Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes it can take just one moment to turn everything upside down. That's what happened to Zlena Addison, a hard-working mom who had always prided herself on her helping others. If someone needed a ride, connection to a community service, or just a listening ear—Zlena was the one to call.
All this changed when Zlena got hurt on her job. After losing a case management job due to a program closing, she juggled two jobs in security and sorting mail. One day at work, she injured her leg. She needed weeks of rest and physical therapy to recover fully. Due to the physical nature of both jobs, she was unable to keep them as she took the time to heal. Without work, she worried that she wouldn't be able to pay her bills and support her family.
After six months out of work, she was in a “dark place” as making ends meet was starting to take its toll. “That was some of the hardest times of my life because I have three children and I want to make sure I can maintain a stable life for them,” says Zlena. She shared these struggles with her doctor, who referred her to Community of Hope’s Bellevue Family Success Center.
The Bellevue Family Success Center at Community of Hope is a doorway for families and residents living in the Bellevue neighborhood or surrounding DC neighborhoods to get access to resources and services to thrive. Here, Zlena met Takeithia Pugh, Family Support Specialist, who linked Zlena to a rental assistance program.
With housing secured, Zlena was able to make another important step toward stability by finding sustainable employment. She participated in the Family Success Center’s Let’s Get It job program, where she revamped her resume and gained job seeking advice. Serendipitously, with her new resume and skills, Zlena landed a job as a DC Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) case worker—the same program that provided her rental assistance.
Imagine Takeithia’s surprise, when she reached out to ERAP to assist with another client who ERAP and was greeted by Zlena. Takeithia was able to provide a warm handoff between her new client and Zlena who provided immediate, high-quality support.
Over the months of support, Zlena sees Takeithia as more of a sister than anything. “I can call her for emotional support, job coaching, or to talk about my dreams,” says Zlena. “She’s currently connecting me to resources like grant writing so I can work on my own nonprofit.”
Zlena is excited to get back to helping others in more ways than one. She is currently creating a nonprofit to host events, family fun nights, support seniors, and build community. And it’s a family affair—Zlena’s 10-year old daughter has also started a movement to inspire children in her elementary school to give back, named Build A Dream.
“It feels great to always know you’re never alone,” says Zlena. “And now I get to make sure that people feel that way too.”