Supporting Good Nutrition from the Ground Up: Our Kitchen Gets a Lift

kitchen remodel Sept 14

A kitchen is a place of gathering and sustenance in many homes, whether for a quick bite over the sink on a day running late, or for a celebratory meal that carries into the evening. The kitchen at our 26 bed dormitory is no different. Good nutrition and healthy balanced meals are an important part of recovery, which is why we employ a fulltime cook, Renella Wilson, as well as a dietician, Shaynee Roper, who work in tandem to provide three wholesome daily meals to our clients. For some of our residents, their situations have kept them from adequate nutrition for years before coming to our program. The care and effort of our chef and dietitian help restore their nutritional health, but a chef with an outdated kitchen faces a higher challenge.

The commercial kitchen in our dormitory had not been updated since its installation in the early 1990’s and needed to be brought up to date and standard. This meant completely gutting the existing kitchen. Some of the installments, like the walk in refrigerator and freezer were brand new additions built from scratch, others like the stove top and hood, flooring, and cabinets, were completely torn out and rebuilt to better aid our cook in feeding our residents. Throughout all of September and into the first two weeks of October, The Women’s Home’s residential kitchen was closed for much needed updating and renovations. It reopened reborn with new fixtures, appliances and storage.

These renovations were made possible with help from foundations, several organizations, and committed volunteers. Corporate chef and kitchen equipment specialist Neil Doherty created our new kitchen’s layout after doing a walk through tour of our transitional housing facility’s commercial kitchen. Neil is the chief corporate chef for Sysco’s Houston based international headquarters. Sysco, is the preeminent international commercial food supplier to the hospitality industry and connected us with equipment vendors best suited to our needs. A $75,000 grant we secured from The Vale-Asche Foundation provided for the purchase of all new appliances and fixtures. A $10,000 donation from HomeAid completed the renovations.  After the renovations completion Chef Neil trained our cook to use this state of the art equipment to serve our residents to the fullest with the new space. Art Chavez, a senior principal at the Houston branch of architecture firm Page, provided the plans necessary for securing our building permits.

In the month and a half the kitchen was closed for renovations, we turned to local restaurants to help feed our residents with our 30 Meals, 30 Nights campaign. Restaurants throughout the neighborhood contributed healthy full dinners for our thirty residents in the dormitories, making the wait for the new kitchen’s completion a little smoother.

Honoring a Top Achievement

Top Achiever Oct 14

Laura Fowler (left) with Coalition for the Homeless CEO, Marilyn Brown (center) and the Male Achiever of the Year Steven Marshall (right)

 

Established in 1982, the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston is dedicated to coordinating community efforts to prevent and end Houston Homelessness. October 10 marked World Homeless Day and the Coalition used this day of awareness to acknowledge the progress and hard work of organizations and individuals in the Houston community. This year there were nine nomination categories. The Achiever of the Year Award recognizes two formerly homeless members of the community who have overcome significant barriers to achieve a self-sufficient and positive lifestyle. Laura Fowler, a 2011 graduate from The Women’s Home’s transitional housing program, became The Coalition’s 2014 Achiever of the Year Award Winner.

A former naval officer with two daughters, Laura came to The Home in 2010, after her alcoholism had taken over her life, alienating her from family and leaving her homeless. Laura began attending Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings, and was encouraged by a graduate of The Home to seek help here. Through her work with staff in our WholeLife™ Program, Laura was able to face the pain from the loss of her mother when she was nine. Coming to terms with this loss that played a large role in her depression and alcoholism through counseling and her grief group allowed Laura to begin living instead of merely surviving.

With the training she received in our vocational program, Laura secured a cashier’s position at H-E-B in October 2011 and was soon promoted to Assistant Service Manager and assigned as the Veterans Reception Coordinator. In February 2013, she was named Partner of the month and then in March received H-E-B’s 2013 Woman of Distinction Award. As her professional life flourishes, so does Laura’s personal life. She is an active member of AA with a new mentor, she also participated in her work’s “Fully Fit” program, leading her to quit smoking after 20 years. Laura has reconnected with her family and daughters, rebuilding relationships she previously believed beyond repair. She also has new love in her life, after recently marrying. Laura’s hard work and progress rightly earned her the status of Achiever of the Year from the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston.

Congratulations to Laura Fowler, The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston’s 2014 Achiever of the Year. May you continue to thrive through your hard work to live a happy, healthy whole life.

Executive Moms Connect with The Women’s Home

The Executive Mom’s Society (EMS), a new group aimed at enhancing the lives of working mothers, gathered at the Women’s Home one Wednesday for an exciting day of networking and self-improvement. September 10, The Women’s Home was proud to partner with The Executive Mom’s Society for its monthly meet and greet luncheon.

At least 30 EMS members enjoyed a catered lunch and a motivational talk titled “From Tired to Inspired Executive Mom: How to Find Balance and Order When your Life Feels Like Chaos.”  Mom, Coach, and incoming EMS President Elizabeth Barbour engaged these savvy moms with her wit, humor, and insightful pep talk about the do’s and don’ts on gaining inspiration.  EMS members also learned more about The Women’s Home and the amazing work we do here. Some members were so inspired they signed up to come speak at our weekly client Brown Bag lunches.

The Women’s Home salutes the Executive Moms Society for its efforts in uniting working Houston area Moms to support and network with each other! Your group can visit us anytime! Our doors are always welcome to you!

Healing Hands, Helping Hands

Steve Curly Oct 14

You may have noticed there have been some big changes in The Cottage Shop recently, many of those are thanks to the volunteer efforts of Dr. Steven Curley and his wife, Natalie. Steven heard about The Women’s Home through one of our other volunteers, Frandale Johnson, who’s a friend of Natalie’s.

A surgeon for over 25 years, Dr. Curley’s expertise focuses on treating patients with cancer focused on the liver and bile ducts. In addition to his surgical work, he teaches at the Baylor College of Medicine and heads a laboratory focused on researching less toxic treatments for cancer patients. Steven became driven to research and improve quality of treatment for cancer patients when his 18 year old cousin lost her battle to cancer while he was still a surgical resident. After witnessing the emotional and physical impact on his cousin as well as their family, Steven felt compelled to do better for those facing cancer.

Dr. Curley was drawn to The Women’s Home’s work when he recognized our own dedication to improving the lives of those facing hardships. Naturally a hands on sort of person, Steven set to work building The Cottage Shop new displays and assembling additional racks for the shop. Steven also had new carpet installed for the boutique section of The Shop, to better emphasize our stock of high fashion merchandise. A surgeon by profession and a carpenter recreationally, Steven enjoys the immediate results that come from building something with his own hands. “It’s gratifying to actually build, repair, or paint something that has an immediate impact in improving appearance and functions in the shop!”

For the outside of The Cottage Shop the Curley’s commissioned artist Homer Allen, a former billboard painter turned full-time artist, to create two outdoor art installations for the front and back walls of the shop. The first of the paintings depicts twin monarch butterflies arising from the petals of yellow, orange, and crimson chrysanthemums. The 8 foot by 8 foot canvas was installed September 20 on the front of The Shop. The second piece is set for installation in late October.

The Curley’s efforts included not only physical improvements, but analytical ones as well. They compiled data on The Shop’s customers and conducted data survey of The Shop’s sales rates alongside several of our sister resale and thrift shops in the Montrose area. They also analyzed how the neighborhood’s demographics have changed in recent years and how better to serve their shopping interests. They used the results to create recommendations on how The Cottage Shop can better serve our customers, so we can continue to support our work with Houston women.

Balancing the Books: The Women’s Resource teaches our Residents Financial Literacy

Women's Resource Oct 14

The Women’s Resource Volunteer educators Inez Mendez (left) and Angela Torres (right)

On the journey to a whole life, our residents learn balance in all things including their finances. Women who live within limited means like many of our residents, often do not have the opportunity of a financial education. The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston, one of the city’s leading financial literacy organizations, like The Women’s Home is dedicated to helping women and girls in need.

The Women’s Resource is a local Houston nonprofit which provides free financial literacy classes and after school programs to low income Houston women and at-risk high school girls.  The Women’s Resource offers its adult education classes at over 40 partner locations, offering free financial literacy training to women throughout Houston. The Women’s Resource empowers women to control their fiscal independence, avoid new debts, and manage existing ones. The Women’s Resource’s after school program, Project LEAD, offers a 10 week curriculum to 200 high school girls throughout Houston. Project LEAD, based on the study of successful women’s educations, actively works to keep at risk students in school and teach them vital financial skills. Additionally, The Women’s Resource partners with local colleges, universities and researchers to study the impact of financial literacy on Houston women and families.

“Our hope is that the classes will help participants enhance their money skills, create positive banking relationships, build financial knowledge, develop financial confidence, use banking services effectively and make sound financial decisions.”

Kelly Keith, the Program Manager at The Women’s Resource

The Women’s Resource has partnered with The Women’s Home since 2009. This September marked the beginning of an 11 week series of courses ranging from the basics of money and savings to smart credit usage. The Women’s Resource worked with our Manager of Case Management, Ana Hernandez to select the most beneficial courses for our residents. The courses will help our residents develop a full range of financial skills, including planning a budget, developing a financial plan for all stages of life, managing income and expenses, how to manage debt, smart credit usage, and how to evaluate insurance coverage.

These courses are the first opportunity some of our residents have had for a financial education. This access to financial education empowers our residents to build stable healthy bank accounts and investments, creating a strong financial foundation to support their futures.