Is there hope?
I thought, “Is there hope for someone like me?” I’m in my 50s. [The corrections system] said I was a habitual criminal; that I would never be able to change. And I believed that, I really did.
But Rhonda (Stand in the Gap’s Women in Transition Program Director) gave me some hope. I started to dream. I didn’t know if I was allowed to dream because that wasn’t something I was raised with: to have goals, or ambitions, or to dream.
My goal at first, was just to do anything that Rhonda told me. She had become the mother that you dream about. Someone that will encourage you; be nice to you. The look in her eyes when she’d look at you, it was compassion. I wanted more and I just kept coming back.
[After being released from prison], I’m in a sober living home, employed, still clean and sober, but that was all. I didn’t know how to be out in public, didn’t know how to be social. I didn’t go to restaurants because I thought everybody knew I was an inmate.
Rhonda said she’d found me a Stand in the Gap family. She said, “This is a family that will surround you and encourage you.” That’s something I always wanted.
Our first meeting, that was so hard. I was so nervous and didn’t know how to act, didn’t know how to dress, didn’t know how to feel comfortable. I was so terrified that I was going to slip up and say a cuss word. We were meeting at a Starbucks; I didn’t know nothing about those kind of drinks. I didn’t know how to order anything.
The first one that showed up was Lisa. She was just beautiful and so sweet. She looked so soft, not hard like the women in my life are. Then Rhonda and Dawn came.
I was excited but thought, “What do these people really want? Am I a pet project?”
So, the first time I met them, I told them some rough stuff, kind of to push them away. When they came back, I don’t think anyone knows what that did, that second meeting. It meant that they knew about me, really about me, and they wasn’t afraid of me. And they wanted to get to know me. It was very moving.
They were there through the struggles. They’ve been there through the happy times. We have pictures. I have memories. I have a photo album, not just on my phone, actual pictures.
They are my family.