“My mom was there, but she would do drugs [so] I was the mother figure for my siblings,” Helen explained as her 19 month old, Nylah, playfully crawled out of her arms. With six siblings and no father in her life, growing up was not easy for Helen.
At the age of 14, Helen was placed in the foster care system after the Florida Department of Children and Families discovered her mother’s boyfriend molested her sister.
Her world turned upside down.
“I broke down,” Helen admitted, as tears streamed down her cheeks. Helen had already faced more than her fair share of hardship, but this was only the beginning.
At 17, Helen aged out of the foster care system and conceived her 10 now year-old-daughter, Victoria. Unfortunately, Victoria’s father became abusive. Helen coped with the pain by following in her mother’s footsteps. Helen quickly became dependent on drugs and alcohol as she and her daughter moved from shelter to shelter.
“I was looking for the love I never got from my own parents,” she admitted.
Three years ago, with nowhere else to turn, Helen fled with her daughter from Florida to New York City. Maybe a change in cities would mean a change in luck. “It was like everything fell into place, and I needed to be here,” Helen said in a hope soaked voice.
New York did not welcome Helen and Victoria with open arms. “I didn’t understand,” she said as she recounted her time spent homeless and on the streets of New York City. But Helen was right, her luck was going to change, and this time for the better.
In 2016 Helen moved into the Wagner Housing Community, which would soon become a site of the Dream Center NYC‘s Adopt-A-Block program.
At the Dream Center we have the unique privilege of serving our neighbors living in public housing through our Adopt-A-Block program. Our Adopt-A-Block program allows us to provide support to underserved families through weekly block parties and free community markets at the front door of their buildings. This program allows families to receive much-needed household goods while creating a fun atmosphere and giving space for relationships to grow and humanity to thrive.
“The first time I met the Dream Center was last year when you handed out turkeys,” Helen remembered. Helen and her daughters quickly became familiar faces at our weekly Wagner-Adopt-A-Block. “I was like a magnet, and everyone just came up to me at Wagner. They seemed drawn to me. I just thought to myself ‘that has to be God’” she smiled.
Helen quickly grew close with our staff and Dream Center leadership students. Our team has become extended members of her family. “[The female students] are such role models for Victoria. It’s hard in school with girls these days, but they set such a good example for her,” Helen describes as she glances over proudly at her daughter.
These relationships led Helen to take the next step in her journey with God at the Dream Center. “What you do in the community, it touched me and you guys are just so awesome... It moved me to come to church,” she said, thankful for the opportunity.
Helen grew up in a fractured family, but today she is building her family on the foundation of faith and friendship. “I never had a church that made me feel accepted, loved and wanted.”
This holiday season Helen finds herself as motivated as ever to be the mom she never had for her daughters. With a shaking voice and watering eyes Helen explained, “Not having a mom, you want that on holidays. I missed out on a lot, and it inspires me to give them what I didn’t have,”
Helen now knows the best way to serve her daughters is to make space for God in their lives and teach them that God will carry them even when life gets tough.
As she began to sum up her experience within the Dream Center’s Adopt-A-Block program Helen beamed, “It just makes me so happy.”
Each week, the Dream Center team visits and serves people throughout the city at our Adopt-A-Block sites. Helen’s story is just one of thousands that the Dream Center has had the opportunity to play a part in this year, and it’s because of your generosity that we have the resources to make our events possible each week.
Give to Season of Compassion today and give families, like Helen’s, hope for the future.