Thank you to all our Winter Holiday Volunteers

volunteer appreciation image2The Winter Holidays can be a daunting time of year where our residents, despite all their hard work and progress feel the pain of their struggles more deeply than usual. Thankfully support from local volunteers helped make the 2015 holiday season a little brighter for our residents.

Every year a number of organizations host drives within their communities to provide needed items for our residents. This year a number of organizations, including Urban Leasing and Realty (ULR), Alpha Chi Omega, Avondale Civic Association, and Elevate all held toiletry drives benefitting The Women’s Home. Full size toiletries are among the most common basic needs of our treatment and transitional residents as well as the tenants of our single bedroom supportive housing facility, Jane Cizik Garden Place. ULR has hosted needs drives for Jane Cizik Garden Place for the last 3 years, helping to stock the complex’s emergency pantries that are on each floor of the three-story community. Alpha Chi Omega has also organized yearly drives supporting The Home for at least a decade every holiday season.
Several organizations this year donated gifts to our residents including American Intercontinental University, Cypress United Methodist Church, West U Rotary Club, and Shany Cosmetics. American Intercontinental University’s Houston campus donated purses they had collected and filled with toiletries for each of our residents. We featured Cypress United Methodist Church last December, for their continued dedication to bringing holiday boot boxes filled to the brim with essentials for our residents for over three decades. These boxes give them everything they need to look and feel their best when they begin their job searches. Each box includes a holiday card, candy can and a hand knit pair of slippers. Shany Cosmetics also helped residents put a little glamour to their look by donating makeup to our treatment and transitional residents. West U Rotary Club ensured our residents’ toes will be warm throughout the winter with their donation of slippers.

Kim Mathes, a member of The Women’s Home Partnership donated her time this New Year’s Eve to our residents. Kim has been one of our regular volunteers supporting our monthly birthday celebrations for our Treatment and Transitional residents. This year she helped them ring in the New Year with a game night at the suggestion of Manager of Residential Services, Nelda Allen. The residents chose Bingo as their game of choice and played for door prize donated to The Home. “Several ladies won bingo more than once and gave their door prize options to the other ladies who had not won. It was great to see the comradery. I admire each one of the women and have seen the wonderful benefits of their hard work and efforts through the program. Everyone affiliated with The Women’s Home is such an inspiration!” Kim said.

Support from these organizations and individuals made an incredible difference in our resident’s winter holiday season. We thank all of you for bringing our residents a little cheer for the end of the year.

Thank you for your support in 2015!

Scrapbook_Thank You scroll work [Converted]For nearly 60 years The Women’s Home has provided women in crisis the safety and support they need to recover and thrive. Without the generous contributions of time, money, and resources from our friends in the Houston community, we would not be able to help hundreds of women change their lives each year. As many of you know in 2016 we will expand our services with two new facilities in Spring Branch, a WholeLife® Service Center and housing for women and their families. These expansions will allow us to serve thousands of vulnerable Houstonians in need of stable housing, physical and mental health care, and education support.

Even as we expand our presence in Spring Branch, we will continue helping women in crisis overcome trauma and adversity to build whole lives in our treatment and transitional housing program in Montrose.

Throughout almost 60 years of operation, The Women’s Home has given thousands of lifetimes the platform to change for the better. Every step of the way, from when our very first resident Mary Brown first came through Mrs. Laura Sampson’s door, to when we first broke ground on our newest facilities in 2015, community support made it happen. We thank all of you for being a part of our friends, family and history and helping to build whole lives here in Houston.

The Women’s Home Weekly Brown Bag Lunch

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We’ve talked before about our weekly brown bag lunches for our treatment and transitional housing residents, where different speakers come share their knowledge and stories. Brown Bag provides individuals and organizations opportunities to share their unique skills and insights with our residents, providing education and inspiration in line with our WholeLife® Program. Here’s some of the incredible groups and speakers we’ve had share their time and stories with our residents recently as well as speakers we’re excited will be coming soon.

The Women’s Fund is a local nonprofit dedicated to providing health education for women and adolescent girls through seminars, classes and publications. Volunteers from The Women’s Fund come the second brown bag of each month to present workshops to our residents. Subjects in their classes include, heart health, exercise, building good nutrition, how to advocate for your health, and keeping track of your medical records.

Lola Clay is a licensed counselor who has trained at the Jung Center here in Houston and received her Ph.D in Jungian Studies from Saybrook University. Jungian psychology, also known as analytical psychology, is based on the research of Carl Jung which emphasizes individualized care to help clients achieve wholeness. Lola Clay spoke at Brown Bag for the first time in August of 2015 and will return in February to speak again.

Linda Lewis has been involved with The Women’s Home for nearly 20 years after being introduced by fellow longtime supporter and member of The Women’s Home Advisory Board, Adele Pieper. She always appreciates any opportunity to work directly with our residents and is impacted by “seeing how their life changes as they work their way through their personal difficulties and regain confidence in who they are.  There is little that separates us, and they remind me how grateful I should be for the blessings in my own life.” January 22, 2016 she will be speaking about the importance of creativity and how each of us is creative in our own way. Linda, who has woven unique cloth for clothing and home décor for over 30 years, found a creative outlet that combines her love of texture and color with working with her hands. “Much of my work is influenced by what I see in nature’s colors and textures which are full of wonder.”

Sahar Pazirandeh, founder of Free Your Star Foundation and author of Find Your Voice, the life you crave is a conversation away, is dedicated to helping others realize their strength and potential. An Iran native, Sahar shared her personal story “of being born in a war, surviving abuse, fighting addictions, and finally finding my voice. I highlighted the reflection of her [the residents’] journey in mine. How our histories don’t need to be anything alike of us to hold each other up as women, as Shero’s (she-roes).”  About The Home and our residents, Sahar said, “It’s a place filled with Shero’s. Almost every woman in The Women’s Home could label herself a victim, instead she has chosen to become the Shero of her story. She has made the choice to be brutally honest with herself on one hand, and completely compassionate on the other. You can’t help but support a woman on this journey. It’s often said, help a woman heal, and she will help an entire community.”

Brown Bag is a fantastic opportunity for anyone seeking to get involved with The Women’s Home who may not have the time to volunteer on a regular basis. We are always looking for more speakers who can share insights and resources relevant to the since tenants of our WholeLife Program: spiritual, mental and emotional, physical, financial, vocational, and social wellness.

If you’re interested in speaking at brown bag, contact Volunteer & Collaborations Coordinator Jenna Jackson at jjackson@thewomenshome.org or 713-568-1356.

Connecting with Spiritual Companions

Search COntinues FinalWe’ve talked before about how The Women’s Home’s impactful spiritual program The Courage to Search’s rousing success led to the development of a follow up program, The Search Continues. The Courage to Search is our 10 week program where interested members of our treatment and transitional program explore and reflect on their spiritual beliefs, solidify their spiritual practices and find a faith home with the guidance of trained volunteers. Development of The Search Continues began after residents who participated in The Courage to Search expressed interest in continuing their spiritual growth in a structured environment.

The goal of The Search Continues is to provide those clients with individual spiritual companions. These are volunteers who have training or extensive background in some faith tradition, and who will meet regularly with clients to discuss their spirituality. Among this first group of spiritual companions are newly involved volunteers as well as returning friends of The Home who have supported our residents’ spiritual growth before. In addition to spiritual companions, The Search Continues will provide clients with ongoing spiritual activities or opportunities in the Houston area, building on The Courage to Search’s field trips to local faith destinations.

Our Search Continues Spiritual companions will undergo orientation at the beginning of January, with the program slated to debut later that month.

Thank you for Having Faith in The Home

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In this season of giving and gratitude, The Women’s Home appreciates the generosity of our supporters throughout the community. When the weather is gray and the winter rains come upon us, being remembered and included brings much needed warmth. This year several congregations have made The Women’s Home a part of their 2015 and 2016 beneficiaries and we wish to express our gratitude. We appreciate the support and faith in our mission and operations.

St. Martin’s Episcopal Church’s mission of outreach is dedicated to modeling the love of Christ through supporting the disadvantaged and underserved through volunteer service and philanthropy. St. Martin’s has supported The Home since 1998 and this year awarded $14,544 in support of our Treatment and Transitional Housing Program’s operations. Director of Outreach Ministries, Cyd Gillette said “St. Martin’s Episcopal Church is grateful for our partnership with The Women’s Home. Working together, our parishioners’ time, talent and treasurers and The Women’s Home staff provide many women a stable home and productive whole lives.” We appreciate St. Martin’s long-standing support of The Home and our operations.

The Women’s Home is one of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church’s nearly 100 local mission partners, who the church supports as a part of their local outreach. This extensive network of community philanthropy is the execution of the third element of the church’s mission statement: Living Generously, which cultivates a culture of giving. Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church has supported the Women’s Home for nearly 15 years and this year donated $13,000 to The Home to support our single bedroom supportive housing community, Jane Cizik Garden Place. While the majority of Jane Cizik Garden Place’s operation costs are covered by residents’ rent, staff salaries are funded through donations. The support of communities like Memorial Drive Presbyterian’s makes a phenomenal impact on our operations at Jane Cizik Garden Place.

Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church’s operations are supported by the congregation members and friends, allowing them to create Share the Plate. Emerson’s Share the Plate program selects one charity each year to receive 25% of each month’s collections, in 2016 this 25% will go to Meals on Wheels. The remaining 75% of the monthly collection goes to a different charity each month. The Women’s Home is honored to be Emerson’s April 2016 Share the Plate recipient. The Women’s Home 2015 President Elect and member of Emerson’s Congregation Karen George says “I am delighted that The Women’s Home was selected for Share the Plate in April 2016.  The work of The Women’s Home puts into action through its WholeLife® program several of the principles of the Unitarian Universalist faith – affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person and promoting justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”

This past November, Memorial Drive United Methodist Church invited The Home’s Manager of Volunteer Services, Chris Hammond, and Cottage Shop Manager, Cheri Barton to speak at their Candlelight Dinner. Cheri is a member of the church’s congregation and was invited to speak by the Director of Singles’ Ministry & Caring Support Ministries, Sheri Kelley after speaking about The Home’s Work. The Candlelight Dinner was a Thanksgiving Event for the singles congregation and attendees were eager to hear about ways to volunteer and donate to The Women’s Home. We look forward to having this new congregation join The Home’s circle of friends.

Pines Presbyterian has supported The Home for nearly 20 years, inviting our directors to speak during their services as a part of their Minute for Mission, where community nonprofits have the opportunity to share their causes. Volunteer groups from Pines Presbyterian have also worked with The Home for a number of years providing much needed support. We appreciate Pine Presbyterian’s long history of supporting The Women’s Home.

Canvas Church Houston is a Montrose congregation founded a few years ago when a group of five friends began envisioning what a new church in Montrose would look like. Canvas created a faith community that focuses on creativity and self-expression as a path to God, while embodying the diversity of Montrose. They’ve brought that passion to The Women’s Home through their volunteer work, both in their monthly volunteering at The Cottage Shop, hosting fundraisers and donation drives, and in leading art instruction projects for our residents. We appreciate Canvas’s generous and creative support of our operations and residents.

St. Philip Presbyterian Church, is another congregation that has supported The Home for nearly two decades. St. Philip is the church home of longtime volunteer and The Women’s Home 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Janet Davis. Janet along with her husband Don, have organized and delivered St. Philip’s monthly donation drives for years. They are also responsible for organizing and delivering Easter boxes every spring as gifts for our residents. In addition to being a dedicated volunteer base for The Home, St. Philip also offers financial support. The Women’s Home is grateful to have such long standing dedicated support from St. Philip Presbyterian Church.

Unity Church of Houston welcomes all faiths in their congregation, placing an emphasis on community and connection. Senior Associate Minister and Choir Director, Reverend Michael Gott was honored alongside his husband, SoK Salon owner, Alden Clark as one of our 2015 WholeLife Luncheon award winners for their support of The Home and our mission. Unity also invited our treatment and transitional housing residents to attend their Blue Christmas service, which is dedicated to giving room for those experiencing hardship during the holiday season to be where they are. We thank Unity for making our residents a part of their community in a time where togetherness is important.

With a Little Help from Our Friends

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The work we do here at The Women’s Home would not be possible without the amazing support of dedicated volunteers in the Houston Community. Volunteers provide support through all aspects of our operations, from helping our special events run smoothly and keeping merchandise moving at The Cottage Shop, to providing job training classes and hosting events for our residents.

On Saturday November 7th the Omega Gamma Zeta (OGZ) Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. Sorority volunteered at The Cottage Shop helping process incoming donations and prepare merchandise for the shop floor. Back in May, OGZ asked a member of our staff to speak at their annual Parade of Salads Luncheon, which focused on the importance of mental health awareness in the community. OGZ has been supporting the Houston community through volunteer work since their founding in August 1990. The Women’s Home is grateful to have OGZ volunteer with us and their help is always welcome.

On Tuesday October 27th our residents’ final awards banquet of the year was hosted by a group of volunteers from the National Charity League-Heart of Texas Chapter—a mother-daughter volunteer organization that first helped out The Home back in March. Organizer Jenny Finch and other representatives from NCL decorated the room with beautiful fresh pumpkins carved into flower vases and warm fall centerpieces for the ceremony. NCL also stocked the dessert table with delicious cakes and cookies, and provided door prizes for the evening along with gifts for our graduating residents. Our quarterly awards banquets are important occasions where residents’ hard efforts are acknowledged and celebrated, and we thank NCL for making this impactful evening all the more beautiful. We’re excited to have NCL return in December to decorate our residential facilities and life learning center for the season.

Interested in volunteering? Contact us at volunteer@thewomenshome.org.

 

The Value of Second Chances

Witnessing the struggles that our residents with criminal records face as they work towards a second chance inspired us to develop and host the Re:Entry Summit this past September. The public’s lack of awareness of the lasting impact criminal records have on individuals makes it difficult for The Women’s Home, and organizations like us, to gain support from our communities for clients confronting this uphill battle. Additionally, many of those leaving the criminal justice system often aren’t informed about the resources available to them upon reentering society.

Three graduates of our treatment and transitional housing program agreed to be panelists in the Re:Entry Summit for exactly these reasons. Tina Carr, Natasha Jones and Anna Rabe all know the value of second chances, and the Re:Entry Summit gave them the opportunity to talk about the impact that a new chance can have while putting a personal face on the issues of reentry. Though their stories are different, all three received their second chance when STAR Court, a diversion court program, offered them the opportunity to come to The Women’s Home as a part of the judicial process. STAR Court offers those facing nonviolent drug convictions the opportunity to enter a treatment program and work to regain their sobriety and independence. Participants that meet STAR Court requirements by the end of their program then have their criminal records expunged, enabling them to move forward with a fresh start.

SONY DSCTina came to The Women’s Home after many encounters with the criminal justice system. “I felt like I was just a number,” she told the summit attendees. “I was called a habitual and was punished rather than provided treatment, which is what I needed.” STAR Court and The Women’s Home served as Tina’s introduction to recovery and life skills, which she embraced whole-heartedly. Today she works for The Harris Center for Mental Health, where she is a certified peer specialist in the Harris County Jail’s Mental Health Unit. “I never imagined that life could be so good. All of my liabilities have been turned into assets,” she says. Tina leads by example, helping those who are struggling the way she once was to believe that recovery is achievable for everyone. “People need a hand up,” she says. “And if we give this to them, we show them that things they did do not define who they are. We give them hope, and therefore they have hope in themselves and share this hope with others.”

Natasha told her story as part of a panel about the narratives of women in prison, but summit attendees had received a preview of her experience via this pre-recorded video that morning.

Natasha participated in the summit in the hope that her “experience and knowledge could help others understand how hard it is for women to get homes and work” after leaving the criminal justice system. Natasha had heard of The Women’s Home and wanted to participate in our program, but it was STAR Court that finally helped her be ready for The Home. “The Women’s Home gave me the support and tools I needed to live a fuller life,” she says. Today, Natasha is a happily married homeowner whose children are again a part of her life. Working as an apartment manager for a complex with a leasing policy that is forgiving to those with criminal histories, Natasha is happy to give others a second chance as well. She provides to her tenants a list of employers with inclusive hiring policies, so any residents seeking better opportunities know what’s available to them.

Anna RabeAnna spoke on a panel about the value of diversion court programs like STAR Court. “I wanted to give some insight into my experience with diversion court,” she says, “and to help paint a picture of the type of person they can help.” She came to The Home when STAR Court gave her the choice: either go through the traditional system or follow their guidelines alongside the structure The Women’s Home provided. “My court program gave me suggestions and held me accountable for [my own] job search,” she says. “The Women’s Home gave me support, therapy, job training, and helped me believe in myself and that I could recreate my life and be the person I set out to be years ago.” Today she is happy and healthy, with loving friends who appreciate who she is. Anna works as an employment professional, connecting those in need with important job opportunities. She adds, “Helping them put food on the table for their families is the best feeling in the world.”

The Women’s Home is grateful for the courage and honesty these three graduates from our program showed by standing up and speaking out at our Re:Entry Summit. By sharing their stories, they put a face to the often unseen and pervasive struggles that those reentering society encounter. They showed everyone attending the summit the value of a second chance.

Connecting with the Community

Small JC3Being connected to the community you live in fosters an important sense of belonging. At our supportive housing facility, Jane Cizik Garden Place (JCGP), events and activities provided by staff and volunteers give residents the chance to socialize. Every month, JCGP hosts at least three events for residents, including the much-loved Ladies’ Night organized by Terrace United Methodist Church, a potluck organized by residents, and an event organized by staff based on resident interest or feedback. These events as well as any others that occur throughout the month are all shared with residents via the monthly newsletter JCGP Sr. Case Manager Ashley Stratton and Case Manager Nena Chima compose and place on residents’ doors at the start of each month.

The newsletter not only covers the events at Jane Cizik Garden Place, but includes resident birthdays for the month and events around the city that are free or low cost. The newsletters also include healthy recipes, a literature spotlight, and a headline story that lines up with national events like Alcohol Awareness month. Resident feedback also plays a role in the featured coverage in the newsletter. For example, a resident came to staff interested in learning ways she could improve her overall wellness, and the following newsletter’s theme was optimum health.

Residents also play an important role in bringing events their neighbors can benefit from to JCGP’s campus. A few months ago, a resident was interested in participating in
, a program that helps eligible employed individuals and families with a flawed or no credit history secure and pay off a loan for a car. Ways to Work requires participants go through a one-time orientation before they provide one on one consultation services to secure a loan and support services. The interested resident asked Ways to Work to host the orientation at Jane Cizik Garden Place, allowing her and nine other residents to participate.

Another resident brought nutrition classes to JCGP when she heard her doctor’s office was offering them in the community. Other events that residents initiated have been a community-wide garage sale, and next month the opportunity for free haircuts. Knowing their suggestions effect the events and calendar each month, and hearing positive feedback from their neighbors, ensures that residents feel like they have a positive impact on their community.

The events that residents most appreciate most are ones that provide enrichment and skills they can apply in their lives. Popular classes include a financial boot camp put on by Easter Seals that teaches residents important budgeting, credit, and financial literacy skills. On a different track on Friday, October 16th a make-up artist came and gave residents styling and beauty advice. Events on site at Jane Cizik Garden Place allow all residents, even those with limited time, money or mobility, the opportunity to connect and feel a part of their residential community. One of the newer residents told case managers that the events at JCGP make her feel like “she belongs and that she’s involved.”

ExxonMobil Makes an Impact

Impact Day COllage smallExxon Mobil Impact day was Tuesday October 20, 2015 and 40 volunteers from ExxonMobil’s Fuels, Lubes, Corporate Global Services Company (FLCG) Procurement Team took over The Cottage Shop to give the store a boost inside and out! The Shop was closed for the day as volunteers rolled up their sleeves and gave the walls a fresh coat of paint, including our fitting rooms and their doors, installed 31 new shelves for our shoe displays, and laid gravel beside our bushes along Westheimer.

Volunteers were also busy down in the basement, helping us sort through the major treasure trove of clothing, shoes, jewelry and other accessories generously donated by a boutique. Their help processing all this merchandise was integral to getting the new goods out on the floor for our shoppers to enjoy!

This day of giving back is a part of Exxon Mobil’s Impact Day, formerly called Day of Caring, with United Way. With over 10,500 volunteers this year, Impact Day projects through United Way give corporations the opportunity to give back and support the needs of local nonprofits. ExxonMobil’s FLCG Team Procurement Associate Spencer Hutchings said they selected The Women’s Home as beneficiaries “based on the upstanding work The Home does and the values that it holds.”

The Women’s Home is grateful to ExxonMobil’s FLCG Procurement Team for their hard work and enthusiasm!

The Cottage Shop Goes Vintage

Vintage TCS FestivalOn the sunny Saturday of September 19th, The Women’s Home Cottage Shop joined 39 other vendors of vintage and antique goods for the Houston Vintage Festival. Hosted in the spacious and repurposed air hangar of the 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby Airport, the festival brought together lovers of vintage goods, fashion and beauty with pop up vendors, a retro beauty contest and eats from local food trucks. The Cottage Shop was connected to Festival organizers by friend of The Home and Ms. Houston Vintage Judge, Tina Zulu, owner of Zulu Creative. The Festival’s organizers, Dawn Bell, Diana Candida, Maria Martinez, and Mitch Cohen generously donated a booth space to The Cottage Shop after hearing about the vital role The Shop plays in supporting our programs through revenue, and providing job training to our residents.

The Cottage Shop team split up to keep our shop open as usual while Cottage ShopVintage TCS Manager Cheri Barton and Cottage Shop Associate Gustavo Vila packed up Shop’s vintage collection of clothing, hats, jewelry and other accessories to sell at the festival. Over the course of the day, The Cottage Shop team met several new customers and reconnected with patrons who hadn’t visited in a while. By all accounts, customers were impressed with how the Shop has grown. By the end of the festival, the pop up vintage boutique gave us great exposure for our mission, the shop’s vintage section and a little added financial support.

We’re thrilled to have been a part of the Houston Vintage Festival’s stylish look back. Thank you again to the organizers Dawn, Diana, Maria and Mitch for inviting us to be a part of the festivities!