This holiday season, we want to share with you a story about family—a family found and a family saved. It starts with a young woman named Meaghan from Ouray, CO, who married at 18 to escape the abusive household where she grew up. After graduating from a small Bible college in the Midwest, Meaghan and her husband moved to Telluride, where she had a successful career in the tourism industry for over 10 years. During that time, they welcomed a baby girl, but the marriage fell apart and they divorced. Following the divorce, Meaghan became involved in an abusive relationship, so her ex-husband moved with their daughter to Longmont.
“I lost my world when I lost my daughter—lost my home, lost my car, lost everything,” she says. Heartbroken by the loss of her daughter, Meaghan moved to Boulder to be closer to her, and also to escape the abusive relationship. She worked as a leasing agent at an apartment complex close to her daughter’s school and started to build a new life for herself, but then her abuser found her and convinced her to take him back. Fueled by his drug addiction, the abuse continued and worsened. She worked, and he spent all her money on drugs until she was left homeless and pregnant.
“Not knowing where I was going to sleep from night to night while I was pregnant was scary,” Meaghan remembers. She was admitted to the Mother House, a shelter for pregnant women in Boulder, but was forced to leave because she was still seeing her abuser. In 2019 after a great deal of time and effort, she finally received a subsidized housing assignment in Lafayette for herself and her new baby, a second daughter.
When she went from being homeless to having an apartment to furnish, Meaghan had only one bag of personal belongings. She visited a thrift store nearby, the Sister Carmen Thrift Store, to see if she could find anything there. While shopping, she learned that she might be able to get a voucher from Sister Carmen Community Center (SCCC) to help buy items for her new apartment.
Sister Carmen provided the fresh start Meaghan needed when she moved to Lafayette. Besides the voucher to purchase mattresses, household and baby items, she also learned she could use the Sister Carmen Food Bank. That’s where she met Ginny, our Nurturing Parent Program Coordinator, for the first time. “I knew just by looking at Meaghan, by the way she stood, that she had been abused,” Ginny recalls. “I know the signs.”
She told Meaghan about the parenting classes offered at Sister Carmen and also the Circle of Parents Support Group for those impacted by addiction in their families; Meaghan registered immediately. Then Ginny followed up with a phone call to ask, “What else do you need? How old is your daughter?”
“She brought me bags and bags of clothes for my baby daughter, and I was just in tears,” shares Meaghan. “Not only that, but she asked me what I like to do. ‘I like to create. I’m an artist. I like to draw and paint,’ I told her. Then she brought me all kinds of art supplies. I was blown away because I’ve never had anybody just open up their heart that instantly towards me, without even knowing me. It was the best welcome I could have ever gotten, and I’ve been with Sister Carmen ever since.”
In addition to the thrift store, food bank, parenting classes and support group, Sister Carmen has provided Meaghan with bus passes, food delivery, child care, a resource for eyeglasses (Eye Doctors of Louisville), and financial assistance for utility bills. She’s attended community fun nights, wellness workshops, and exercise, financial education, and civic engagement classes. But the thing she values most is the community she’s found here.
“Circle of Parents is the glue, my saving grace. We’ve developed a real sisterhood too,” she shares. “Even though we come from many different backgrounds, cultures, language barriers, and parenting styles, it doesn’t matter. Those are my girls. We’re just there for each other. It’s completely confidential and non-judgmental.”
One time while the group was being held on Zoom, Ginny received a text from Meaghan which read: “Call the Police immediately. Send them now!” Ginny quickly excused herself from the session, saying she left something on the stove, and made the call. “She didn’t even question, ‘Why? What’s going on? You seem happy.’ She just did it, and she saved me,” Meaghan says. “I never had people in my corner before Sister Carmen and Ginny.”
Over the course of their seven-year relationship, Meaghan’s abuser was in and out of jail for harming her. “I had a bad habit of letting him back in. The cops would be called. There were so many reports, I jeopardized my place,” she explains. “Sister Carmen has been my grounding force because I’m trying to do this differently on my own, but when all you know is what you’ve known, it’s hard not to fall back into those patterns. Sister Carmen—Ginny in particular—is always there for me. I’ll call and she’ll just listen. That’s something I never had in my whole life. I didn’t know what a supportive family looked like until Ginny showed me. She is my rock, my friend, and my mentor.”
Meaghan is safe now. “Because I had the support of my Sister Carmen family behind me, I had the strength to stand up for myself for the first time in my life,” she shares. “I was able to tell my abuser that he would no longer be a part of my life or our daughter’s life. I think that inspired him to get sober.”
Ginny also connected Meaghan with legal advice that taught her how to advocate for herself with the courts. She told them that she didn’t feel safe with her abuser nearby. As a result, he received two years of probation that enabled him to go to rehab and a ready-to-work program, and now he’s become a good father. “It’s been life changing! This man is totally different without the drugs,” exclaims Meaghan. “If I hadn’t advocated for myself with the courts, he would have gotten off scot-free and wouldn’t have gotten the help he needed, and the whole pattern would have perpetuated itself. I’m so proud we were able to stop that generational pattern of abuse.”
Now that Meaghan is in a healthy place, her next goal is getting a new job. “I want to find something where I can give back. My heart is so full and Sister Carmen has given me so much—all the resources to be successful. It’s so amazing to find family. I call them family because they truly are. They know your faults, they know everything about you, but they don’t judge you because they just want to see you grow,” she continues.
“I know what it feels like to lose everything, and to feel utterly broken and alone. For someone to just lend a hand and say, ‘It’s going to be ok, and step-by-step, we’re in this with you’ has changed my world. And it’s not just affecting me, it’s affecting my former abuser, my kids, and the generations after me. Now my legacy, and my kids’ legacy, will be one of resiliency and triumph and making the world a better place.”
If you are able, we hope you’ll make a gift to Sister Carmen this holiday season to help us keep changing the world, one family at a time.