Category Archives: Blog

2023 Highmark Walk

Thank you to the hundreds of people who supported Friendship House for the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community. We are excited to share we had yet another record-breaking year for the 2023 Walk! With the support of our loving, supportive community, we raised $91,000.
We also had a record-breaking number of registered walkers. This year we had over 650 walkers registered for an FH walk team. Many showed up for the in-person 5k walk on June 10th, 2023 starting at the Tubman Garrett Park on the Riverfront. It was a wonderful morning filled with fun, friendship, and fundraising!

We are proud to announce, for the 4th year in a row, FH was the top fundraiser among all 250 nonprofit organizations that participated in the Highmark Walk across 7 cities!

Thank you Highmark for putting together such a wonderful event. Thank you to all our faith community partners who supported, donated, and came out to walk for #AWayHome! Thank you to our 15 corporate sponsors! Our silver and gold sponsors are featured below.

Thank you to everyone who walked or made a financial contribution. We couldn’t do this without your loving support. Thank you for walking for a way home for people facing homelessness and houselessness in Delaware!

Our School Uniform Program

The Friendship House Clothing Bank School Uniform Program is gearing up for its 4th consecutive year of distributing free, good-quality polo shirts and khaki uniform pants to public schools in Delaware. With support from the Laffey-McHugh Foundation, we piloted this program in 2020 with 1 school and provided 400 uniform items to support 75 students. Last fall, we gave 8,500 uniform items across 15 public schools to support 3,500 students! It was a record-breaking year as we doubled our reach from 2021. We were able to do this with the generosity and support of our community. Thank you for ensuring students are equipped with necessary clothing to show up to school ready to learn!

Several public schools in Delaware require students to wear a solid-color polo shirt with khaki or navy blue uniform pants to create equality and a dress code standard for all students. However, many families find it difficult to afford a special set of clothing for their children to attend school. Students not in uniform can face in-school consequences such as missing class, standing out from their peers, or even possibly being sent home which can put them at a disadvantage. This is why FH believes it is important every child has proper clothing for their school ensuring they are set up for success.

FH partners directly with the school by providing the school with items that fit their dress code. We work with principals, school administrators, or school counselors to assess the needs of their students. While we’re not able to provide a school uniform for every student, we ensure uniform items are available to families in the most need. Latoya Irving, Richardson Park Elementary School Counselor, share’s what this means to the many families she works with. “It means a lot for our families, especially being a Title 1 school, where we have so many families in need who can’t afford ongoing expenses such as food let alone uniform requirements. It’s so helpful that kids are given clean uniforms that they can wear daily to school.” We have provided school uniform items to Richardson Park Elementary since the fall of 2021.

We can’t do this alone. This fall, we’re hoping to collect and distribute 10,000 uniform items and we need your help! We are looking to collect new or gently used solid-color polo shirts and khaki or navy blue uniform pants of all sizes (youth and adult).

If you don’t have uniform items to donate, click here for our registries!

Molly’s Story

Molly, 26 years old, is currently in our Clothing Bank Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) Job Training Program. She is a Delaware native, raised in Wilmington, and in her early teens began mixing with “the wrong crowd.” She spent most of her adolescent years in and out of juvenile detention centers, with her first charge at 13 for robbery, until she turned 18 when she became an adult. At this time she was put on probation as she had aged out of the juvenile system. She was first charged as an adult at 19 and spent 3 years in prison on a drug possession charge. When she was released, she was quickly incarcerated again for another drug possession charge.

As an adult she wanted to be independent and have her own money so she turned to selling drugs. She mentioned how she was addicted to the money she was earning. In 2021, she was charged with violating probation which led her to spend another 2 years in prison. As Molly reflected on her youth she said, “Every time I went to jail I said to myself ‘how did this keep happening to me? Why does this keep happening to me? What am I doing wrong?’ But I got something out of it every time. I learned something new, whether it was about myself or about the learning process.”

The last time she was incarcerated she realized she was seeing the same thing happen over and over to her. It was the same officers, the same food, and the same rules. Molly said, “In my mind I’m like, ‘I’m getting too old for this.’ I kept doing the same thing and would get the same outcome. I said to myself, ‘Molly you got to get it together. If not I’m either going to die or be serving life or end up in the ICU the way that I’m going. I’m 26 and have spent my whole life in jail.’”

When Molly came to our Clothing Bank through Work Release, a program from Hazel D. Plant Women’s Treatment Facility, she realized she had so much to learn and experience. “I never got to live. I never learned about credit, about bills, none of that. Still to this day I am learning new stuff and learning what’s out there,” Molly added. Through our CEO Job Training Program, we have helped Molly realize she deserves more. Molly spoke to this saying, “I want more for myself. I want to know what else is out there. When somebody’s talking I listen more than I talk. I take heed to what they’re saying. I don’t try to turn down information. I want to retain it.”

Molly has learned a lot while she has been with us and we can see how she is growing with the impact our program has had on her. Specifically she spoke about how Cheryl, the Clothing Bank Director, has had a positive influence on her. “Ms. Cheryl keeps me motivated. She is just a great woman overall. I appreciate her because little does she know, she really saved me from a lot,” she said. The volunteers that come through have also had a significant impact on Molly. Getting to speak with different people every day and hear their perspectives, she has been able to learn from all of them and enjoys getting to know each volunteer who comes through.

She is still working on herself as she continues her journey, and we are there with her every step of the way. She aspires to eventually become a motivational speaker to talk to youth about substance abuse and domestic violence and help them avoid the paths she had taken. When asked what advice she has for them, she said, “I would tell them life is too short, live for you. Live your life to the fullest.” Her next steps include continuing in the CEO Job Training program to continue growing and learning. She is also starting school again in the fall to complete her GED. She hopes to be able to get into real estate and eventually have her own house and car. “More so I am getting it together, day by day, you gotta crawl before you can walk. I’m pacing myself, taking my time, I’m soaking up all the wisdom FH is giving me. For me this is a learning experience. I really came a long way,” she said.

Learn about our Transitional Housing program

Our Men’s and Women’s Transitional Housing programs are more than putting someone in a bed or offering a safe place to stay. It is a lot of intense case management, respect, and patience. Our staff walk with the residents every step of their journey while in our program and even well after they graduate. Many people think our TH programs are only for those who are suffering from substance abuse. We accept people from various residential programs such as inpatient substance abuse recovery, domestic violence shelters and, recently, human trafficking survivors.

Working with people who are survivors of human trafficking has been an incredible addition to our Women’s Transitional Housing program and made possible through a partnership with the Salvation Army’s Restoration Now program. Once a woman is approved for our TH program, we move them in and do what we do so well: offer holistic, caring, person-centered case management. These women have been through some of the worse trauma we have experienced, which is why how we work with them requires a different approach than other women in our TH program. To be prepared for this partnership, staff and I have had training and continue to take courses to earn certificates on this subject. Unfortunately, human trafficking happens everywhere and is a huge problem in our state and nationwide. I am happy to be a part of helping these survivors.

In addition to accepting human trafficking survivors, we recently built a new program for women coming out of incarceration who typically have not done any type of residential program and may need more case management than our stage one residents. This is called, “Entry Phase”. We also house domestic violence survivors from shelters. Sometimes, this means housing a parent as well as their children who have suffered significant trauma.

We find it is critical to think “outside the box” to help our residents. Our programming includes peer mentoring groups or 12 step programs, sometimes led by graduates of our program. We have a trauma group facilitated by Jewish Family Services. We have a cooking and nutrition class every week run by the University of Delaware. We have weekly Women’s and Men’s group meetings. We offer opportunities for residents to learn about various opportunities regarding certifications, career paths, and important life skills.

I chose this career path and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have lived experience with all the different issues we address here. It is emotionally, mentally and physically challenging; and it is beyond rewarding to know we make a difference in people’s lives.

Shawn Helmick
Women’s Transitional Housing Director

A Letter from our Executive Director

Our Transitional Housing program is incredibly successful. When a person spends at least a year with us, they are 95% more likely to stay in recovery, to stay housed, and stay employed for at least 5 years than someone who’s in our program for less than 6 months. This is largely due to the loving, supportive environment we create.

There is no magical secret making this program so amazing. Though it does require the commitment of each resident and the dedication and love of our staff to make it so successful.

When someone starts in this program, they are often full of excitement because they have found an opportunity for grace, as well as fear that this new opportunity could slip away. Unfortunately, they often feel like this is their last chance of survival. Many of the residents that come to us bring a great deal of trauma. They have experienced neglect, abuse, self hate, loss, and incredible loneliness. Therefore, it is our priority to ensure every person sees the possibility of what is within themselves: they can gain control over their lives and not let their lives control them.

While in our program, we encourage the residents to take the lead in their own choices, ensuring we are tender and careful around their emotional and mental wounds, teaching what consequences may come based on their choices. It is not an easy job to let someone make their own decisions when the world can be so difficult. However, it is the most loving thing we can do. It is so important to offer guidelines, boundaries, and responsibilities – without ever disempowering someone.

Once given love, support and time, we see the incredible transformation as residents begin to overcome the greatest of pain and sorrow, and experience a better today. What makes our Transitional Housing program so successful? We spend time loving every person until they can love themselves again.

Our Transitional Housing program has been around for more than 30 years, and we have helped over 2,000 residents during that time. Throughout all this time, it has been fully supported by you: our loving, supportive community. Please consider a donation to this program through the Garden Fundraiser. It is a beautiful opportunity to honor someone you love- and support someone who needs to know they, too, are also loved.

Kim Eppehimer
Executive Director

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