annual Meeting Details
12:00 PM: Open House at Friendship House Admin Office
1503 W. 13th Street, Wilmington DE
1:30 PM: Annual Meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church
1506 W. 13th Street, Wilmington DE

Edward’s Story

November 2014

On the night before Thanksgiving, arguably the biggest bar night of the year, I took my last drink. For the next several days I would lay on my couch going through all the symptoms that a cold turkey quit has to offer. The plan was to simply get myself together enough to get on a plane, train or anything and get back to Delaware.

The odds were stacked. I had less than twenty dollars to my name, no car, no contacts left to reach out to for any help, and my cell phone was a week away from termination. Even though I was living on the west coast of Florida I was in hell. One-step away from homelessness.

By the grace of God I sold everything of value in the span of a day and secured enough money to purchase a Grey Hound bus ticket from Tampa to Wilmington. I would then take a transfer bus to Kirkwood Detox and hopefully then back to Gateway. The program I had walked out of several years before when I was convinced I had alcohol beat. I took a drink less than two days after leaving that time.

Thin at best, I look back at this course as one of pure genius for it is exactly how it happened. I waited in the lobby of Kirkwood Detox for countless hours. I stayed there hoping for a spot back at Gateway for many days and then was a guest of Gateway for four months. I listened, took suggestion and followed the advice of counsel. It was my counselor that suggested Friendship House.

Friendship House was this form of “Halfway House” in the city. You had to be interviewed and if you were accepted, you would wait for an opening. It was described by my counselor as a strict, no nonsense place to get your toe back in the world. I knew that if I were truly in it for my recovery I would have to go there. My recovery was taking me to Wilmington.

It was a cold, rainy day straight out of a movie when I showed up at the doors of 8th and Madison. Things would start out rough and I would doubt my decision to come to the city and Friendship House many times. A funny thing happens in recovery when you work it. You just might not see it at first.

Looking back, the blessings and achievements I had while at Friendship House were the greatest in my recovery. They were the building blocks of my sober life. I could take the time to assimilate myself back into the world as a member of society. While there, I renewed my license, credit and more importantly my self-esteem. I found my sponsor while living there who to this day is like a father. I found a job that turned into a career, which started with the simple fact that the bus ran from Friendship House to that business’s front door. I took the bus for a year while saving for a vehicle.

Upon my Graduation from Friendship House, I took their suggestion and moved into an Oxford House. It is now arguably the strongest in the city. When there is an opening, Friendship House is first on our list to see if there are any worthy candidates.

When I chaired my two-year anniversary in AA, the room was full of men with countless sobriety. I spoke about how for me, the difference between the first year of sobriety and the second year had one distinct difference. The first year is when I got myself back and the second is when I got my stuff back. Friendship House & my Guardian Angels over there played a major role in my first year.

– Edward Jarrell (Resident)

From A Graduate’s Daughter

Trudi From HeatherThis is for my mother, Trudi Houser, who lost her battle with addiction January 16, 2006. For years since then, Mother’s Day was a hard day for me, but this year I am showing my appreciation to my mom for the person she shaped me into. Mother’s day was a hard day for her, too.  She would always get upset around this day and often spent it apologizing to me. So I guess, even before her passing, this day hasn’t been one without emotion.
There are not enough words to describe the person my mother was. I truly believe with the highs and lows of addiction and recovery, you learn every bit of who that person is. I began looking within myself and realizing who I am, too. I realized addiction affects the entire family. Our separation caused us both great pain, but we accepted the fact that her being unable to raise me was not to be looked at negatively. The moment this acceptance happened, our entire relationship changed. My mom no longer spent her time with me apologizing, trying to make up for the wrongs, or comparing my relationship to her versus the one I had with my grandmother, who had been raising me. Her acceptance allowed her to focus on the present and the future. She revisited the past only to educate me on what led her to addiction. This allowed us to refocus our attention and strength on goals we could achieve, and not obsess over the past or fantasize about what the present could have been.
My mom once told me to “make all of this worth something” which I did for myself. I followed my personal dream of becoming a Registered Nurse, now working as a pediatric nurse. In my journey, I took the opportunity to also educate myself about addiction. I had to understand addiction from the medical and scientific perspective, in addition to have witnessed addiction and recovery for nearly my entire life.  I have read many studies on addiction and have learned that compared to other areas of healthcare, addiction is a gray area that needs further research.
Over the years since her passing, I’ve revisited her letters, learned about my mom through family and friends, and remembered her life lessons and the impact that her life and death had on me. I have learned that sharing experiences with others lessons the pain, it shows courage to share the powerful hold experiences have over us, and it teaches you and others much about similarities in life.  The common theme throughout her addiction was carrying the baggage of negativity, the same one that led her to addiction. She was looking for relief from the negatives, and thought she had found it in drugs. But as she used, her problems only grew and weighed her down further.
My mom once found herself at Friendship House, eager for a new opportunity at life. I am forever grateful that programs like this exist, to help those in need and provide support while starting a new beginning. It was inspirational to me to visit recently and speak with the women there. In only a few minutes of meeting with them, I remembered how beautiful recovery is, and how much strength it took them to get to where they were at that moment.Trudy_EH
It is time for me to pass this along to others. My story doesn’t end the way it should have for my mom, but if it can teach another addict a lesson, it can mean something for her. She dreamed of being able to speak to others about addiction, and I vow to fulfill that for her by what she taught me directly and indirectly about addiction and sharing our story with others one day.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mom’s, may you find peace in your day & appreciate the woman you are, as well as honoring the other strong women in your life.
– Heather Houser Bahel (A Resident’s Daughter)