Hear from our clients and program participants:
Learning to Stand
by Stephanie McDonald, FSS participant
Featured in Olive Branch volume 7, May 2011.
Imagine, Believe, Achieve Through Courage
A reflection on participating in Project RUTH
Anonymous – October 2010
Hear from our interns:
Reaching Goals Together
By Davina McPheron
Penn State – Shenango Campus, Human Development and Family Services
FSS Intern for Spring 2012
A Family Mission
By Kristan Carroll
Penn State – Shenango Campus, Human Development and Family Services
FSS Intern for Fall/Winter 2011
My Internship Experience
By Cierra Harrison
FSS Intern for Fall/Winter 2010
Learning to StandBy Stephanie McDonald, FSS participant
I am a 48 year old woman who became homeless in 2007 after quitting my job at a local doctor’s office. I was evicted and had to move in with my adult daughter and her family for a year, for which I was very grateful. I sent out resume after resume, but my job hunting landed me nothing. The depression, which I had most of my life, got worse.
I applied for the Project RUTH program at Prince of Peace, and weeks later I was accepted. I entered the house on 3rd Avenue and it felt like home. Now, after one and a half years in the RUTH program, I will be moving into my own apartment and switching to the Center’s HOPE program.
I lived a life of mental, physical, and sexual abuse until my early 30s, when I brought myself and my three children here to the Aware Shelter. I always thought of myself as a victim who pitied herself a lot. This program has taught me to stand on my own two feet that God gave me. They gave me support where and when I needed it, and I am now a survivor.
I fought alcoholism most of my life, which I used to numb all the pain, guilt, and shame I felt. Today I am clean and sober, taking it one day at a time. I’ve learned to let go of resentments and ill will against others, and now I am free! I am so grateful to everyone associated with Project RUTH, HOPE Advocacy, and Prince of Peace; I will carry a special piece of all of them with me. I can finally stand up and be strong, and know who I am, and love that person today.
Imagine, Believe, Achieve Through Courage
A Reflection on Participating in Project RUTHAnonymous (October 2010)
I am a student at Laurel Technical Institute. In January of 2011 I will graduate with an associate’s degree in Office Administration. I was in Project RUTH for one year. It is an honor for me to share my experiences as part of the program. I would like to thank the staff for giving me this opportunity. Project RUTH helped me set and achieve goals for myself. With help from Candace and Natalie, I reached many goals on my list, including enrolling in school again, getting a vehicle, and paying off some fines. Through the program I was also able to achieve the ultimate goal: independent housing.
When I first entered the program I was unsure of what kind of help I was going to receive. I was reluctant to share information about my past and myself, and hesitant at the idea of taking the next step in my life, whatever that turned out to be. My experience with the Project RUTH staff taught me to open up to them, to share my thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Natalie and Candace showed me that they aren’t just employees at the Prince of Peace Center; they are women who have a true passion for helping the homeless and helpless. They and the program provided a level playing field, allowing them to understand me better as a person, instead of a number or a statistic. They showed me love – even tough love, when necessary. The program went above and beyond what I expected, making sure my needs were met so that my focus could move forward.
I am so grateful to have met these women, and to have had the opportunity to participate in Project RUTH. Even though I am out of the program now, I am still involved and try to be a part of RUTH activities whenever I can. The program staff members continue to reach out to me, proving that they care enough to ensure that I know I am not alone as I continue on my journey. A helping hand is always extended for me, whenever I may need it.
I want to encourage everyone not to give up. This program exists to help people in situations like mine. The staff asks questions, even tough questions, because they need to know how best to help, and being reluctant like I was will only hinder that process. One thing I learned from attending Project RUTH support groups was that the healing begins with you. It’s okay to think of only you, or you and your children, even if it might seem selfish. Sometimes, even if you want someone special to walk beside you on your journey, it feels like you are walking all alone. It’s okay to walk alone for a while, until you find, for yourself, what you want out of life and what path you should be on.
What I have learned from being a part of Project RUTH is this: Make goals. Try your hardest at everything you do. Most importantly, never stop believing in yourself. Life isn’t handed to any of us on a silver platter. It might look that way sometimes, but trust me, even the people who look like they have an easy life have obstacles. Their problems are just different, defined by different trials that are specific to their lives. Everyone goes through rough things in life. All you can determine is how you handle the situation, and whether you make the right choices to get to the outcome that is best for you.
Reaching Goals TogetherBy Davina McPheron, FSS Intern
I didn’t quite know what to expect starting my internship with the Prince of Peace Center. I didn’t really know very much about homelessness, and I wasn’t sure about what I would get out of working with this population because I had intended on working with children. I decided the Prince of Peace was right for my internship after listening to a presentation Lisa Huffman, and Brandi Kirby gave at Penn State. After hearing what the agency was about, what they do for the community, and Brandi’s story I immediately called Natalie to see if I would be able to do my internship with the Prince of Peace. I am so glad I did because I couldn’t have asked for a better internship.
I learned more than I expected. I learned so much not only from the case managers, but also from the clients we worked with. My favorite part about my internship was the support groups, and sitting in on the interviews. I really enjoyed listening to the stories of how the clients got to where they were to be homeless, and their goals to get them where they want to go. My first support group that I was involved in was the life maps group. I found it amazing that the clients were willing to open up and share their story, and I enjoyed seeing them support each other. At the Prince of Peace you aren’t just another client, you become part of their family and I really think that’s special.
By interning at the Prince of Peace I am confident going out into the social work field with what I have learned. They were willing to answer any questions that I had and made every effort possible to teach me the skills I would need to know when starting my new job. I am forever thankful for Natalie Higbee, Joe Flecher, Jenn Flaherty, Lisa McCoy, and Lisa Huffman for taking the time to teach me the skills to become an effective and confident social worker.
A Family MissionBy Kristan Carroll, FSS intern
I completed the 480 hours required for my internship at Prince of Peace Center and have gained much more than I could have ever imagined. I came into this experience nervous, not expecting to have gained so much, or to have enjoyed myself so thoroughly. Prince of Peace Center is so much more than a thrift store or soup kitchen. They offer a wide variety of services that many, I’m willing to bet, are quite unaware of. The Family Supportive Services (FSS) department maintains Project RUTH and HOPE Advocacy. Through these programs clients work with their case managers to obtain/maintain permanent housing, as well as build self- esteem, and become self-sufficient while learning basic life skills. These programs changes lives. I’ve seen it personally, and it’s quite a blessing to have experienced it.
The Center offers emergency services through various funding sources to provide food, clothing, money for delinquent bills, furniture, and AWESOME classes again focusing on life skills. All of these programs provide team work necessary to get the job done daily. I have come to learn over a period of time that the mission is so much more than its exterior. The true compassion found in those that work here immeasurable. Everyone is like family, and they are all here for the most common purpose; helping to provide the most basic needs for those in need.
Since my start in August I have come to change my perception of homelessness. It has come through not only my experience with the population and client’s but due to three women whose passion for helping others surpasses what is required from them, but above and beyond. They don’t treat those that they help as clients, but build support systems for those that don’t’ have them. They step into their client’s lives as family, participating in life changing events such as weddings, graduations, and the births of babies. But more importantly they are there to help you when you are at your lowest, and provide the tools to help you succeed. The homeless are everywhere and the people that you would least expect them to be. I think the biggest lesson that I have learned is that homelessness can happen to anyone.
When I initially sat with Natalie to discuss my objectives and goals during my internship, I wasn’t prepared to achieve them all. Networking was one of my top priorities. Since I have no experience in the field I wanted to become aware of the agencies that were available within the community that I live in and what it is that they did. I accomplished this by attending several meeting throughout the last months, as well as attended presentations, and coordinated events with other agencies. I also wanted to be involved as much as possible with my intern. This has been the most exciting aspect of my venture. Not only have I gotten to participate in the decision making, but have also contributed my own ideas. I have helped with the Homeless walk, introduced Diane Nilan at her presentation at Penn State, have done two radio shows, created a craft for our Thanksgiving Dinner, and explained Project RUTH and HOPE Advocacy to a potential client during an interview just to name a few.
During my journey I have come to realize that by no means is it easy to run an agency or in the case of Prince of Peace Center, a mission. So much money is necessary in order to run such an operation. HUD and other grants are incorporated in helping the mission, but the majority of funding comes from donations of those that believe in what the Center does. Organization and financial prudence are highly important. Something that I have come to the conclusion about, and this was during a staff meeting, that money is not fundamental, it is all about helping those in need. The Center could lose thousands of dollars, but at the end of the day, it’s not about the loss, but the feeling that you get when you have helped someone who has nothing.
Prince of Peace Center has become a family to me. They have watched me learn and grow as an individual and bestowed upon me what it really means to help. They have forever shaped the way that I think of a helping agency. They truly believe in what they do and the people that they support. Never have I met a group of individuals so dedicated to a cause. I have been blessed to have this experience, and I would most certainly suggest it to anyone I come across that Prince of Peace Center certainly upholds its name.
My Internship ExperienceBy Cierra Harrison, FSS Intern
While interning at the Prince of Peace Center in the Family Supportive Services department I have learned a lot. I have seen both sides of FSS as far as being a participant and working with FSS staff at the present time. I have been able to use the skills and knowledge I have acquired through my college experience here at the Center. I have worked closely with FSS creating folders for monthly support groups, summarizing survey results, and creating a power point for the volunteer dinner, as well as many other office duties. I have even had the opportunity to meet some of the participants closely and have been able to assist them with knowledge of my own. My experience here overall has been very rewarding. I have been able to put my skills to good work, and help lots of people along the way. I am much honored to say the Center once again has changed my life, but this time in a professional business aspect. I feel interning here has opened my eyes to a lot of things going on in our community that I was not aware of before. Now that I am, I will try my best to use my business skills to help our community reach success.