Volunteer of the year

Volunteer of the year

Tonight is the third annual edition of The Homeless Monologues, at the Goodman Theater, in Chicago. This story shows how with a little help, you can overcome a terrible situation and come away with enough gratitude that you want to help others avoid what you went through.

This is my trophy. Look at how shiny it is. I keep the glass nice and clean. It’s for volunteer of the year. I’m so proud. I’l tell you more about it later.

Here’s a little bit about me:
I grew up in the north burbs. My high school is closed. Doesn’t exist anymore. I went to college at Roosevelt downtown. I have a degree in business administration. My parents passed a long time ago. I have a younger sister. We don’t talk anymore…estranged. It happens. I have a younger brother, too. He lives with his partner in Indiana. I admit I didn’t see that one coming. It took some time to get used to it and accept it. But all is good now. We’re good.

I met my husband on a blind date. One of my former bosses set us up. It seemed strange, but whatever works. We hit it off from the start. The date lasted for hours. It would have gone longer, but we both had to go to work the next day. Four days after that meeting, his father died. I was there to support him and help him grieve. I had some of my own grieving to get through. We went to the lake to looked at the water. We were screaming and crying together at our losses. We’ve been together ever since. Twenty-six years…married for twenty-four. It’s been far from an easy life, but we’re together forever.

Our life took a big downward turn in 2012. My husband had trouble keeping a job. We called it the job of the month club. I had a steady job, but then my company decided to move to Florida. We would have gone with them, but they wouldn’t offer any relocation money to help us move. They also wouldn’t guarantee me my job if we got there. They did offer a severance package so I took that. Along with unemployment insurance, we were okay…until we weren’t. Until the money the ran out.

We ended up at a homeless shelter. It wasn’t good. They had triple bunk beds. One on top of another and then another. You have to see that to believe it. We were there for a year. Then it was on to another shelter…and another…and another. Four years of living in homeless shelters. So many shelters that I’ve lost track of the number. In the meantime, my husband was having health problems. Our situation wasn’t good. It was getting desperate.

Then I found a shelter in Lincoln Park. I had lost all confidence in myself. They took me in and built me back up. I found a new family. I had a weekly meeting with my case manager. No where else did that happen. You were lucky to see someone once a month. He was helping me with housing and some of my other problems. And he was following up. If one thing didn’t work, he had ideas on trying something different. I was only there four months but that time made me whole again. I was getting back to being myself.

I found housing. I moved into an SRO. It was exciting to be on my own, but it didn’t work out. The place was noisy and dirty with bed bugs. I moved to another place…another SRO. Not great, but much better than the first one. Things are better now. I’m in senior housing. I have my own apartment. Finally, a place of my own. Life isn’t perfect…it never is. My husband still has some health issues, but we’re dealing with it. At least we aren’t going from shelter to shelter to shelter to SRO. I’m thankful we’re getting through this. I’m thankful for what we have.

Oh yeah, that trophy I showed you…you didn’t think I forgot about that, did you? I wanted to show how thankful I am for the help I received. I wanted to give back. I wanted to stay a part of the community. I started to volunteer. You can usually find me at the front desk. I answer the phone and let people into the building. On Saturdays, I’m the overnight volunteer. I’m the one they go to in case someone needs something in the middle of the night. Plus, it makes it easy to just walk up the stairs to go to church on Sunday morning.

And for that they gave me this award. I’m the shelter’s Volunteer of the Year. Who could have seen that when we moved into our first shelter all those years ago. Look at this! It’s so shiny!

Related Post: They were more than just a pair of glasses

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    Howard Moore

    Every five years or so I decide to update this section. I can't believe I've been doing this for close to ten years. The last time I did this I was close to sixty years old. Now I'm just a few months away from the big 7-ZERO. Scary AF!!! I'm pretty sure I won't be doing an update when I hit 80, but you never know. But until then, lets just be grateful.

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