Darlene is as sharply dressed, well-spoken and professionally mannered as any corporate executive. Just over a year ago, she was jobless, homeless and living in a motel. “Never in a million years did I imagine I’d ever be on this side,” she says.
After 20 years of working with a local school system, Darlene was caught in a wave of layoffs. Her marriage of 27 years ended not shortly afterwards, and with two grown children, she was really on her own for the first time in her life.
Two subsequent administrative jobs followed, but the economy was unstable and both positions were also ultimately eliminated. She was successful in securing seasonal work with a tax preparation company, but when tax season was over, money began to run dry.
“My mindset was that I wasn’t going to rely on family,” she said. She was living at a motel, and had one more week before being evicted when she called a local women’s shelter and was told they were full, but recommended she call the Freestore Foodbank for help with housing. “I knew the Freestore provided help with emergency food, but had no idea their scope of services was so much larger.”
Cherish Edwards, a Shelter Diversion Case Manager for the Freestore Foodbank, was assigned to Darlene. After learning she was eligible for assistance, Cherish developed a program that provided Darlene with temporary housing assistance, as well as case management for help in securing employment, budgeting and skills training. “The program required me to find housing in two weeks,” she says. “I found a place in a nice residential neighborhood the following day.”
“Darlene displayed such determination and perseverance,” Cherish says. “I was amazed at how fast she moved.”
“I was so motivated,” Darlene says. “I’m 58, and no one has ever offered me help like this.”
A position with Mature Services soon followed, and Darlene was able to start a savings account, and complete a job readiness program. Today, Darlene has completed her program with the Freestore Foodbank, but is still actively working on her goals.
“I would like to work towards getting a BA in Business,” she says, “and ultimately, start my own, small organization focused on helping seniors learn how to operate computers. I helped teach a technology class for the elderly at Mature Services, and loved it – they just need patience.”
Darlene would like to start dating again, but these days, her joy comes from spending time with her twin two-year old granddaughters. “If not for the Freestore Foodbank’s Shelter Diversion Program, I wouldn’t have any of the things going for me that I have today. But the main gift they gave me was hope, and the belief that I can make it on my own.”