A Chance at Hope

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A Chance at Hope

“But you know things just happen,” Julie said with a tired smile that grew quieter as she began to recount painful moments from the last 25 years of her life.

25 years marred by depression.

25 years filled with the struggle that almost took her life.

Julie’s story began in Pennsylvania where she was born into a normal family, in a normal town, with a normal life.

For her first 25 years that is.

Just after Julie’s 25th birthday she headed off on her great adventure to New York City. She was filled with ambitions of “making it big” as a Christian music artist and ignorance of the deep pain to come.

Julie’s music career did not go as expected and as her dreams began to drift away so did her smile, but that was just the beginning of her heartache.

“Things started to get bad when my dad died in 2000.” She said, knowing each loss had drawn her a little deeper into depression, but nothing quite like the loss of her father.

“It got to the point where it was really, really bad for me,” Julie admitted, describing how simple things began to morph into challenges too overwhelming to face. “Okay, a normal person would need to get medical insurance, and just go to the office and do it, for me 5 years go by and I still haven’t done it,” she confessed.

As Julie’s depression became an obstacle too high to conquer, her home became the same. Simple tasks like opening mail, washing dishes, and doing laundry had become impossible. She explained, “You let things get into piles and piles, it gets to the point where there are 12 bags of laundry and it’s overwhelming.”

By 2006, the clutter in Julie’s home made her bed so inaccessible that she resorted to sleeping on cushions as a makeshift bed in a small space on her kitchen floor. Julie lived this way for 10 years.

She needed help.

In 2016 Julie reached her breaking point as her landlord demanded change. Letters and threats of eviction piled high; she had lost hope. “I was crying to God on the floor of my apartment asking and pleading for help,” Julie remembered.

Julie was on the verge of taking her own life.

That is when God connected Julie to the Dream Center.

She was referred to us by an organization in her neighborhood and was quickly enrolled in our Visits program. Visits connects volunteers to clients throughout the city and facilitates weekly visits to each client's home. This program allows our team to serve a predominantly elderly community, at no cost to them, in whatever way they need.

Within a couple weeks, Dream Center volunteers began visiting Julie’s apartment. Her smile slowly began to return.

With a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes Julie described her first encounters with our team, “My prayers were answered by God that you guys even came into my life, it was a miracle. You saved my life.”

As progress developed in Julie’s apartment, so did healing. Whether laughing over finding five of the same spatula or carrying bags too large to lift to the curb, Julie said her time with our volunteers was always filled with joy.

These moments sparked Julie’s hope in conquering depression. As time went by and relationships grew, Julie’s home became less of a project and she became more of a friend.

Julie was no longer at a threat of taking her life.

“I can talk about anything, I can talk about God,” beamed Julie “You proved there [are] people who care, not because they win points or we pay them, because this is their hearts”

“I couldn't have done any of that myself - it would've been too much for me,” Julie explained as she recalled what has been accomplished during her time as a Dream Center client.

Julie still gets overwhelmed with simple tasks, but every time the team leaves her apartment she feels inspired. “The coolest part - once they come they definitely are doing something - and they get me motivated, making sure I get to laundromat, so that means I’m doing laundry,” she exclaimed.

While Julie has made great strides in bringing her apartment back to life alongside our volunteers, the biggest progress has been healing in her heart. Julie went from being alone to loved, suicidal to hopeful, and confinement to freedom.

Julie is continuing work on her apartment and has lots of goals, and we are committed to help her get there.

Each week, our teams serve people in apartments throughout the city. Julie explains the purpose of our Visits program best when she explains the difference it has made in her life, “What you guys do with home visits - this is the most unselfish thing I’ve ever seen or heard of, being so giving of yourselves truly makes such an impact on the lives of the people you help.”

Julie’s story is just one of thousands that the Dream Center has had the opportunity to be a part of this year.

We are eager to see what God has in store for 2018, but we cannot do it alone.

It is because of your generosity that we are able to serve our neighbors through our weekly City Missions Programs, so we ask for your help as we prepare for our 2018 season.

Your generosity changes lives. Your generosity gives hope to the many who, like Julie was, are stuck.

Give to Season of Compassion today, and give your neighbors a chance to hope again.

Click Here to give today.

** At the Dream Center we respect those that we serve – and many are working toward a fresh start in life. So while their stories are true, client names and images may have been changed to protect their privacy. Thank you for understanding.

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A Life-Changing Friendship

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A Life-Changing Friendship

“I think I was born at 6 feet [tall]” Asha joked as she shifted uncomfortably in the twin bed just a bit too short and narrow for her tired body. This seemed to be an interesting beginning for a life story but “interesting” doesn’t justly describe the narrative to follow.

Asha was born in West Harlem, NYC to a mother that worked two full time jobs and a into a community knit as tight as family. As she described her home life, Asha mentioned very little about her father. He was in and out of their home until she was in her mid-teens, when he left for good. Her mother never kept her or her younger sister from enjoying a relationship with their father. Asha recounts that her mother constantly filled their home with the smell of food cooked from scratch and that, “The house was always full of her singing.” In the years between her childhood and meeting the team from the Dream Center NYC, Asha’s life was full of adventure.

At 17, Asha began to work for the New York State Attorney General’s office which led to an education and a career in justice. Her pursuit of education uprooted her from the comforts of her West Harlem family and drew her to California.

In her second year of law school Asha was forced to take on one of the largest battles of her life - Cancer. She continued to pursue her education during the 4 months she lived in the hospital. “If I ever wanted to die, that was when I wanted to die,” Asha admitted as she recounted the pains of her battle. 24 surgeries later Asha was cancer free and determined to finish law school.

Shortly after walking the stage to receive her diploma, Asha moved to Atlanta in search of more education. She spent the following years adventuring throughout Africa and Europe, but always called the United States home. Asha later moved to Scottsdale, Arizona where she worked as a hospital chaplain. This position was not long lived.

In 2000, Asha received the phone call from her mother that brought her back to New York for good. For the next 5 years, Asha worked to provide and care for her mother. This time was marked by her mother's slow decline in health. Asha recalled, “I came into her room and she was [breathing heavily] and I finally looked at her and said ‘Ma I know you have waited for this a long time and you can let go’ but when it happened I wanted to take it back… and I was right there when she took her final breath.” For the next 9 years Asha lived alone.

In 2014, Asha became connected with the Dream Center NYC through a referral for our Residential Assistance program. Residential Assistance connects volunteers to clients throughout the city and facilitates weekly visits to the client’s home. This allows us to serve a predominantly elderly community, at no cost to them, in whatever way they need. Asha began receiving visits from volunteers weekly.

“They came every Saturday… We would laugh and cook and eat, you know… it’s just like family,” she beamed. Asha’s countenance shifted as she began to list the different states she received volunteers from and how Residential Assistance visits were always a highlight of her week.

One particular volunteer named Shavon, who was in the Dream Center Leadership Program at the time, connected with Asha in a unique way. “... And we were just talking like I knew her a thousand years,” Asha said as she remembered her first visit from Shavon. For months Shavon visited Asha during Residential Assistance and eventually even started seeing her on her days off. “The time would just fly,” Asha said with a level of surprise in her voice. After living independently for so long, she was finally able to enjoy the fullness of family through the Dream Center.

In the summer of 2015 Shavon moved home to Arizona, but constantly kept in touch with Asha. We continued to send volunteers to visit Asha weekly, until she had a sharp downturn in health and moved from her home to a rehab facility. “I’ve always had arthritis, I’ve always had bad spine, I’ve always had stenosis, I’ve always had blah blah blah... But one day I noticed that I had trouble moving my feet.” Asha, who would walk all around her neighborhood with the help of a walker, now could no longer move about her home. She could no longer live alone.

“I went in [to physical therapy] the first part of June and I just got out January 18th,” Asha said as she again shifted uncomfortably in her bed. “I didn’t get out any better. It was the worst experience of my life. It’s horrible. For 2 months I was from the bed to the chair.” Asha had made some progress in the beginning of her stay in the rehab facility, but she fell ill and lost her momentum.

Shortly after, her insurance would no longer cover her stay in the rehab facility, and she was forced to move back into her home, alone. “I don't want to live like this,” Asha stated as she recounted the fear she experienced in her transition back home. It wasn’t until Asha returned home that Shavon was able to reach her again. Shavon explained, “That’s when she shared with me her months of pain and struggle, and I don’t know. It was really heartbreaking to me… Not only because I was hearing someone else’s story and realizing that it [was awful], but as a friend, it broke my heart and as she was talking to me I felt compelled to come.” Shavon immediately put her work on hold and within two weeks she was fully moved into Asha’s apartment.

Shavon plans to live with Asha for at least two months, and she has committed to care for Asha’s health during her entire stay. Asha no longer has to worry about living alone in a home that she cannot navigate because of the friendship that began with Residential Assistance.

Each week we visit with and serve people all over the city, and we have had the chance to watch so many strangers become family. The best part about it is that there is a place for you on our team. Come join us and volunteer to befriend those who can offer nothing, but will give you more than you can imagine. When you choose to serve and give, you are investing in an opportunity to change a life. Partner with us to change our city one story and one friendship at a time.

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