Category Archives: Blog

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.

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

Zella Was One of Gods Little Ones

(By Marcy Perkins)

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.