David and Tuck: Finding Hope after Facing Homelessness

This holiday season, we want to share with you a very important story of an individual who needed help, healing, and hope — and got just that at Sister Carmen Community Center, thanks to supporters like you.

Eight years ago, David moved to Lafayette with his teenage daughter and his dog Tuck.

“I was a teacher, and I absolutely loved it — connecting with kids, watching their minds grow. It’s amazing. I was always independent. Ever since I was a teenager, I always had a job, an income. I was good about saving money for emergencies and retirement.” 

But in 2018, David was in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Even long after he was mostly physically recovered, David struggled to stay focused and get back into the classroom. These new and unique mental challenges led to the loss of his teaching job. “I lost my confidence,” David told us.

David’s daughter was now 18 and going to college, but he needed employment that would at least provide health insurance for the both of them. He took a job at a warehouse making a mere $15 per hour — not nearly enough to make rent, let alone to cover other basic necessities.

His savings dwindled down to almost nothing. He was exhausted, working up to 17 hours a day on his feet, and could feel it taking a toll on his body. David worked until he physically could work no longer, eventually losing his warehouse job as well. With the loss of his job came the loss of his apartment and his much-needed health insurance.

With Tuck by his side, David now faced homelessness. “I was couch surfing when and where I could. I was looking at YouTube videos on how to convert a car into a home. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from living up to everyone else’s expectations … with a great education, I could do anything I wanted up until the car accident — then it was one big slugfest. And it was pretty lonesome.”

David had heard of Sister Carmen when he first moved to Lafayette, but he had never asked for help before. Now, at his loneliest hour, David came to Sister Carmen and met with an Advocate who introduced him to resources and helped him make a plan.

The first step was getting him safely housed. We arranged a short-term rental for him to stay in until he was accepted into the long-term Housing Stabilization Program. “After that, I was drawing my first real breaths in a long time. There was so much depression and anxiety that came with living in my car. You have to be kind to yourself and really pull yourself through.”

In 2020, David got a job at a pharmacy and successfully exited the HSP program. He moved his way up to working as a pharmacy technician — a position that, luckily, was considered essential during the pandemic.

“I remember this was the first time I got to sleep in a really long time. When people show that they have faith in you, then you heal. If you show that you have faith in someone then they learn to have hope for themselves.”

In December 2020, before vaccines were widely available, another round of bad luck hit David: he caught COVID-19 and became extremely ill.

“I took ten days off work, but even then, I still had trouble getting out of bed. I could hardly breathe. I was also experiencing long-COVID symptoms like brain fog. My doctor suggested I cut back the hours I worked.”

In March it became clear that his employers weren’t willing to accommodate his new adjusted schedule, and David was once again let go. His landlord wouldn’t let him renew his lease, so he wasn’t protected by eviction moratoriums. Desperate, he turned to Sister Carmen again.

SCCC helped cover the first month’s rent and deposit to get him re-housed. We connected him to a rental assistance program for those who were financially affected by COVID-19 that will keep him safely housed for 12 months while he gets back on his feet. David’s goal is to find a job that pays a living wage again so he won’t be in danger of falling behind from one bad illness or some bad luck. His wish is to return to his true calling as a teacher.

“I have the confidence again and can remember that teacher in me, that’s prepared and connected with every student,” he recalls. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that being independent is good, but having a team is important. The people of Lafayette and the people at Sister Carmen became my family. It’s tough to ask for help. [Sister Carmen is] one of the only entities I know that will give people the benefit of the doubt… that will come from a place of empathy first and incentivizing instead of being disciplinary. And it’s always been consistent.”

David’s story is unique, but he’s one of hundreds of individuals that Sister Carmen Community Center helps every year. We ask that you consider not only them, but all the individuals and families who are in need of our help this holiday season. We can only do the life-changing work we do with the support of our community. Help us to offer hope and second chances by contributing today.

“I’m just so grateful. There really aren’t words. My advice to anyone in a similar situation would be simply to reach out. Don’t be afraid. Reach out. And beyond your wildest imagination, there is love for you in places you would never expect.” – David and Tuck

 

Too Sick to Work: How Robert’s Family Faced Homelessness while he Battled Cancer

In 2019, Robert was working a steady job in Florida while caring for his aging mother, his 16 year old daughter, and his younger brother with special needs. Robert’s mother had relatives in Colorado that were going through a tough time and his mother wanted the family to move to be closer to them. Robert thought these family members would help them until they got situated, but the very same night they arrived in Colorado, Robert was told they couldn’t stay and they were forced to go elsewhere. While staying with a friend temporarily, his mother had a bad fall tripping over their dog and seriously injured her shoulder. Robert was forced to find a better situation for his family and all he could find on such short notice was a small hotel room.

While trying to find a more permanent job, Robert was making ends meet by working for drive-sharing companies. This quickly fell into a cycle of making only just enough money during the day to pay for his car payment, their food, and cover the cost of the hotel room for the next night. Robert was barely keeping his head above water and could only manage to look ahead a few days at a time. Then, in spring of 2020, Robert began to fall ill.

As the days and weeks went by Robert was feeling sicker. He didn’t have insurance so he put off going to the doctor. When he was so ill he couldn’t work anymore and the family faced homelessness Robert finally went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with cancer. His family was again able to stay with a friend temporarily and the hospital staff helped get him signed up for Medicaid to cover the cost of treatment. But Robert still worried about the well-being of his loved ones since working while he sought treatment would be impossible and they still had no place to live. That’s when they were connected to Sister Carmen Community Center.

The family had utilized some of Sister Carmen’s services occasionally such as the food bank. His experience with SCCC had always been that they were friendly and understanding, but he had no idea how much they could help him now. After reaching out, Robert was connected with an Advocate who listened to his family’s situation, offered him options and advice, and shortly enrolled him into a program to get them housed. By August of 2020 the family had a safe place to live where they could afford rent until Robert recovered. This gave him the peace of mind to know his family was cared for and he could focus on treatment and getting his life under control.

Over the next 6 months Robert had undergone 2 surgeries, 2 rounds of chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. In February of 2021 he was finally declared to be in remission! Robert has also been taking real estate classes and plans to work as a realtor once he passes his exam.

“You guys are life savers. The doctor told me that if I had waited 6 more months to get treatment it would’ve been too late. If I didn’t have a place to stay and continued to push through working as much as I had to make ends meet, then I definitely wouldn’t have been able to continue with the treatment I needed.”

To anyone else who is struggling Robert says, “Just keep your head up. It’s always going to get better. No matter what happens just push forward and you’ll make it through. My grandma taught me, ‘it doesn’t matter what else goes on, you just got to keep pushing forward.”

Rhianna’s Story

“You need someone to continually motivate you and SCCC helped me to have a voice.”

Rhianna is a single mother of three children, one of whom is disabled. After being married for ten years, and shortly after learning of their son’s diagnoses, Rhianna’s husband abandoned the family. She did her best to provide for her children and build a life for them on her own. They moved into a low-income apartment and between working as a Door Dash driver and child support payments she was able to just make ends meet while also working toward a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice—until the payments suddenly stopped with no warning and COVID made it nearly impossible to work or attend school while also watching her children full-time. In June of 2020, the family was unfairly evicted from their home and spent the next 5 months living in a tent on the street.

She tried to save up money doing Door Dash so she could get back into a home before winter, but even after she had enough money for a deposit, Rhianna quickly learned that no place would approve her for an apartment when she had a recent eviction on her record. Desperate to get the care she needed for her youngest child—who suffers from muscular dystrophy—Rhianna reached out to Imagine Colorado. They were able to set her up in a hotel temporarily and referred her to Sister Carmen Community Center.

SCCC’s full-time Advocate, Hugo, worked closely with Rhianna on her case to get her approved for the Housing Stabilization Program (HSP), which got her into an apartment and covered her deposit and 3 month’s rent to start. She was even given a voucher to the Sister Carmen Thrift Store with so she could get household items for the children.

SCCC then referred Rhianna to a program to become a Certified Nursing Assistance (CNA) and get paid to be her son’s own caregiver. Rhianna told us that before coming to SCCC she wouldn’t have been ready to take on something like the CNA program, but felt that because the opportunity was made available and someone gave her the encouraging push she needed that she felt more sure of herself.

Now, Rhianna feels like her family can finally be truly self-sufficient. Her son has the care he needs, and the ability to work from home and have steady income has allowed her to continue school again and she looks forward to earning her degree. She speaks to SCCC staff weekly. “They check-in and ask how things are going. They work with me to get any information I need. My Advocate pushes me to the right places. Brittany—the Advocate Manager—is the magic wand voice of all voices. She reaches out for classes that I might be interested in or says ‘here’s a job opportunity’ and encourages me to stay connected…I feel like I can reach out to them no matter what’s going on.”

National Volunteer Month: Celebrating Food Bank Volunteers Nancy and Harry Blum

April is National Volunteer month, and Sister Carmen had over 400 active volunteers who worked a total of over 18,500 last year–certainly something to celebrate! Two of those volunteers are Nancy and Harry Blum.

Nancy and Harry have been wonderful, dedicated volunteers for many years, volunteering over 1,200 hours! They have volunteered multiple shifts during the pandemic, when we needed help the most. They are quick to take on any job that’s needed, and help show new volunteers the ropes. Nancy and Harry are compassionate, fun, and hardworking volunteers. They live at Anthem Ranch, and have done outreach for volunteer recruitment, food drives, and more. We are extremely lucky to have such kind and devoted volunteers.

“Nancy and Harry Blum are truly our Food Bank volunteer rock stars! They began volunteering in July of 2017 and have devoted countless hours over these past 3 years to improving the overall organization and running of our Food Bank. Like clockwork, 3 times a week for 3 hours each time, they always arrive with enthusiasm, compassion, efficiency and a wonderful sense of humor! Their commitment to volunteering is exceptional.”–Ruth Perry, Food Bank Manager

In their words:

“Harry and I have been volunteering 3 days a week (about 72 hours a month) at Sister Carmen Food Bank since May of 2017. We moved to Anthem Ranch in Broomfield from Southern California in 2016 to be close to family. Even though there are a lot of ways to spend your day when you retire, volunteering has always been a part of our lives. Volunteering at a food bank was a natural for Harry since he retired from working part time at Trader Joes for 9 years. I did many years of volunteer work with dog rescues, community outreach, and nonprofit organizations,  after our retirement from working together selling real estate.  We simply needed a purpose in our lives and a way to give back.  Sister Carmen Food Bank was the answer. What we love about our “jobs” is that it is not really a job, it is fun, and we always do something different each day and with wonderful coworkers.  We call it our “food bank family” as this is like our second home.  Harry loves bringing in all the breads, pastries, produce and Whole Foods and Costco prepared foods when the truck comes in and stocking all the shelves. He is a big hand to Ruth, our hard working fearless leader lifting and organizing food items in the warehouse. I enjoy projects like assembling toiletry and goodie bags for the families in need, stocking all the pastries and bread on the shelves, helping with the produce, putting little goodies in food boxes and just making sure everything is organized.  I love to hear Harry laughing and having fun with his coworkers. We are constantly busy, moving and getting plenty of exercise.  Yes, we are tired at the end of our shift, however, it is a great feeling to be needed and give back to the community.”  –Nancy and Harry Blum

Want to join our team of volunteers? Click here to learn more.

The Food Bank Pays it Forward

In 2020, many local farmers and ranchers were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as their biggest buyers (restaurants) closed down. Sister Carmen Community Center was fortunate enough to receive funding from Boulder County, the CARES Act, Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, and Colorado State’s Food Pantry Assistance program. By partnering with local producers—Wisdom Natural Poultry, Ollin Farms, El Mercado, Vitamin Cottage, and Morning Fresh Dairy—we were able to supplement our donated typically non-perishable items with fresh nutritious foods including vegetables, eggs, dairy, and poultry. We were even able to purchase culturally appropriate foods for the holidays—something that we wouldn’t have been able to do without the additional funding. This support greatly helped us to keep up with the demand we were seeing in the community, but this funding also had the added benefit of helping those local producers—doubly giving back to those in need:

Jay and Cindy Wisdom of Wisdom Natural Poultry: “We first came to hear of Sister Carmen when one of your wonderful supporters contacted us to buy our product to be delivered to the community center to help with the increased demand for the food challenged at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state closed down in March, we lost nearly 100% of our business when the restaurants and Farmers Market would be closed until further notice. It was the single most devastating thing that has ever happened to us. We started to change our business plan for more direct sales to individuals, but, without the help of that supporter and Sister Carmen buying from us we would not have survived this very hard time. COVID-19 is far from over and we would very much like to continue to do business with Sister Carmen.”

Kena and Mark Guttridge of Ollin Farms: “Working with Sister Carmen had a positive impact on our business in 2020.  Our farm had increased our vegetable production and saw our outlets shift or get cancelled due to COVID so supplying different food access programs became key in our farms economic survival as we transitioned our business model. Our experience with SCCC was extremely positive. At Ollin Farms we are passionate about growing nutrient dense food that can provide health to our local community, we have worked with a number of organizations over the years on food access programs, so partnering with Sister Carmen and seeing our produce go through their distribution channels to reach a greater audience was great. The values and goals of Ollin Farms for growing healthier communities align so well with the same values and work that Sister Carmen has been championing for years, these are the kind of community partnerships that we appreciate most, and we would love to continue to work with Sister Carmen. Let’s keep growing it!”

Finding Strength in Hard Times: One Participant’s Journey

Throughout this ongoing crisis, we’ve heard endless stories of hardship, desperation, but also resiliency from the participants we serve.
One such story is that of Christa. In 2017, after years of emotional abuse and manipulation, Christa became a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband. She lost her job and was constantly sick from stress. She didn’t have a good support system of friends and family at the time. Christa always enjoyed prayer and considered herself as having a close relationship with God—but over the years, her husband had stripped away her dignity, her hope, and even her faith.
When she finally gained the courage to leave, she struggled with homelessness and was forced to live out of her van. She experienced constant harassment from her ex-husband and his friends, and at one point they even destroyed her van.
“I was so scared all the time. But the destruction he caused only made me stronger.” 
Christa was connected to Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (S.P.A.N.)—whom she says were wonderfully helpful—and they were able to help get her housed and employed. But just as things were looking up, she was laid off in June 2019, and by November she was homeless again.
After happily reconciling with family, she was able to move in with her elderly mother—but then COVID-19 hit. Christa didn’t qualify for unemployment, and she feared getting a job that would expose her immunocompromised mother. When it became apparent that the virus was the new normal, Christa knew that finding a job wasn’t an option anymore. She made the painful decision to move out and spent the next few months rotating between couches, sleeping in tents, her car…
“I felt like the world was against me. I was vulnerable and unsafe out in the open, but I was terrified of going to a shelter and risk catching the virus.” 
Sister Carmen was here to help. Christa was recommended to Sister Carmen Community Center and learned about the Housing Stabilization Program (HSP). HSP is a short-term rental assistance program for anyone in Boulder County. Most participants are recovering from some type of trauma such as medical, divorce, or domestic violence, where one month of support just isn’t enough to get them back on their feet permanently. SCCC’s full-time HSP Coordinator acts as an advocate for participants, helps them to apply, and stays with them throughout the program. HSP can be competitive and the process of being accepted can be a long one—especially while waiting during difficult circumstances. But Christa handled the situation with patience, saying she only had a positive experience with SCCC through the entire process. She was finally accepted and able to move into a condo in July!
“I can’t express my gratitude enough toward the people who work here. They’ve been so patient with me—even when I had an emotional breakdown. They restored my faith in myself and I’m so happy.”
SCCC also connected Christa to other programs that would help her on her path to success: a career workshop, support group, and a financial wellness class. She utilizes the Food Bank, and Sister Carmen Thrift Store vouchers helped cover basic items for her new home. Now, Christa is building credit, making career plans, and hopes to attend future classes and programs as opportunities open up.
“Sister Carmen has made me feel whole again. I feel complete. I have my faith back.” 
We stand in awe of the resourcefulness, resiliency, and dedication shown by the families we serve—we know that ultimately it is the participants themselves who do the heavy lifting. We strive to be there to offer a hand up when people need it—meeting them where they are at, no matter where that happens to be in their journey.
This holiday season, we hope you can find it in your heart to give a hand up as well. Please consider a gift to Sister Carmen Community Center as a way to support your neighbors experiencing crisis and surviving during these difficult times.
To donate securely online, click here.

Bob and Betty: An Elderly Couple’s Journey through Unexpected Homelessness

Bob and Betty, a loving elderly couple, spent much of their lives secure and happy—working hard and living the dream in California. Unfortunately, the recession hit them hard: Bob, a contract worker, was laid off, there was no work to be found in his industry, and housing costs were quickly on the rise. They knew staying in California was unsustainable, so they tried moving to the Colorado Rockies and starting over. During the next 5 years, Bob found unreliable on-again off-again contract work and the couple were barely getting by. Social security was not enough to cover the necessities, and their savings slowly dwindled away.

Then Bob found a good job opportunity in Boulder, so they packed up along with their two cats and moved to Lafayette in their truck—a seemingly temporary necessity—when the job fell through.

So in the spring of 2019, the couple found themselves living out of their truck in an unfamiliar area with no money and no friends or family that could help. Their phone was turned off when they couldn’t pay their bill. They moved the truck from place to place every night, because they weren’t allowed to camp anywhere for long and their gas was disappearing.

“We were just floating,” said Betty.

Bob said they never imagined they’d be in such a situation: he was employable, has a lot of skills, they were responsible and have good credit. Things just shouldn’t be going this way.

“But we never felt sorry for ourselves or less than. People need to know that if they’re in a situation like ours, they still count, they matter,” said Betty.

But the couple stayed resilient and were extremely resourceful. Soon after being in the area, they found hot meals available at Josephine Commons and help from a local church they began attending. The Lafayette Senior Center became a place for Betty to spend the day, where she could shower, exercise, have some tea and muffins while Bob used the computers to find work. But Bob said the hardest thing to get was gas. No one really offered gas money, the truck was their only home and transportation, “and it’s a gas guzzler,” said Bob.

Betty said the hardest time for her was losing her beloved cat, Mickey, who usually spent every night curled inside her sleeping bag with her, but ran away while they were moving their truck. Weeks went by and they had driven all over town trying to find him. Then, after dropping Betty off at the Senior Center one day, Bob saw Mickey just walk right by him! Betty and Mickey were finally reunited.

The couple was initially referred to Sister Carmen Community Center for help with food, but they found so much more. They met with an SCCC Advocate several times and were eventually connected to Brittany, SCCC’s Advocate Manager for more support. Bob and Betty said that Brittany is a very special person and that often just having someone to talk to makes the biggest difference.

“We didn’t know where to go or how to get started. But this (SCCC) was a haven. The difference with Sister Carmen is that once you walked in, there’s like an aura of compassion, caring, and an outpouring of love. Everyone made us feel like we were doing okay, but they can help us get better. We kept reminding ourselves this would only be temporary.”

Not only did Bob and Betty get food for themselves, but they got cat food from the Pet Pantry that comes once a week, they were able to get connected with gas cards, money to cover some medication of Betty’s when it ran out, and most importantly, a deposit and first month’s rent to get into an apartment. In September, after five months of living in their truck and just as Sister Carmen was helping the couple to get housed, Bob finally secured a job! They moved into their new place and spent the first night in just their sleeping bags on the floor. The next day they woke up to the first snow of the year and were so grateful they didn’t have to spend the night in the truck.

After they were housed, SCCC gave them thrift store vouchers to help get settled in their apartment while they were still getting things out of storage. They are now happily settled.

“It’s important for people to know that it gets frustrating,” said Betty, “but if you have a good attitude that helps a lot.”

Portrait of A Strong and Caring Woman: How One Participant Said “Thank You!”

In early March 2020, the weight and enormity of the COVID-19 crisis began to fall heavily on the shoulders of Sister Carmen staff members. As Boulder Valley School District closed on March 13th and statewide closures began two weeks later, we quickly realized that already vulnerable members of the community were going to need so much more help to make it through this.

Micklina, who works as a Bilingual Advocate at Sister Carmen Community Center, was especially worried about some of her participants who are immunocompromised. One of them, Stewart Ressler, is a retired 74 year old artist who lives alone. He usually supplements his income by selling his art in public, but he cannot do that safely anymore. Micklina gave him a call to ask if he was alright and if there was anything he needed. Stewart said it meant so much to him that she took the time to reach out and personally connect with him. He told her that he was doing alright for now, but was worried about how he was going to make ends meet now that he couldn’t sell his art. That income was vital for him to pay rent and keep afloat. He doesn’t have any other safety net.

After a couple months Stewart’s situation got even tougher as it became obvious he couldn’t go out to sell his art anytime soon. So he called Micklina again and asked for help and advice. She was able to give him partial rent assistance for two months from SCCC to make sure he wouldn’t lose his home while he figured out a long-term plan. She then helped him apply and get approved for the LEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) and AAA (Area Agency on Aging) programs. In addition to connecting him to multiple programs, they talked through ideas for a more sustainable plan, such as getting a roommate.

Stewart was extremely grateful and wanted to do something for Micklina in return. So he painted this beautiful portrait of her, saying that he wanted to portray Micklina as he saw her: a strong and caring woman.

Since mid-March, Sister Carmen Community Center has assisted thousands of people through our food bank with over 400,000 pounds of food. We’ve prevented hundreds from becoming homeless or losing other basic needs such as water and electricity by distributing over $500,000 in direct financial assistance for families, and have only been able to do so, because of generous community donations. Please consider the profound impact your gift can make for each of these neighbors. You can make a difference today by donating securely online at ColoradoGives.org/SisterCarmen.

Like Tea and Water: One Family’s Journey to the United States

“As a refugee coming to the United States, I didn’t want to be like oil and water. I want to integrate completely, like tea and water.” – Hamid Jounou

Sister Carmen Community Center is a local organization that works to help those in need—anyone who considers East Boulder County their home—without discrimination. We support people with a wide variety of backgrounds—sometimes with a history and story that is very different from our own—but, in other ways, may be all too familiar.

Meet the Jounou family: mother Hanifa (age 62); her sister, Aisha (54); Hanifa’s daughters Rudi (32) and Bana (25); and her sons Hamid (30) and Ussef (24). In 2013, the family fled war-torn Syria to become refugees in Lebanon. Leaving was the last thing that Hanifa wanted to do.

“In the beginning, I refused to leave. It was my home—my country. I was going to wait for the war to end.” – Hanifa

Hanifa’s younger children evacuated with the United Nations for safety, leaving only her son, Hamid, to stay with her. They held out as long as they dared—until there was no electricity, gas, or running water. They burned their belongings for warmth while shooting rampaged in the streets. Finally, having no other recourse, they left secretly in the middle of the night with only the clothes on their backs, so as to stay hidden from soldiers.

The next 6 years were spent in a refugee camp in Lebanon, where the family was known for their dedication to helping others. Most days were spent caring for their fellow refugees and volunteering with their church, Horizons International. Bana would greet new refugee families and help them get settled by providing clothes, household items, and other necessities.

Their hard work and empathy caught the eye of Kathy, one of our Lafayette neighbors, who went to Lebanon on a mission trip with Horizon in 2016. Despite the language barrier, she discovered a fondness for this amazing self-sacrificing family and offered to become their sponsor as immigrants to the United States.

Kathy often says to them, “You’ve lived your life serving other people. Now it’s your turn to let others help you.”

Immigrating to the U.S. wasn’t easy. The next few years were spent in a web of bureaucracy, forever waiting to hear if they’d been approved and tediously completing medical exams. Finally, the family moved to Lafayette in 2019 with Kathy as their host.

Many local resources were available for the family, including Sister Carmen Community Center. Zoya—a full-time Advocate at Sister Carmen and a fluent Arabic speaker—was able to connect with the family not only through language, but on a community and cultural level. She introduced them to others who spoke Arabic, connected them with free English classes at Intercambio, and continues to assist them in navigating the new country. Zoya also assists in translating for seemingly simple tasks, like getting a bank account or permit to drive, but ones that make a world of difference and allow them to be active members of society.

Within weeks of being in the United States, the 4 adult children all had jobs, permits to drive, and were learning English. Rudi works with Horizon in Boulder, Ussef at Flatirons Community Church, and Hamid and Bana at King Soopers. Weekly, they carpool to their church in Aurora, the only Arabic-speaking church in the area.

The Jounous are looking towards the future: Bana loves to bake and cook, and one day would like to open a restaurant, “or become a translator, like Zoya!” Ussef wants to go into movie production and tell people about his story. Hamid wishes to become a pastor. Rudi wants to focus on her English and do any job that involves helping people.

When asked why they wanted to share their story they gave two reasons: “We want to encourage other refugees, let them know that America is still a land of opportunity, that people are nice and welcoming. And we want to make a good example of what refugees can be: hard working, learning English, and striving for a better life here.” -Hamid

Over the coming months, many of us will enjoy visits from friends and family. We’ll welcome them into our warm home and offer them a meal at our table. As we do, let us not forget those who are still trying to make a home of their own, picking up the pieces of one that was left behind. In donating this holiday season, you will earn the gratitude of thousands of people directly benefiting from the efforts of Sister Carmen Community Center—those from near and far.

Please consider the profound impact your gift can make for each of these people in your community. You can make a difference today by donating securely online at ColoradoGives.org/SisterCarmen.

Nina’s Story

Nina lived her life knowing she always had enough money to cover expenses and  the
means to get what she needed.

When she and her husband divorced her life changed dramatically. The emotional burden
of the divorce weighed on her heavily and she became very depressed.

Initially, Nina received alimony to cover living expenses for her and her daughter.  As she moved
forward and worked towards re-defining her life as single woman her economic lifeline was cut off.
Her ex-husband moved out of the United States and was no longer required to  pay alimony. Nina
did not know how to live without the income she was used to—she had always had financial security.

“There was nowhere to go. I didn’t have many friends here.

They moved from their large family home into an apartment. Nina took a position as a reserve
flight attendant—reserve employees are not guaranteed a full week of work.  Her daughter was working
and contributed to expenses for a while, then she moved out to live with some friends. With not enough
income she fell behind on her bills and was facing a two week eviction notice.

“I was thinking of suicide. There was no way out of this.”

She went to Boulder County Housing and Human Services and they referred her to Sister Carmen Community
Center. She met with our advocate Jen, and left that day knowing her rent would be paid and she had some
time to find an affordable living situation.

“I had to admit I needed help. My life was different now.”

She also left with food from our food bank and a list of things that she could do to help herself.

The first time Jen took me to the food bank, I cried. I could see other people in the same situation
and how lucky we are to have that.”

Within a few months Nina moved in with a friend as his roommate. She was so relieved to find an affordable
living situation and pleasantly found herself feeling at home.

“There is life after despair. I am proof that you can do it.”

Through this transition Nina realized her life holds a new richness and life is not about “What you live in
or what you have.”

“When you look in your purse and only have $5 to last the whole week your perspective changes.

I appreciate the small things much more. Food. Eating.”

As Nina continues her journey her eyes and heart are open to new opportunities and to learning something
new every day.

“I’m thankful I have a job and I love what I do.”

She is working hard to advance within the aviation industry to secure better pay and a solid schedule.
When asked whyshe chose to work in the flight industry, she said:

“I used to hate flying, and I can’t explain what happened. I was looking for a big change— maybe
confront some fears and over comet hem. If I’d stayed married, I never would have done that. Being
forced into a new situation made me see life differently.”

Her greatest hope in sharing her story is to encourage women in a similar situation not to be ashamed of
their circumstances and it is okay to ask for help.

“I feel eternally grateful of the support I received at SCCC.”

With confidence and a new found resiliency Nina is looking up towards the sky and helping others confront
their fears along the way.

I love watching people fly for the first time. They always look kind of terrified.  I tell them, ‘look
out the window—it’s beautiful.”

As a community, we can give the wonderful gift of dignity, hope and gratitude and the opportunity to soar.