Bread for the City clients and staff came together this morning for a brief but emotional ceremony, in which we honored members of our community who have made great progress.
As Southeast Center director Lynda Brown (pictured below) told the crowd, "It wasn't easy along the way: you've had difficulties. But you haven't let it stop you. And it was a privilege for us to see all that you've achieved."
After passing out Certificates of Achievement to each client, Deputy Director Jeannine Sanford (not pictured) encouraged people to share a bit about themselves and the work they've done. "We feel it's so important to recognize all that our clients have accomplished. Your stories are heartbreaking and heartwarming, tragic sometimes, but also triumphant. In sharing these kinds of stories, and hearing about your triumphs, we find the strength to carry on."
Many clients were acknowledged today, and here we share some of their stories with you.
Sheila Bryant was our keynote speaker:
I thank Bread for the City and Deanna [Drake] for giving me the strength to stand. When you think you're lost and you have nowhere to go, you can come here. They listen to you, and they don't judge you. They are kind. They give you back your strength.Sheila then read us a poem, which she says she composed while studying for the GED. She graciously gave us permission to reprint it here, and you can also find it here.
Who Am I?Sheila has worked with Deanna Drake for just over six months. (Read Deanna's column about volunteering at Bread for the City here.) In that time, Sheila has had her social security disability benefits approved, purchased prescription glasses, enrolled in Medicaid, and applied for affordable housing.
I am a creation of God from high above,
I am a creation of God given so much Love.
I am a creation of God born into the world of sin.
I am a creation of God taught never to quit within.
Who Am I?
I am a creation of God with strength to stand strong,
I am a creation of God though I may do wrong.
I am a creation of God kneeling down to pray,
I am a creation of God thanking God for another day.
Who Am I?
I am a creation of God learning the ways of life,
I am a creation of God trying to do right.
I am a creation of God giving all I can give,
I am a creation of God just wanting to live.
Who Am I?
A creation of God that's who I am!
There's a lot of work left to do: Sheila is planning to go to school in accounting, and she wants to purchase a computer so that she can work at home, because her disability makes it difficult to stand very long. But she's on her way - having never received mental health counseling before, Sheila has now enrolled in counseling at the Women’s Center.
Jusu Koker (pictured here with Social Services senior Case manager Stacey Johnson)
When I came to Bread for the City," said Jusu Koker, "I'd just gone through a divorce. I had nothing. I was sick, and had needed ten surgeries. Stacey saw how I looked and how I felt and said 'we can help you.' And through her I met all these people who helped along the way."
Jusu, age 50, is well on his way to achieving his goals.
When he first started working with Bread for the City, he had some knowledge of computer technology--but he described these skills as "archaic." So he took months of higher education classes. When the certification exams came around, he experienced serious test anxiety. Jusu failed his first test, and he was devastated. However, with Stacey's encouragement, Jusu eventually went on to pass the exams necessary to become A+ Technician Certified.
At the age of 50, Jusu has enrolled in Strayer University, where he will study Computer Information Systems. In order for his dream of continued education to become a reality, He hopes to finish school and would like to teach before taking on the corporate world or a Master's degree. "I'd like to give back some of what I've been given," Jusu says.
"Without Bread for the City and Stacey, I don't know where I would have been."
Yenusa Eke (pictured here on the right, with Deanna Drake and his minister, Deon)
I came to Bread for the City when my friend told me about them. I was sick, but I didn't think I could afford a doctor. I didn't think I could afford to get into school either. I was just shutting down. But Deanna showed me ways to look at life differently. She hooked me up with the medical clinic, and helped me find education programs. Now I don't think that giving up is an option.
Tomorrow I'm heading up to New York City to be ordained as a minister. I'll be the co-pastor of the Praise Life Ministry here in DC.
Mr. Callahan has been coming to Bread for the City for nearly 5 years now. Friends of his from the MLK homeless shelter originally recommended Bread for the City to him. The first time he came, he met Stacey Smith, who gave advice on where to find affordable housing. But Robert never followed up on it. Soon enough, though, Robert decided it was time to make a change. He went to meet with Stacey Smith again, and this time he was successful in obtaining a place to live.
Mr. Callahan is also a victim of a stroke. As he recovered, Bread for the City's lawyers helped him get disability benefits. He is very happy to not only have a place of his own to live, but monthly income to support himself as well.
“We need to have more Bread for the City’s,” he said excitedly, “then more people can get some good help like me.”