Thanks to Calvary I’m finally learning who I really am.
Terri*, a Calvary resident, has reached the other side of a painful past. She suffered trauma as a child, and as an adult experienced physical and mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness. Despite some of these obstacles, Terri maintained a steady job back in her home state. All the while she was dealing with a relationship marred by mental and physical abuse.
After sustaining serious injuries due to physical abuse, one of Terri’s co-workers discovered her, unconscious, in the bathroom at work. She woke up several days later in intensive care. Terri knew she needed a change. While she recovered over the weeks that followed, Terri began imagining a different life for herself. Finally, at the urging of her daughter, she packed a bag and left.
Coming to Calvary was a turning point. “I was so relieved to be here. I knew I could get back on my feet,” she remembered. At Calvary, Terri started talking to a therapist for the first time in her life. “Having a therapist on-site is huge. Not worrying about how to pay…it’s such a blessing. I learned about co-dependency and healthy relationships. I realized I had never healed from my past traumas.” With the additional support of her case manager, Terri is receiving the medical attention she needs to continue stabilizing her health.
Attending Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP) classes has also helped Terri heal. Through LEAP, she learned that writing can be a helpful coping strategy. “I’m healing and learning how to deal with my feelings,” she said.
These days, Terri continues to look forward and plan for her future. Her goal is to finish her undergraduate degree and start a nonprofit organization that serves children and youth. She recently applied for a scholarship to attend a local university.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality.
Calvary is known for its transitional housing programs and services, but we are also proud to help women achieve one of the most significant goals they set for themselves: permanent housing.
Sister Circle was established in 1997 to make permanent housing a reality for homeless women. Some facts about the program:
- When it first began Sister Circle provided housing specifically for women living with HIV/AIDS or those struggling with substance abuse. Today the program maintains a strong commitment to supporting women who are overcoming substance abuse, mental health issues and chronic health problems.
- Sister Circle accommodates 11 women. Some of the women share their space with a roommate who is also in the program, while others live alone.
- In order to be considered for Sister Circle, clients must demonstrate their commitment to sobriety and their ability to live independently.
- There is no expiration date on the housing provided, and living costs are largely covered through the federally-funded Shelter Care Plus program.
- Since 1997, Sister Circle has helped more than 60 women.
Some women who move into Sister Circle units have been homeless for many years. It may have been a long time since they were able to experience the joy of living in their own home and having family members over to stay the night. In their own apartments, they can enjoy the kind of space and freedom that many of us take for granted.
Women in Sister Circle continue to receive long-term support from Calvary. Each resident is assigned to a case manager who provides substance abuse, mental health, medical and employment services. Residents attend Relapse Prevention Group meetings to help them maintain sobriety. They also participate in Life Skills, Education and Arts Program (LEAP) classes, as well as the Nutrition Education Program. A six-week wellness series specifically for women in Sister Circle recently started at Calvary, with sessions covering topics like building healthy relationships and improving self-esteem.
Calvary accepts donations of new and gently used furniture that transform Sister Circle residences into comfortable homes. Please contact Operations Coordinator Janae Detwiler if you are interested in making a donation.
Everyday purchases you make can translate into financial literacy materials, delicious dinners, one-on-one therapy sessions, a green garden and so much more for the residents at Calvary. Giving to an organization that you care about should be easy, and two sites make the process nearly automatic.
Nearly one million charities around the U.S., including Calvary Women’s Services, are registered on AmazonSmile. It is easy to sign up and participate, especially if you already have an Amazon account. By selecting Calvary as your charity of choice, a small percentage of your Amazon purchases will be automatically donated. Just think – you could be buying wedding gifts, books for school, birthday presents or household items and making a contribution to Calvary at the same time.
Another site, Goodsearch, works in a similar way. Just search for and select Calvary Women’s Services as the charitable organization you wish to support. Donations to Calvary will be made when you use Goodsearch as your search engine; when you make purchases at certain online stores; and when you dine at one of the 10,000 restaurants that participate. Every time you use the Goodsearch search engine in your Internet wanderings, Calvary receives a penny. This sounds small, but the long-term results really add up!
There are many ways to donate and provide invaluable resources and support for the women at Calvary. Why not combine charitable giving with something you already do?
Amanda Griesser is the new Communications Associate for Calvary Women’s Services. She started last month and has already been busy writing, editing and tweeting all about Calvary’s work and programs. Get to know Amanda and please welcome her as one of the newest members of Calvary’s staff!
Share a little about yourself!
I have lived in the D.C. area for almost two years after living in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Alabama. I interned in D.C. and Alexandria for two summers while I was in college and could not shake the desire to come back to the area. While in college I majored in English with a concentration in creative writing. I love writing and I’m lucky that I get to do it every day as part of my job.
What is it about Calvary that made you pursue a career here?
Calvary’s mission really stood out to me. I wanted to make a career move to a place that is making a tangible difference. I didn’t know about Calvary or its reputation before I started working here, but after just a few days I could see how meaningful this place is for the women in the community. Applying for the job was a great decision.
Is there something that you are particularly excited to work on at Calvary?
Being in a communications position means I need to keep up with a rapidly changing environment – there are so many tools out there to help us communicate! I’m just excited to try out new ideas that can help convey all the great work that is happening here. I’m also excited to interact with women, learn more about them and share their stories.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love classical music and if I could spend every weekend listening to a live symphony, I would! I also love going to the movies, reading and spending time at the beach when I can.
Chef Lorna is not afraid to experiment and try new things in Calvary’s Good Hope Kitchen. Recently she was inspired to create a variation on a Mexican chicken dish that she ordered at one of her favorite restaurants. It took a few tries to get the recipe just right and make it her own, but the result was worth the trials. One of the secrets, Lorna says, is to punch up the flavor by substituting jasmine rice with Mexican rice, and plum tomatoes with salsa. Residents at Calvary will never be bored at dinnertime as long as Lorna’s flare for experimentation continues!
You can try out this festive and colorful summer dish in your own kitchen. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!
5 chicken breasts
Salt, pepper to taste
5 tsp. garlic powder
2 15 oz. cans black beans
1 tsp. ground cumin
5 tsp. chili powder
4 cups jasmine rice or Mexican rice
2 plum tomatoes
Cilantro to sprinkle on top
Pound the chicken breasts and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Grill the chicken until it is no longer pink in the middle. Allow the chicken to rest before slicing into thin strips.
Drain and rinse the beans and combine with cumin and chili powder in a sauce pan. Mix thoroughly and simmer for 10 minutes.
Prepare the rice according to package directions. For added flavor, prepare 2 cups jasmine rice and 2 cups of Mexican rice and combine.
Dice the tomatoes and arrange them on a plate (you can also use salsa). Add a layer of the rice, followed by a layer of black beans. Squeeze a quarter of a lime over the rice and beans. Add chicken strips on top of the beans. Top with diced tomatoes, a pinch of cilantro and a lime wedge.
If Calvary gave an award for longevity, Cara Morris Stern would definitely be a finalist! Cara has been a supporter of Calvary for over a decade. While her volunteer roles have changed over the years, her commitment has remained steadfast. As an Overnight Volunteer turned Meal Volunteer, Cara has always found a way to jump in. She frequently saves the day when a weekend Meal Volunteer shift needs fast coverage. We are so grateful for Cara’s passion to support the women of Calvary, and we are so lucky to count her among our volunteer family, even after all these years. Thank you, Cara!
Where are you from?
Share a fun fact about yourself!
I think of myself as a really funny person, but I don’t think I have any fun facts. Apparently I’m a walking contradiction.
How did you first hear about Calvary?
I was looking for volunteer opportunities that had non-traditional hours to fit my work schedule. I found Calvary online and started doing overnight shifts, which was perfect for my schedule…until I had kids!
Why do you volunteer at Calvary?
I volunteer at Calvary because I love the holistic approach they take to helping women in a time of need.
What do you like best about your work with Calvary?
I have never met volunteer coordinators who are more dedicated, kind, flexible and hard-working. They make volunteering a joy, not a job.
What has been your most memorable experience at Calvary?
When I first started volunteering, I met a woman who was about to move in to her own home. She was so excited and so thankful to Calvary for giving her that chance. We both cried!
What has surprised you most about volunteering at Calvary?
After making breakfast during my first overnight shift, so many women sincerely thanked me for being there.
What would you tell someone considering getting involved with Calvary?
It doesn’t matter how much time or money you have, Calvary can bring you into the family in a way that fits your life and their needs.
If you had to choose ONE word to describe Calvary, what would it be?
Meal Volunteers such as Cara support the residents at Calvary by serving tasty and nutritious dinners and lunches on the weekends. If you would like to learn more about volunteering at Calvary, please contact Catherine Bisson at email@example.com or (202) 678-2341.
By Jen Van Ness
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness sponsored by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). NAEH is a non-partisan, mission-driven organization on the forefront of providing research and education about what legislators, the public, and service providers need to know about homelessness. They work collaboratively with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build state and local capacity, leading to stronger programs and policies that help communities achieve their goal of ending homelessness.
I attended several workshops that focused on the model of “Employment First,” a practice which argues that most individuals experiencing homelessness want to work and are able to successfully do so with the right supports in place. I was most impressed by a presentation by two researchers from The Heartland Alliance, an organization in Chicago dedicated to returning chronically unemployed Americans back to work. I was pleased to learn they had developed the “Working to End Homelessness Best Practice Series,” an open source resource guide for employment and homeless service providers demonstrating lessons learned from previous initiatives and examples of what works.
A woman experiencing homelessness who earns a decent wage has a source of income and gains work experience to build her resume. Employment also gives individuals the chance to identify work habits that might need some refinement, or soft skills that need to be further developed. Employment also contributes to the reduction in cash assistance received. Finally, helping to place clients in jobs impacts recidivism and allows women to obtain safe, stable housing.
Calvary Women’s Services is supporting the “Employment First” approach by hiring a full-time Career Developer who will oversee our Step Up DC Employment Placement program and work alongside residents to identify their employment needs and strengths. By focusing on their strengths and developing new skills through Step Up DC, residents will be empowered to make important changes in their lives and attain their housing goals while successfully re-entering the workforce.
Jen Van Ness is a case manager at Calvary Women’s Services.