Monday, May 3, 2010

A Tug at My Heart by Debi Jo Wheatley

My first glimpse of the Alternative House shelter was attending an Open Door at the House event to learn more about the organization. What struck me most is how hard everyone has to work to keep the place together for the teens. They are in constant need of new bedding for incoming teens, walls need to be repaired and painted, plumbing and a roof may need to be replaced. What could I do to help make the place just a little brighter?
As part of my design work, I also paint and thought maybe I could bring some brightness to the shelter. The brightness was brought to me. As I painted in the kitchen and day room, the kids who were in attendance were so welcoming even in the midst of their problems----problems that they shouldn’t have to face at their young age.
One young lady in particular tugged at my heart. I was finishing some work on a piece that I had started, and she was in the day room on the phone talking with a family member. When she got off, she came my way to see what I was doing. When I engaged her in conversation she harshly stated that she’d been in the system a long time and just wanted to have a steady place to live. The more we sat and spoke, the hard shell cracked open, and she was a fun, vibrant 14 year old, ready to learn what her future might bring.
When she went upstairs to do her homework, she asked me to please let her know when I was leaving so that I could say goodbye to her. It made me realize that there were probably many times in her life that someone left without a goodbye. So, I made sure to say goodbye. I told my husband about this encounter with tears.
Since then, I was asked to serve on the board of directors for Alternative House, a very proud moment for me. Teens have so many issues facing them these days, and to confront homelessness or futility in their daily lives shouldn’t be one of them. What Alternative House brings to these kids is a chance that they might otherwise not have either through the Emergency Shelter for Teens, the Assisting Young Mothers program or the Culmore Teen Center.
I know I will be a proud supporter of Alternative House for a very long time.

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