Well, we did it again…we beat our cash gifts from last year AND we surpassed our pledges from last year. Last year was such a jump up, I didn’t know if we could even match it, much less beat it. How blessed we are to have such dedicated champions of this important work. They give and give and give. We also received TWO $20,000 unsolicited grants – almost out of the blue. One was from The California Foundation for Stronger Communities and the other from the Fieldstone Foundation. That’s not included in the earlier tally – that was an “above and beyond” surprise!
But perhaps the biggest takeaway of the evening was the testimony of our SFI graduates: Sarahy Cruz graduated from our first cohort in March of 2012 and Maria Rodgers graduated from our third cohort in December of 2013. Both have stayed very connected to us and both of them are celebrating milestone accomplishments this year.
Sarahy, a teen mom who graduated from high school seven months pregnant, beat the statistics and not only graduated from high school, she went on to college and, thanks to the many tools and the ongoing support from MSH, has amazed us all with her accomplishments. Just 4 ½ years later, she has a BA, just finished her MA course work at Chapman University, will start her student teaching in January and in May will graduate with an MA in Education and her teaching credential!!!! Here’s a little snippet from her testimony: “It’s so great to not be part of the stereotype of a teen mom. Statistically speaking, success was not in my future. However, My Safe Harbor gave me the tools, the support, and the hope that I could beat those statistics. I know there are many challenges still ahead for me and my family, but I am confident that we will face them together and find a way through. I know that working hard, learning to trust others, accepting their support, and believing that God will see me through will be the key to success in the future for me and for my family. I’m so grateful for SFI and I’m so proud to stand here and tell you that your investment in mothers like me has paid great dividends. Without your prayers and financial support, I hate to think where I might be. Thank you so much.” Still makes me tear up a little to read that.
Maria came to us from a nightmare of domestic violence and abuse…for 23 years! She came broken and afraid, unsure about the future for her and her two children. Three years after SFI, almost a year of volunteering over 20 hours a week for MSH and a few little forays into the working world, Maria landed an amazing job this fall. Western Youth Services has hired her as their first Parent Partner – a new pilot program designed to provide support and assistance to the parents of children in counseling. Here is just a little snippet from her testimony, too: “I LOVE my new job! I call it my blessing job. Not only am I helping others, but for the first time in my life I have a full-time job with benefits!! SFI prepared me for this job. Not just because of the skills and the support, but because they helped me find my purpose and my passion and to believe again. I have moved from a violent, hopeless existence to a purposeful, meaningful life filled with joy. I’m so grateful for My Safe Harbor’s investment in me. I have new goals and I’m looking forward to the future with confidence, a sense of adventure, and real hope for me and my children.”
Two women, with very different stories and very different outcomes, but both testifying to the transformational experience they had in the Strong Families Institute. I’ll finish with a little snippet from my remarks at the end: “As for our women – we are not changing them, they are choosing change for themselves. Our task at My Safe Harbor is not to fix them. It’s to create an environment that gives them a safe place and long-term support that will convince them to risk making the changes for themselves and then to offer real skill building to meet the task. Our amazing program could not be successful without their decision to do the hard work of change.”
It was a wonderful evening and we met our financial goals, but the real celebration is in seeing how God is using our choice to build this program and our participants’ choices to change their own lives. God is SO good.