Why Jenny Gives Back on Colorado Gives Day

 

 “I’m paying forward and giving back to my community and enabling someone else to be able to make changes in their life.”  – Jenny

 

Community Garden Party Oct. 10, 2017

Please join us as we celebrate another successful
growing season in our garden!

Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

                        Zucchini Recipe Contest & Apple Pressing

Connect with community members while exploring our garden and enjoying fresh
pressed apple cider.  Don’t forget to bring your favorite (and best!) zucchini
recipe to share — prizes for winning recipes! All participants, volunteers, supporters
and community members are welcome!

Location: Sister Carmen Garden (South Side of Building), 655 Aspen Ridge Drive, Lafayette

Refreshments will be provided so please RSVP to katie@sitercarmen.org

 

Living on the Edge in Lafayette, CO

My name is Cynthia.

I had lived a good life. I was married with four beautiful children. I worked full time, had a house, a van, and was living what many people perceived as the American dream. In 2008 all of that changed—my marriage was breaking up and I had two very ill children that needed constant attention. In August that year, I lost our house and we were homeless.

This set off a whirlwind of staying on friend’s couches, shelters and even sleeping in our van just to keep my children safe. Unfortunately this lasted for years and because of the instability I lost several jobs during this time. Watching my children go through so much had negative side effects as well.

 We as a family lost hope. Hope we so desperately needed but could not find.

In June of 2011 we moved into a pay by the week hotel in Lafayette. Once again fate had a cruel twist—I was becoming increasingly ill and required several surgeries. As a family we really needed this home—even if it was not permanent. I didn’t think my children could endure any more than what they already had.

I was lost. I felt there was no hope. My mind was going to dark places where I wasn’t so sure my children wouldn’t be better with a stable family and me leaving them.

A miracle finally happened.

The manager of the hotel mentioned Sister Carmen Community Center to me and offered to take me there to get some food.

I was expecting to reach out for help and made to feel insignificant yet again. To ask for food and be given food that was already rotting or that I wouldn’t be able to turn into a meal because I wasn’t a professional chef. I was expecting some non-cooked beans and spaghetti noodles.

I was expecting to break down, beg, and cry in front of so many people—instead I met Andrea and she met with me in a private room. The crying was very private and her compassion was immeasurable.
During that time Andrea made extra time for me. She didn’t push me out the door. Suddenly I was getting help.

It’s amazing how something so simple turned into something that saved our lives.

I was given food. Real food. Food the children would eat and food I could actually make. Then she told me Sister Carmen Community Center would cover the expenses at the pay by week hotel for one month while I recovered from the surgeries.

I left there that day and wept.

These tears were no longer of sorrow but suddenly of hope. I saw a future for the first time since I don’t know when. I went to the hotel and saw a bright light in my families’ future that I didn’t think existed anymore.

Everyone at the Center helped me so much in just a matter of months. I received counseling for help with PTSD; workshops to help me further my parenting and job skills; food to keep us fed, and clothing for school and work so everyone felt normal again. In January 2012 they helped me move into permanent housing and by June they had started me on a path to a career that would be stable. Through this entire process everyone at the Center was there for me, and supporting me and my children.

It has been 5 years since then.

My children and I have some side effects from that dark time. But we all know that we are not alone. If we need help we have only to ask these kind people. Our lives were touched by the kind people of Sister Carmen and our future became so much brighter. I would like to say everything worked out fine but this isn’t a fairy tale and life throws curve balls. But, we do now have a hope that we lost and a strength from the supportive services we received.

As a family we are able to better face now whatever comes our way.

Thank you Sister Carmen’s for the continued support and for never turning us away when we needed you. We have truly been blessed by the services and support you gave us.

 

Want to help families like Cynthia’s? Check out our volunteer opportunities or other ways to give.

Living on the Edge in Louisville, CO

“Your neighbor may struggling and you don’t even know it.
I want people to know it is okay to ask for help.” –Tanya

Tanya and her three children have been living on the edge since her divorce.  She has been very resourceful in adjusting her lifestyle to survive off of one income—she found a house to rent for a reasonable amount, maintained a full time management position and carefully orchestrated the delicate, however albeit precarious balance of childcare, getting kids to school, going to work and managing bills.

When unforeseen expenses came up, such as a prescription for a sick child or a car repair—and with no savings—Tanya would use her credit card.  According to Boulder County Trends a family of four living in Boulder County requires an annual income of $75,906—just to cover the basics. Tanya was not making this much.                       

Unexpectedly Tanya lost her job.  Immediately she started applying for any position she thought she would qualify for.  Tanya was already behind on a few bills but now she was behind on her rent and utilities and was uncertain about getting enough food.

She initially came to SCCC to get assistance with her past due utility bill.  Tanya met with one of our advocates and talked about why she was seeking assistance.  Tanya left that day knowing SCCC would pay her utility bill in full, she had food from our food bank to take home, emergency financial assistance with her rent and she enrolled in the Housing Stabilization Program.

“I have a renewed faith that there people out there wanting to help you.”

With an understanding landlord who was willing to be flexible with Tanya’s situation we were able to keep Tanya and her three kids in their home.  Within a month Tanya secured a job, and a few weeks later she interviewed for a higher paying position and was offered the job.

Even though she secured employment early on in the program she continued to receive financial assistance for a few more months.  With this support Tanya was able to apply her new income towards bills that were past due and late fees, complete much needed repairs on her only car and was able to build a small savings account. Tanya felt secure and poised for success.

 “I just need to get to the next level. I got the basics covered. I just need peace of mind.”

Tanya is deeply committed to attaining financial independence and moving beyond living paycheck to paycheck.  Her goals are to get a higher paying position and she intends to take finance and budgeting classes.

“I want to build a strong foundation for my future, to have enough savings
for hard times and to own a home.”

Want to get involved to help families like Tanya’s?  Check out our volunteer opportunities or other ways to give.

Family Leadership Training Institute

Through our membership with the Family Resource Center Association SCCC was selected  to receive additional funding to host the Family Leadership Training Institute (FLTI). FLTI is a 20 week family civics program in which 25 participants receive 120 hours of evidence-based curriculum including personal and child development, leadership training, civic literacy and civic skills needed to become effective leaders in their communities.

SCCC is working to secure additional funding to continue this program into 2018 and to add a youth component.The goal is to empower the role of individuals and families as change agents within their community and local government by building confidence and their civic skills to advocate for change that will improve quality of life in their community.

The Affordable Housing Crisis & How One Family Helps

 

The skyrocketing costs of housing in Boulder County is pricing out low-income families and, now, some middle class families are feeling the pinch too. Higher rent rates are forcing families to spend more on housing and less on other life essentials such as food, medical needs and transportation.

An example of a working, middle class family unable to make ends meet in Boulder County, is Sandy, a newly divorced mother with a teenage daughter. Two years ago Sandy made the brave decision to leave an abusive marriage that left her and her daughter in a tumultuous transition and homeless for a few months. Sandy was working with Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence and they referred her to SCCC for additional services to support her during this challenging transition.

SCCC held an event illustrating the dire need of affordable housing in our community. Many landlords are taking advantage of the strong rental market and increasing rents to amounts that working, low and middle-income families can just not afford. Long-time donors of SCCC, the Flannigans attended the event and decided to take action on a very personal level. They were in the process of purchasing an investment property and decided they would reserve it specifically for Section 8 Housing referrals from the Sister Carmen Community Center (In brief, a Section 8 Housing voucher guarantees the landlord a portion of the rent every month, and the tenant is required to pay the remainder that is affordable for their particular situation.) When asked why, the Flannigans replied:

We feel a responsibility to help others in our community. We don’t want to look back on our lives and say, ‘Wow, we did a really good job of setting ourselves up while not helping others.’”

When their property was ready for a tenant the Flannigans contacted SCCC for a referral. The initial aim was to provide a rental property for a family with a Section 8 Housing voucher.  However, unexpected to the Flannigan’s, SCCC was not working with a participant with a Section 8 voucher at the time. The Flannigans learned that there is a finite number of Section 8 vouchers available. Additionally, there is a multiple-year waitlist to apply for Section 8 county housing and cities only accept applications once per year by lottery.

 “Learning about Section 8 made us re-think who are the deserving poor.“  – Flannigans

Instead, SCCC referred Sandy to the Flannigans.  Sandy was selected for her demonstrated commitment to getting her finances organized, as well as vitally needing a safe place to live within close proximity to her daughter’s school. The Flannigans’ property offered all of this, and, after reconsideration about the new information they learned about Section 8, the Flannigans decided to rent their property to Sandy at an affordable rate.

“We are so grateful we could provide this for her. We would not be able to enjoy the income we receive from these properties if we were not sharing it with others. “–Flannigans

And, thanks to a low rent rate, Sandy is not faced with the monthly dilemma of choosing between buying food or paying rent.

“We hope that by sharing our experience it will inspire others to take action.” –Flannigans

 

Colorado Gives Day

Colorado Gives Day 2016 will be here before you know it! This year you can preschedule your online donation to Sister Carmen Community Center starting today!  Thank you to FirstBank and ColoradoGives.org for supporting this wonderful annual event which helps so many fantastic organizations in Colorado!

Krystal

“Believe in yourself and keep moving forward. The road blocks will move.”

Krystal’s life back in Virginia was stable and comfortable with a well-paying job, large house, nice car and everything she and her son needed. However, her life took a sudden turn when she lost her job and could no longer sustain her family.  With reluctance, Krystal decided to return to Colorado, where her mother lived, as she and her eight-year old son needed a place to stay until she could get back on her feet. Going into this situation Krystal knew that it would not be sustainable emotionally.

As a single-mom and unemployed she needed some extra help—and having nowhere else to turn—she came to Sister Carmen a year ago for food and clothing. From there, she was referred to Maryann, the Center’s onsite Mental Health Partners’ therapist, as well as to Candice, one of our Individual and Family Advocates. Candice became and essential resource for Krystal, helping her identify and strategize the short-term goals that would help Krystal achieve her aspirations of having independent housing, a stable career, and a good education for her son.

It’s nice to have support here when I don’t have it anywhere else. It has really helped encourage me…I get support from Candice that I can’t get anywhere else.

That’s one thing Sister Carmen showed me: that there are people out there who care.

The guidance Candice and Maryann were able to give Krystal helped her start to regain ground and feel more hopeful for her and her son’s futures. Still struggling to figure out how best to approach her son’s Attention Deficit Disorder, she attended our Nurturing Parent Program. These classes awakened her to the fact that she herself was not raised in a supportive environment and she had some work to do on herself to make the life changes she yearned for.

Before the Nurturing Parenting classes, my confidence and self-esteem was really low. So was my son’s. Now I have more confidence and so does my son. I’m able to give my son love and it’s changed our lives.

Krystal is very proud and profoundly moved by the changes she and her son have made together through this program. As a parent she developed a new sense of self-awareness, increased her parenting knowledge and skills, and started building, what she describes, as the first strong, solid relationship she has ever had with her son.

She also observed that as her outlook on life became more positive—as she gained confidence and more lightheartedness—she saw these same qualities reflected in her son and in his relationships with his friends and classmates.

When Krystal first came to Sister Carmen, she was disheartened and depressed. Over the course of a year, Krystal has worked extremely hard to come a long way and has a lot to be proud of. She recently graduated from a job training program with the County, and she continues to actively seek self-growth and skill-development opportunities. She optimistic that she will be able to attain safe and stable housing through the Family Self-Sufficiency program. Additionally, although currently unemployed, Krystal is determined to return to school and find a meaningful career that would allow her to remain in Boulder County, in main part so that her son can finish his education in the Boulder Valley School District.

I look at Facebook photos of my son and me together and think about where we were before. Now, my son is smiling in photos and I think, ‘it might not be perfect now, but it’s the best it’s ever been.’

Krystal now sees herself as a role model in her immediate and larger community; through her own actions and transformations, she shares with others the skills and knowledge she has found to be so valuable and life-changing. Most importantly, she is building a new relationship with herself and her son, one that will lay a strong foundation for a future where they can both realize their hopes and dreams. She now looks with confidence and optimism on her life and what she will achieve.