Corner of Hope
Read the stories of some of the women Opening Doors has helped.
I can still remember when I came to the Maria House when I was beginning the slow scary process of rebuilding my life. Where do I start? How do I ever reclaim what I allowed myself to lose? Then I was accepted to the Maria House. I came there at the lowest point in my life. I had been in trouble with the law due to my drug use, and had temporarily lost my daughter. I was scared and alone.
The Maria House gave me the courage I so desperately needed to start over, and the support to maintain my sobriety. With the encouragement of the staff and other residents, I began to believe I could become the person I needed to be – not only for my daughter – but for myself. The support system I found at the Maria House was crucial in my recovery, as I, like most addicts, had burned all the bridges I had with family and friends. From the one-on-one meetings with staff, to the weekly outings with just the ladies, I was able to reconnect with the life I had let go of. I am still in contact with many of the staff yet today, and this has been an invaluable asset to me. I think that what sticks out in my mind the most is that I was always treated with respect by people that truly care.
While at the Maria House, I was able to get full custody back of my daughter. I was at the Maria House for almost exactly one year. I was so nervous when I had an opportunity to move out on my own. I did though, and with the support of the after-care program that the Maria House offers, the transition went well for me. It is hard for me to express just how much the Maria House has meant to me and my daughter. I do not believe I would be here if I had not had the opportunity to go there. I may have given up and lost my daughter permanently. Now I have been clean for almost six years, and I will be graduating from the University of Dubuque this May with my bachelors’ degree. All of these things that were goals for me have been made reality by the great staff and services at the Maria House.
When I arrived at the Teresa Shelter I had lost custody of my son due to the place I was staying and the people I was living with. When I moved into the shelter I was scared and felt alone, but after awhile I started to trust the staff and started to set goals for myself. With the help of the shelter and staff, I was able to start visits and overnights with my son. It was a lot to handle trying to complete goals, work to obtaining my GED, going to all my appointments and meetings, job searching, and making sure I got to visit with my son; but with the help from staff at Teresa Shelter I felt supported and empowered.
My ability to do well at Teresa Shelter helped me transition to the Maria House. Since I have resided at the Maria House I have been able to obtain and maintain a stable job, and I also obtained custody of my son, Joshua.
With the help of both the Teresa Shelter and Maria House I know I can do anything if I just stay positive and put my mind to it. So I just want to thank all the staff members from both programs for everything. With you having “Open Doors” there is hope for everyone who enters the programs.
At Opening Doors we work with our mothers every day to teach them vital parenting and life skills that will help their children to have a bright future. Many of our residents have not had a supportive family network to teach them how to be self-sufficient for themselves and for their children. When you make a tax-deductible gift to Opening Doors, your donation will help our mothers learn the skills that will help them be the best mother that they can be.
The Maria House and Teresa Shelter has been very helpful for me. I have never been on my own. Living here, first at the Teresa Shelter and then transitioning to the Maria House, has taught me so much. All of the skills and information I have gained during my time spent in these programs will be helpful when I have my own place.
The program has also given me and my children somewhere to call home that is stable, safe, and comfortable. The program gives me and the other residents responsibility, as we follow a set routine and structure. For example, everyone follows a set supper time, bed time for children, and we all have a curfew. This helps me create a routine so when I have my own place I will already have a schedule with my children and the transition will be easier for my whole family.
I have also learned more about parenting such as, being more patient with my two year old son and utilizing a time out tool called “1-2-3 Magic” with him. He has been testing the limits since his sister was born in early March, but with the help of Maria House and Teresa Shelter, I was prepared for welcoming my child into the world and transitioning my son as well.
My name is Dawn, and I reside at the Teresa Shelter. I’ve been staying at the shelter since the end of April. Before arriving here, I was at MECCA which is a rehabilitation center for drug abuse. I have battled an addiction with Meth for 20 years. With the support of MECCA and the Teresa Shelter, I have successfully been sober for 4 months.
MECCA was my starting point for becoming sober. The first two weeks were the hardest for me, but in those weeks I realized there were people at MECCA to support and help me on my road to recovery. I was given the tools to handle my emotions and future situations I may run in to. This was about the time I was going to be coming to the Teresa Shelter.
When I was dropped off at the Teresa Shelter, I felt like I was abandoned by all of my family. That was one of the worst feelings I have ever had. After a week of being at the shelter, I realized I needed the stability, support, and structure to succeed in my life. Struggling with my addiction, signing up for school, and getting a job are something I couldn’t do on my own and the staff at the Teresa Shelter were more than willing to guide me in the right direction. After being in transitional for two months, signing up for school and continuing my sobriety are my main achievements. My relationship with my family has grown tremendously since being at the shelter. Getting a job is a huge struggle and after putting in over 20 applications and not getting a call back is very discouraging. I am not the same person I used to be and I deserve a second chance to change my life around.
With the help of the Teresa Shelter and my family, I hope that one day I will obtain a job in web design or tech support. Remaining sober and continuing on a positive path will help make my dreams come true!
My name is Shannon Morrison; I am a 33-year-old woman currently residing at the Teresa Shelter in their transitional program. Let me tell you a little about my life and what brought me to the Shelter.
Previously, I had been living with my parents. Our relationship was strained and I suddenly found myself with nowhere to live during the cold month of November. For two days I walked the streets of Dubuque; cold and afraid. During the night I slept in Jackson Park. Without a winter coat, my hooded sweatshirt was no defense against the unforgiving chill. After those two days, I sought help by calling the Teresa Shelter Director. I was asked to come in immediately and placed into emergency shelter for 21 days. I then applied and was accepted into their transitional (up to two-year) program.
Once settled in at the Shelter, I spoke with Jessica, the Program Coordinator, and told her I was in need of a winter coat. Working at Long John Silvers, means I generally have to walk the 5.5 miles home from work. Jessica and I both looked into all the local resources available for winter clothing and came up empty. She had my coat size and said she would continue to try to figure something out.
Unbeknownst to me, a Reverend from St. John’s Episcopal Church of Dubuque had held an underwear drive for all of us living at the Shelter. When dropping off these items, Jessica spoke with her about my situation and asked for any suggestions she may have. The Reverend told Jessica she would try to figure something out for me. I came home from work late one evening, bitterly cold from my nightly December walk, to find the gift of a brand new winter coat, my size, waiting for me!
This gift was coming from this woman I had never met. She didn’t know my name or my face, just my story. A week later, I returned from another late night shift, to find that this kind and generous woman had donated a pair of winter boots, a hat, and mittens–for me yet again! I was speechless and felt as if Christmas had come weeks early this year… A Christmas I wasn’t expecting at all.
My story doesn’t stop there. My anticipation toward a Christmas Eve family gathering proved to be disappointing, I returned to the Shelter very dispirited. I must have been wearing my feelings on my face, because one of the Teresa Shelter staff decided to take the opportunity to break some good news to me; someone had donated Christmas gifts especially for me. By this time, I knew who this “someone” was: not by name, but by the many acts of kindness she had already gifted to me. I was later informed it was “Reverend Diane” of St. John’s Episcopal Church and another woman of the church community, for whom I never learned a name.
I owe such a big “thank you” to these two women; my walks from work have not only been blessed with the warmth of this coat, but I am comforted knowing there are people like them in this world. With the guidance and support of the transitional program and Teresa Shelter staff, I am working hard at moving forward and reaching goals to transition into a better life. I only hope to pay such an unforgettable act of kindness forward someday.
One of the highlights of Opening Doors 9th annual “Attitude of Gratitude” event was keynote speaker Cathy Kelley, who spoke of her life since her successful departure from Maria House. The audience was riveted as she spoke of her journey from not knowing what the next day would bring for her family to being gainfully employed. Cathy says, “My experience at the Maria House gave me the courage to take control of my life for myself and two children still at home. I now work full time at ARC and part time at Teresa Shelter. Balancing two jobs is challenging but it gives me great pride every day and I thank the wonderful staff at Opening Doors for helping me to achieve my dreams.”
Pictured here: Cathy takes the podium for her keynote address to 366 “Attitude of Gratitude” attendees.