Our news from spring of 2019.
Category Archives: housing
By Kim Eppehimer, Friendship House Executive Director
Eileen Taylor came to the Friendship House Transitional Housing program after she graduated from a program at the Salvation Army in February, 2016. Struggling to remain out of her addiction and homelessness, Eileen was determined, scared and just stubborn enough to overcome every obstacle.
While employed as a job trainee at the Friendship House Clothing Bank, Eileen applied for a position at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Although the position was part-time, Eileen was thrilled to receive the job.
Eileen worked hard on herself and at her job. Her part time hours became full-time and her responsibilities began to increase. Once she graduated from our program in January, 2017, she and another graduate shared an apartment for a year. Lacking part time experienced workers at our Clothing Bank, Eileen agreed to come back to help manage the warehouse. At this point, Eileen was self-sufficient enough to rent a place of her own. She was working hard, often tired, and going strong.
Then, in November of last year, tragedy struck; tragedy accompanied by a miracle. Eileen got home from work and was relaxing when a friend called and asked if they could get together that evening. Reluctantly, Eileen pulled herself together to go out. During that evening, the building in which Eileen had an apartment burned down due to an oxygen tank explosion. If Eileen had been home, the fire department said she may not have survived since her apartment was right next to the one in which the fire started.
We were all incredibly grateful she was alive and deeply saddened she had lost all her possessions, as well as her home. Eileen was experiencing homelessness all over again. However, this time, she had a loving, supportive community to hold and uplift her.
Friendship House Board members and volunteers donated gift cards so that Eileen could buy clothing (after she had gotten what she could from the Clothing Bank). As a graduate of Women’s Housing, Eileen was welcomed back into one of the Palmer House apartments, to stay as long as necessary. Thus, she had a roof over her head; she had friends to support her; she had gifts of money to feed and clothe herself. Mostly, she had time and space to recover from the devastation and trauma. A very special gift came from Mark Aitken, a good friend and supporter of Friendship House, which covered all of Eileen’s expenses, including new furnishings, when she was able to move into her own place.
Although devastated by her loss, Eileen remained grateful to God and to the many friends who helped her. She has been in her new apartment for several months and continues to work hard at BJs. In fact, her hard work won her the Employee of the Year award from BJs!
Eileen never lost faith in God or herself during this tragedy and has regained everything she needs. Without the Friendship House community, she would truly have been lost. To all of you who support Friendship House, we gratefully say, “Thank you.”
By Marcy Perkins, Friendship House Assistant Executive Director and Director of Transitional Housing
In this blessed Spring of 2019, my thoughts turn to gardening. Like so many before me, the garden represents my relationship to creation and to my Creator. Planting seeds, tending plants, watching them grow and mature are deeply satisfying activities. Nurturing the soil and the plants feels as if I am giving thanks to God who has given me so much.
At Friendship House, we have actual and symbolic gardens. Through our “Mother’s Day Garden” fundraiser and with the help of hundreds of volunteers, we have created a small paradise behind each site in Women’s Transitional Housing. As we weed, plant and prune the actual garden, I am reminded of the living “flowers” whom we also tend: the women and children living in our houses. The creation of beauty in the garden is symbolic of the re-creation of the lives of our residents.
Gardening also reminds me that God’s seeds, whether in my garden or in my women, always bear fruit.
Back in the 1990’s, when the Wilmington Empowerment Center was known as the Women’s Center, I had just started working for Friendship House. In the basement of St. Andrews’ Church (as it was then known), there was a drop-in center for women. Some of them were “hard core” street women. Some were seeking emergency shelter. Some came for the coffee and community. And then some to use the phone, receive mail or, sometimes, all of the above.
On a book shelf running through the middle of the Center, was a plant (a philodendron), housed in an old plastic food container which was filled with the hardest, driest dirt one could imagine. It was a miracle the poor thing was alive, being in a dark basement, in hard crusty soil, mostly ignored, quietly living its life waiting for someone to give it a bit of water.
It occurred to me how much that little plant was like our clients. They, too, had been abandoned, ignored, waiting for just a bit of attention so they could try to make it one more day on the streets. The tenacity of the philodendron was symbolic of the tenacity of our women who refused to give up or give in. Some were quietly persistent; others were loud and, frankly, obnoxious at times. Mentally ill, drug/alcohol addicted, rambunctious, in need of a shower or quietly hoping for help, our clients came in day after day, year after year. Some of them, over 20 years later, still come in to share their woes and their joys.
Fast forward to 1999 and the purchase of our Lincoln Street property which would become Palmer House, in memory of our friend Rev. Mark Palmer. One day, starting up the front steps, I saw a small petunia growing in a crack in the cement. It had obviously been seeded by a passing bird or a gentle breeze. It seemed to me that this small flower, so vulnerable yet so pretty, was symbolic of the women who lived in those houses: growing up starved, but still growing. Awaiting their chance to blossom.
Since that day, I have noticed more flowers growing in crevices around our properties. Indeed, we even have a thorny old rose bush growing in the wall at the front of Palmer House. It has the most beautiful roses!
As Jesus told the disciples, “Feed my sheep,” I can hear a similar call: “Tend my garden. Be gentle with those who have been mistreated. Give them space to grow and to blossom.”
In response to this call, Friendship House offers beautiful houses, beautiful gardens and a structured program to help women blossom into their truest selves. Some residents take root immediately and thrive, while for others, this is not yet their season. The seeds are planted but not yet ready to bloom. Faith teaches us that the plants will emerge when the time is right, perhaps in a way that we cannot anticipate.
The miracle of Divine Love is that the Creator keeps the garden ready for all of us, waiting for us to find our way home.
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.
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.