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Rock Recovery Volunteer Spotlight: Carly’s Story – Finally Free

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I felt trapped. In my own body. I would look in the mirror and see all of the things wrong with the girl standing there in front of me, no matter how thin I became. I would go to the grocery store and become dizzy and stressed from staring at all of the nutrition facts before I put a food item in my cart. I would go to bed hungry as long as it meant I could feel my rib cage − and to think this all started when I was just 9 years old…

When I think about my struggle with anorexia and disordered eating, I recognize that it has been a constant battle for half of my life. I am not completely sure why it started exactly; I think it was a combination of things, but I can honestly tell you that I never thought I would be able to overcome it. It was just part of who Carly was and always would be.

My senior year of high school was the hardest year for me because this is when I struggled the most. I remember when I lost a drastic amount of weight, my dad was sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. “What can I do to help you Carly? Please tell me. I can’t stand seeing you this sick.” I never saw my dad look that sad or defeated in my entire life and it made my heart ache because he is my rock and my hero. However, I did not know what to tell him. I thought I looked fine; in fact, I thought I could lose more weight. How I looked still wasn’t good enough…

My teachers and friends at school became worried too, but it didn’t matter to me at the time. All I thought about was losing more and more weight until I was satisfied with my appearance, whenever that would be.

Then, college came around and I realized my college career and life could go down two very different roads. I could continue heading down the dangerous, destructive path I was already on and become even sicker (my doctor told me that if I continued I would cause my body permanent damage and wouldn’t be able to have children in the future, and as a result of my current eating behaviors, I had already become severely anemic and developed a thyroid disorder), or I could try and overcome this once and for all and let it go. Let myself be free…To everyone else’s surprise, and mine, I did just that.

I remember coming back home for the first time since I left for college, and my dad had tears in his eyes. But this time, it wasn’t because he was worried or scared–but because he was happy. I had overcome what had eaten away at me for so long and finally could eat something without feeling guilty or sick. I was finally free…

People frequently ask me how I overcame my eating disorder and there were several factors that led to my recovery. But the driving one was I decided on my own and for myself that this was not the way I wanted to live my life anymore — I didn’t want to go through life constantly worried about what I was eating and how many calories I was taking in each day. Even though I lived this way for so long, I always thought that there had to be a better, happier, freer life waiting for me and now that I am ED free, I realize that I was right.

Ultimately, my struggle with an eating disorder is why I now volunteer at Rock Recovery. I truly want to help other men and women who are struggling with disorder eating. More specifically, I want to let them know that they are not alone and that freedom and recovery are possible. Posting motivational messages, testimonials and creative recovery campaigns on Rock Recovery’s social media handles helps me achieve just that.

In closing, I once heard this quote when I was struggling with my eating disorder that I never thought I could achieve. It goes like this, “And I said to my body, softly ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.’” Each and every day, I now try to live by this quote. Although it’s not always easy and I do still struggle at times, I now actively choose to love my body and be its friend. Thank you for letting me share my story with you.

Your friend in recovery,

Carly

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This blog post was originally published on Rock Recovery’s website on February 22, 2017

Rock Recovery has been a partner of Catalogue for Philanthropy since 2018. They provide holistic eating disorder outpatient treatment services, outreach educational programs, and a community network for those in recovery.

Second Story Wins Award from FBI

Second Story was awarded the Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) from the FBI! “This special award, presented on behalf of the Director of the FBI, was formally created in 1990 as a way to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs, and violence in America,” says the FBI.

The award was presented to Second Story as a result of Second Story in the Community’s close relationship with the Washington D.C. FBI field office. Each of the FBI’s 56 field offices selected one recipient of the award because of “outstanding contributions to their local communities through service.” Nandred Navarro, Vice President of Community Based Services at Second Story, accepted the award at a ceremony earlier this year.

The FBI works to do outreach in communities where there are vulnerable populations and partners with Second Story in Culmore, Annandale, and Springfield. Specifically, Second Story worked with the FBI to educate young people and their parents on cyber security, how to report crimes, and the different types of programs available in this field for internships and employment. They also presented to some of our community partners and gave workshops to young people in Second Story’s programs.

FBI Director Christopher Wray presented the awards. Second Story is honored and thankful to receive this award, and especially proud of Nandred Navarro’s leadership and her team’s impactful work in our community-based programming.

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For Youth in Foster Care, Mentoring Makes a Meaningful Difference

Our very first mentee, Michael, was matched in our program in 2005. He entered into foster care at the hospital on the day he was born, and aged out of care on his 21st birthday. Throughout those 21 years, he was in and out of foster homes, lived off and on with different relatives, and experienced homelessness as a teenager. He constantly faced instability because of his time in the foster care system.

One day Michael, who had just recently aged out of care, called us at BEST Kids in a lot of pain. He had injured his shoulder at work, and after spending the entire day in urgent care, the doctors wouldn’t prescribe him any pain medication or offer him any relief. I went to meet Michael outside his apartment, and while he was calm and in stable condition, he was still in a lot of physical pain. I decided to ride in the ambulance with him to help him get his shoulder checked out at the hospital.

At the emergency room reception desk, they ran through all the routine questions with Michael: his name, insurance, address, etc. I’ll never forget what happened next: they asked him for his emergency contact information. His face dropped and he fell silent. Upon seeing the look on his face, my heart dropped as I saw him struggling to think of a family member or friend in his life that he could list. After about 10 seconds of visual and nearly palpable hopelessness, his face perked up a bit and he spurted out, “My mentor, Lyle.”

Those 10 seconds were an emotional roller coaster for me. To see Michael have to vocalize that he did not have someone to call on in emergencies broke my heart. It opened my eyes to just how difficult that realization is for our youth in so many everyday situations. But the fact that he had a mentor, and that he felt he could count on his mentor during an emergency, gave him hope and reaffirmed for me that the work we are doing is powerful and imperative.

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We hear about the challenges youth in foster care, like Michael, face all over the country. These stories and statistics undoubtedly demonstrate the need for increased resources to help these youth succeed, and the various ways in which we as individuals and communities can support this particularly resilient, yet vulnerable population.

This is where BEST Kids one-on-one mentoring program comes in. Experiences for youth during their time in foster care are quite different. Some youth come into care at birth and spend the entirety of their young lives as wards of the state, while others spend just a few months in care while systems of support are put into place for families. Some youth come into care because of various forms of abuse, while others experience some form of neglect or a tragic occurrence. Youth in foster care experience so many adults and service providers constantly coming in and out of their lives, most of which are paid to do so. Besides voluntarily giving of their time, what makes mentors any different?

Mentors open up opportunities and provide assistance, but aren’t social workers. Mentors are listening ears that aren’t therapists. They inspire a love for learning, but aren’t teachers, and they motivate and encourage, but aren’t coaches. They guide and support, but aren’t parents. Above all else, mentors are there consistently and voluntarily, as they cater to the individual needs of the youth, including creating space for our youth to be kids and have lots of fun.

Lyle has supported Michael as a mentor for over 10 years now. Throughout the years, they participated in many activities like biking, canoeing, picnics and ballgames. Lyle also practiced interviewing skills and supported Michael when he got his first job. He helped Michael get his first apartment and taught him how to fix a few things around the house. Lyle most recently mentored Michael as a new father to a beautiful little girl.

Lyle didn’t swoop in and make Michael’s life perfect or heal all of his trauma; and as a mentor, he was never expected to do so. We train and individually support our mentors to simply spend time with their mentees consistently, to care for them, and help them to keep the hope they need to become successful adults, while overcoming obstacles youth face together.

I urge you to learn about the various ways you can support youth in foster care in your community. There is an ever present need for foster homes throughout the country. You can volunteer with or mentor with organizations that help youth in foster care to thrive, or you can advocate for systemic change to improve services impacting youth in care.

BEST Kids is a nonprofit organization that provides one-on-one mentoring for over 150 youth in foster care in the Washington DC Metro area. We match caring and consistent adult mentors with youth to provide them not only the guidance and support they need to grow up, but also to help them navigate challenges specific to growing up in foster care.

Written by Krislyn Mossman, Executive Director of BEST Kids

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Anacostia Watershed Society

An innovative, environmentally-friendly workout idea: cleaning up a garbage-bag-worth of cigarette butts. A single butt only weighs about 1 gram, but once you pick up hundreds of them, they start to add up to some serious bicep strengthening. That’s how I celebrated Earth Day 2019 with the Anacostia Watershed Society on April 13th.

As a fellow with Catalogue for Philanthropy, I have the honor of working with and learning about over 400 locally-based nonprofits in the Greater Washington Region. So when my school’s community service committee asked me to arrange a volunteer opportunity for myself and other American University students for Earth Day, I knew where to look. Time to join the #Trashtag Challenge!

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Anacostia Watershed Society’s annual event engages nearly 2000 volunteers for 44 sites around the Anacostia River. My site’s neighborhood in Anacostia was not directly next to the river but in the river’s wider watershed area; whenever it rains, all of the trash in the residential area flows into the river, hurting wildlife and the ecosystem.

Fellow volunteers and I met at We Act Radio Station, a hip local institution and de facto community center. I sat among piles of books from their ongoing book drive. We were welcomed by Stacy and Aroni, two friendly and enthusiastic Anacostia Watershed Society staff members and our team leaders for the day. They gave us gloves to protect our hands, picker-uppers to prevent back strain, and matching t-shirts to look cool and groovy.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning to go for a stroll and pick up garbage. We made a circle around several blocks, carrying a blue bag for recyclables and a white bag for general trash. About 70% of what I picked up were cigarette butts. In public discourse, we acknowledge how cigarettes choke our bodies, but not enough about how they choke the environment too. What made me saddest were butts littered on the ground not 3 feet away from public trash cans.
It was rewarding work. Quite a few residents stopped to thank us and a few even added some trash to my bag. I was pleased too by how social it was; the steady and relaxing pace of our walk through the neighborhood easily facilitated conversations with new and interesting people. Our crew even had a beauty queen! If you want to meet new people, explore a new neighborhood, and make a difference in the environment, I strongly recommend signing up for clean up events. There’s no better way to celebrate the new springtime weather with friends than going and picking up a bag of butts.

 

Written by Nancy Erickson, Nonprofit Programs Fellow at the Catalogue for Philanthropy

Independent Movie Theatres are the Stuff Community is Made Of

I’ve always loved movies. I come by it almost genetically. My father taught film production at various universities during my childhood, and I grew up on a steady diet of indie, niche, and foreign films: The Last Unicorn and The Point probably being the two most memorable and most watched in our household.

But it was in Argentina, on an academic research grant, that I fell in love with film. Not “movies,” but film itself as a medium.

I went to Argentina with a single, albeit complex question: how does a society heal from trauma on a massive scale? Argentina suffered a brutal military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983, during which time over 30,000 “leftist rebels” were “disappeared” by the regime. In 2007, when I was doing my research, the nation was still grappling with the fallout. For a while after my arrival, I posed that single question to everyone I met, and at first the answer surprised me, until I’d gotten the answer so many times it couldn’t be coincidence. Most Argentines I spoke to directed me to a single film: La historia oficial (The Official Story).

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La historia oficial tells the story of Alicia, a high school history teacher who is leading a comfortable life with her husband, Roberto, a businessman with ties to the military, and their adopted daughter. When Alicia begins to wonder about the identity of her daughter’s birth parents, she finds herself suspecting that she may be the child of people abducted or killed by the government. She is faced with an impossible choice: live knowing her child is missed by her real family or give up the thing she loves most in the world.

The film came out as Argentines were first learning that, during the dictatorship, children had been abducted from rebel parents and given as rewards to those loyal to the regime. As a country, they were struggling to cope politically and legally with the issue. But the film gave the country a glimpse into the individual, personal heartbreak obscured by the headlines: that real mothers, both biological and adoptive, were being faced with a no-win scenario. And in making the political personal, the film kick-started a national healing process.

What made me fall in love with film was understanding that it is so much more than entertainment or even education. Film is, to my mind, the most visceral way to tell stories, and humans need to tell stories. It’s how we understand ourselves, our families, our communities, and ultimately, our entire society. Stories define our nation, our religious traditions, and even our most intimate unit: the family. Those stories tell us who we are.

While I have been, from my youth, a great believer in the power of film, after my time in Argentina, I see it as a vital necessity to any community.

But film in the U.S. today has a problem. Our media is evermore mediated, and the stories that need to be told aren’t getting out there. Six companies own almost all media: and that’s not just film, that’s news, television, online portals, and more. The barometer they use on funding film projects is what will make the most money, not what stories need to be told. So they put their faith in what they know: the same old directors and regurgitated plotlines. And since the studios hold all the cards, they can charge gigantic licensing fees, ask for 90 or 100% of a theater’s ticket sales, and even take a cut of concessions sales. The only way to survive in that context is to be a giant corporation with pull of your own, and even then to survive, the multiplexes charge prices so high that film is becoming increasingly out of reach for the average American (whose income is decreasing).

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That’s why, in 2015, when I met Dr. Caitlin McGrath, I was immediately hooked on her vision to turn the Old Greenbelt Theatre into a nonprofit, arthouse cinema. Revitalize this a historic gem of a theater by: showing films that make people think; creating a space where the community can come together to digest, unpack, and process these films; and do everything possible to make these films accessible to everyone?regardless of age, income, or ability. It’s what every community needs, and we are beyond lucky to have this resource in Prince George’s County.

The Old Greenbelt Theatre is run as a nonprofit because we are mission-driven, not profit-driven. As a nonprofit, we can solicit the support of our community so that when we lose money showing a film (which we regularly do since studios can demand such a deep cut of our profits) we can still exist to screen more films that our community wants or needs to see. If we were worried about a wide profit margin, we wouldn’t have brought you Transit, If Beale Street Could Talk, Boy Erased or even First Man.

Independent movie theaters are closing down all across the country. They can’t compete in a corporate world that is cannibalizing the very locales that show their films. But there are important movies being made that need to be seen and not on a smartphone (as much as I applaud Netflix and Amazon for picking up the mantle of independent filmmaking). Film is at its most powerful when witnessed in community.

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That’s what we’re doing here at the Old Greenbelt Theatre. As a nonprofit, we bring you films from screenwriters and directors outside the mainstream. We provide a place to experience these films in community, and I truly do mean experience, because we follow up so many of our screenings with guest speakers and Q&A sessions. It doesn’t pay to do guest speakers. It’s something we do because it’s important.

We’re a nonprofit because we serve a vital role in our community. We aren’t providing bread or shelter, that’s very true. But in many ways, we are creating a safe haven. A place where people of all walks of life can come, see themselves on the big screen, and have their experience understood by the community. We’re helping tell the stories our community needs to hear, and stories are the very stuff of which community is made.

By Kelly McLaughlin, Director of Marketing & Development, Friends of Greenbelt Theatre

What I’ve Learned from 7 Months of Serving Homeless and Housing-Insecure Women in DC

AVODAHGRAs I finished my senior year at Wesleyan University, one of the things I was most afraid of for my post-grad life was losing the environment in which everyone is eager to share the learning process with their friends and peers. The desire to preserve that, and the importance of my Jewish communities and experiences to me, is what led me to Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps.

Avodah is based on studying the issues and approaches of our own service work as a way to navigate the centuries-old question central to Jewish life that is: how do Jews meet our obligation to serve? To do this, my fellow 23 Avodah Corps Members in DC and I are placed at leading anti-poverty organizations across the District – where we gain hands-on work experience and learn about the root causes and effects of poverty in this country. We work with individuals facing challenges related to healthcare access, food insecurity, housing insecurity, our immigration and refugee systems, and much more, as we also consider how to best organize the Jewish community toward a more just and equitable future.

For the past seven months, I’ve been serving as a program associate at N Street Village. N Street Village empowers homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. to claim their highest quality of life by offering a broad spectrum of services, housing, and advocacy in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

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Before I started Avodah, I was worried that my position and responsibilities would be too far removed from the macro-level social justice that I had spent most of college thinking about and cultivating my skills toward; I was nervous that I would not only miss reading, writing, and critically thinking about social justice in these ways, but that I wouldn’t be qualified for the direct service work that our clients needed me to do. Within the first few months I definitely faced a steep learning curve, but have also since found that I continue to learn more than I could have ever imagined about the lived experiences at the heart of the issues that I care about. This has been due in part to all of the training and learning opportunities that my placement provides its staff – especially its Avodah Corps Members and social work interns.

One of the areas of learning that has profoundly impacted me this year is trauma-informed care. Trauma informed care is a holistic approach to providing services, based in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma. What fascinates me about this framework is that trauma-informed care is more about changing systems than providing brief interventions to navigate traumatic experiences: it’s more about how a person who has experienced homelessness feels in a space that is intended to provide care, rather than about agencies checking off boxes of predetermined treatment requirements.

Learning and exploring the principles of trauma-informed care has helped me imagine concrete ways in which the choices that I make at work can be empowering for clients, even when challenges within the systems can be endlessly disempowering for them. Having an understanding of this holistic approach to care, I’m able to better recognize symptoms of mental health instability as related to the traumatic experiences of homelessness and being deprived of basic human needs. Most importantly, this framework helps me as a staff person to focus on the sheer resilience at the core of human responses to stress and crisis, reduce the shame and stigma associated by homelessness and/or other crises, and ideally, help survivors feel respected, connected, and hopeful about their recovery.

Though I describe trauma-informed care as systemic, and at its core it is all about a widespread change to social work and the standards behind providing services, where it really manifests are the personal experiences I have with clients and my coworkers. In the fall, our N Street Village CEO wrote a letter to the organization’s staff in the wake of multiple acts of white supremacist violence – from the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to the murders of Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones in Louisville, Kentucky. She wrote that in our work at N Street Village, “every day we have multiple invitations to challenge our implicit biases and to seek interpersonal justice. We are invited to acknowledge our well-worn habits of mind which automatically see an ‘other’ — and instead to exercise new habits of heart which see our commonality and which instinctively reach for connection.”

Having experienced this work for the past seven months, and getting to see its impact, I’m so grateful to my workplace and to Avodah as a whole for bringing the interpersonal connections to the foreground in my understanding of justice. I can only hope that through the rest of the year and beyond, my fellow Corps members and I never stop finding ways to fold that interpersonal justice into greater action and movements for progress.

 

About the Author:

Sammi Aibinder is an Avodah Jewish Service Corps Member. She currently works as a program associate at N Street Village, which empowers homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. Ms. Aibinder is a graduate of Wesleyan University.

 

After-School All-Stars: Students Participate in Culinary Competition Hosted by Marriott

Last month, After-School All-Stars, Washington DC (ASAS DC) hosted a field trip to Marriott HQ in Bethesda, MD for a “top chef” competition. This activity was the culmination of work that students engaged in all semester in their ASAS DC cooking classes. Thirteen students from three schools – Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Leckie Education Campus, and Charles Hart Middle School – participated in the competition and they expressed a combination of excitement and confidence leading up to the event. The group from Hart, in particular, remarked that they wanted to do a great job to “represent well for Hart and Southeast” – and that they had faith in their ability to win.

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The students and their ASAS DC instructors arrived at the Bethesda office and immediately went down to the kitchen area. They were greeted by various Marriott staff and Chef Brad Nelson, VP Global Operations in Marriott International?s Culinary division. Brad facilitated the event and provided instructions to the students. He spoke about his connection to cooking and why it is important for young people to learn it as a necessary skill. And he laid out the rules for the competition: students would have 45 minutes to create two plates for judging, using only the ingredients presented to them by Marriott. Brad and his colleagues also revealed 2 “secret” ingredients: boneless chicken breast and cauliflower. He urged the students in their preparation to “think about flavor, being creative, and what you would like to eat yourself.” Brad eloquently explained that to him “food is about family, hospitality, and sharing” and that was the backdrop for the competition that followed.

Once the rules were explained, students split up into 6 teams and promptly filled their trays with ingredients. With support from Marriott culinary professionals, teams started to create their dishes and delicious aromas filled the room. They were involved in every stage of the preparation from the planning, cutting/preparing, seasoning, and ultimately the baking or sauteing. While they all had to use the same ingredients, there was a broad range of final dishes presented?- from Cesar Salad, to pan fried chicken with sauted vegetables, and array of different sauces and spices. Mariame, a 6th grader from Leckie had a revelation after tasting her final product:”it’s DELICIOUS! It finally has real flavor!”

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ASAS DC board member Jessica Flugge (also a VP within the company) supported the production of the event and worked side by side with several student teams. Along with Jessica, two Marriott senior staff members visited the group as they presented their final dishes. They acted as top chef judges and sampled each plate, meticulously going through every nuance of each dish. They did this in a private setting while students completed one of the most essential culinary practices: cleaning up after themselves! The staff had high praise for all the dishes, describing them as “eloquent” and “well presented”. One judge frequently remarked that she did not like vegetables, but the students had “made a convert out of her.”

Ultimately the top 3 teams were selected by the judges and chef Brad, based on a combination of presentation, creativity, and overall taste. One of the teams from Stuart-Hobson came in 3rd place, another pair from Leckie was given the 2nd place award, and two young ladies from Hart Middle School took home the 1st place trophy. These accolades will go back to their respective schools to be displayed. In the end, as one of the judges noted, all of the students here were winners,” and each participant was given a culinary-themed parting gift courtesy of ASAS DC: chef aprons and hats, two cookbooks, and a slate of cooking utensils to help them create their own meals in the future!

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As a non-profit that provides free after-school programs to low-income DC middle schools, we place a high value on life-skills, teamwork, and career exploration. All three of those important principles were brought to bear at Marriott, and we have their dedicated professionals and our students to thank for that! Students left in extremely high spirits, excited at the possibility of participating in this competition next semester. Our staff reported that the bus transporting students from Hart sang the entire ride home, a fitting conclusion to a successful field trip!

Joe’s Movement Emporium: Bringing Arts to Life in Prince George’s County

Joe’s Movement Emporium is proud to be included in the Catalogue. This nonprofit is open year round for classes, rehearsals, performances, and arts education programs. Joe’s is a hub of cultural and community activity; it’s the largest independent performing arts center in Prince George’s County. Joe’s is a safe after-school haven for youth, offering arts activities that nurture self-confidence and self-esteem.

Recently, WHUR-TV’s Artico program stopped by and interviewed Neena Narayanan, the organization’s marketing director. Click on this YouTube video and go to 12:00 to see what makes Joe’s so special.

Aspire Counseling — 40 Years of Mental Health!

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For forty years, Aspire Counseling, a mental health non-profit based in Gaithersburg, has been helping Montgomery County residents grow, change, and thrive.

It began in 1978 with Maryrose Rogolsky and a small, rented office in the Rockville Seventh-day Adventist Church. Rogolsky, lovingly known as “Posey,” set out with a vision to start an agency specializing in low cost, high-quality mental health care, to children in need. From that room, Posey and her three staff members founded what was then known as the Child Center and began their legacy and transformed access to affordable mental health care in Montgomery County.

Posey was a true visionary. She served children during a time when there was little recognition of children’s mental health needs. She bravely did battle with insurance companies that questioned how a child of six years could be experiencing emotional problems. Fast forward 40 years and it can be very difficult to find an appointment with a child therapist, especially if you are uninsured and face financial and cultural barriers.

“With a firm foundation based on the belief that all individuals, regardless of race, age and income, deserve access to affordable, evidence-based, excellent mental health care she built an organization that has helped thousands overcome personal mental health challenges,” said Carrie Zilcoski, Aspire’s Executive Director.

Over its 40 years, the Child Center evolved, expanding to become Child Center and Adult Services, and now Aspire Counseling, but it continues to be guided by Posey’s vision. “What would Posey have done?” has become a mantra as Aspire’s staff continue to adapt to Montgomery County’s, and society’s, ever-changing needs.

In 2018, Aspire Counseling’s Main Clinic is on pace to set a record of 1,400 unique patient encounters and nearly the same volume of patients in the community. Aspire’s newest program has brought services back into schools, training hundreds of educators and school employees on becoming a Trauma-Informed School with a goal of placing therapists in each school who specialize in trauma and helping students who have experienced Adverse Childhood Events.

Aspire Counseling also offers programs dedicated to new mothers who are suffering from or at risk for postpartum depression. The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program connects families to community services and provides a therapist who will make 12, no-cost, home therapy visits.

Committed to transforming lives and building resilience regardless of ability to pay, Aspire has found its place in Montgomery County’s growing and diverse community. To learn more visit we-aspire.org or call (301) 978-9750. Regardless of the challenges, you’re facing or your ability to pay, Aspire is here for you.

 

The Friends of Guest House Family

Volunteer at PlayStacey Picard has been a volunteer with Friends of Guest House since 2016. Her experience:

I first connected with Friends of Guest House when it kept coming up in conversation with various people not related to each other, and I thought maybe I should pay attention. That was just over a year ago. In the time since, I’ve taught several classes, coached a few of the women one-on-one for job interviews and speaking events, and most recently, I became a mentor.

To walk in the front door at Guest House is to be welcomed into the family, by both the women and the staff. In spite of all that is happening at any given moment in a residential program that houses more than two dozen women, in spite of the myriad details of coordinating meetings, classes, appointments, a stream of volunteers, and an occasional crisis response, there is never a hint of the “transactional” business that is taking place. Instead, it feels like stopping by an old friend’s house.

I once read that “healing” is not to be “cured” of something, but rather to be welcomed fully back into the community. This is the business and the blessing of Guest House. At Guest House, each woman who walks in the door is treated with the same warmth and respect we all hope to receive when we are at our lowest moment.

For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve encountered this simple act of kindness and respect that many of us might easily take for granted. It’s the first time they’ve been seen as fully human, with all the gifts and flaws, and pain and joy, and achievements and mistakes that everyone has.

The challenge at Guest House is not to see the women as worthy of every good thing life has to offer, it’s to help them see it in themselves. And that’s not easy when someone’s sense of self-worth has been shaped by trauma or addiction or experiencing first-hand the for-profit business of prisons in America today. It takes time, and it’s messy, but this is the essential work.

So in my experience, the role of mentoring is not so much about imparting some life lesson or wisdom, or about coaching a specific skill or making progress toward some defined goal or life plan. Those things will happen. It’s really more about meeting them where they are at any given moment. It’s about sitting with them, being fully present and authentic, generously listening without judgement, and gently reminding them, over time, that they are just in the middle of their story, that their conviction is only one event in one point in time, not the defining ending, that they are so much more than their worst mistake and that they are worthy and deserving of a full life.

Because they are.

-Stacey Picard, Friend of Guest House