Stories of Hope
Alanda Braxton-Miles brings joy and a smile wherever she goes. But over the course of the last few years, this grandmother, Ward 8 homeowner and preschool teacher grew mysteriously sick – so sick that the simple tasks of daily life became a struggle. She had two strokes, two years in a row. She experienced waves of exhaustion and chronic pain. Gout in her leg caused uncomfortable swelling. But perhaps the scariest symptom of all was the occasional bout of memory loss. She joked, “I called them my dummy days.” Her symptoms got so bad that her work performance was slipping, and she started taking sick day after sick day. “I started worrying that I might lose my job,” she admitted.
This month we are shining a spotlight on our volunteer, David Houck, who mentors Cy'los, an 11-year-old boy in our housing program. When David's roommate moved away from DC earlier this year, he recruited David to take over his role in mentoring Cy'los, ensuring that he would continue to receive excellent support.
The transition was smooth, and Cy'los' mom La'Kisha is happy with the enriching experiences that her son has had with David.
34 years ago, Jacqueline Aird was a 16 year old living with her mother in an apartment on Belmont Street. That’s when Ms. Aird first became our patient. At the time, Community of Hope had just opened a small health center in the same building where Ms. Aird lived, and her mother sent her downstairs for her back-to-school checkup. We have moved and expanded since then – from that small facility on Belmont Street to three federally qualified health centers across the city – but we have been there for Ms. Aird the whole time.
We’re excited to feature a volunteer who put her talents to use to create two stunning and unique quilts that were recently displayed at our annual event, A ‘Sparkling’ Night of Hope.
That talented volunteer is Carolyn McShane, avid quilter and mother-in-law of our President and CEO, Kelly Sweeney McShane. It was a big task that took many hours of work, and the results exceeded our expectations.
Ms. Beverly Bynum lost her job three years ago after an organizational restructuring. She has extensive professional experience in medical billing, but she struggled to find another job, and applied for positions for two years with no success. She saw signs for Community of Hope's Health Care Customer Service Training program, located at our Conway Health and Resource Center in Ward 8. The program was in her neighborhood, and she wondered if it might offer her the leg up she needed. A few months later, she got a job she loves right here at Community of Hope as our front desk receptionist. "I get to be part of a place that really gives to my community,” she says. "My job makes me feel joy."
When Anthony Walker became sole caretaker to his young daughter, balancing work and childcare was suddenly a challenge. He could no longer take regular shifts at his construction job, and was unable to afford to pay his own rent. He stayed with family and friends, but accepting their hospitality was not a long-term solution. After two uncomfortable months sleeping in his friend’s living room, he and his daughter moved into emergency shelter, and then into his own apartment through our Rapid Re-Housing program.
Ms. Marilyn Wills never thought she would become homeless. She had worked in customer service and food service jobs, when she unexpectedly became the legal guardian for her baby granddaughter. She could no longer work regular hours and money got tight. Then, some dynamics shifted in her living situation, and she was forced to move out, along with her granddaughter and teenage son. Unemployed and now homeless, Ms. Wills had nowhere to go.
“My life was going so well,” Ms. Wills said. “I never thought that I would become homeless. When it happened, it just blew me out of the water. I didn’t have a clue what to do.”
Martir Salmeron is a Marie Reed lifelong friend. When his mother was pregnant with him, she sought out the clinic which is now home to our Marie Reed Medical Center for her OB/GYN care. It was not a Community of Hope site at the time; it was a city-run center with a similar mission to offer affordable health services to the neighborhood. She was living nearby in Columbia Heights and had recently immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador. After Martir was born, he’d go there for check-ups. Fast forward about 30 years, and Martir is back as a volunteer.
Until recently, Edith Higgins let her diabetes get the better of her. She was not taking her medication consistently. She made a habit of eating chocolate cake and other foods that diabetes patients are encouraged to avoid. The mismanaged disease left her tired all the time, and it exacerbated her other conditions. At one point, what should have been a one-day hospital visit became five days because of diabetes-related complications.
When Community of Hope began making plans to open a health center in Ward 8, we asked people in this community what services they need. One of the most common responses? People need help finding jobs. We listened, and began developing our first-ever workforce development curriculum to offer at our new building. Two years later, our Customer Service Skills Certificate Program is going strong, and is open to both our clients and the broader community.