Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Road To The Beginning

I looked around the apartment to make sure that I got all of the last belongings out. I needed to make sure that everything was cleared out, because once I turned in the keys, that was it. There would be no turning back. There would be no way to retrieve any of my stuff. I had a heck of a journey on the bus to get back to the Salvation Army downtown. I had already been there a day or two, and the last thing that I was looking forward to, was walking down the block to get to my bunk bed. I didn't want to go back to the cramped feeling of laying on top of all of the other women, and their kids. I especially didn't want to get back to that filthy bathroom. I wanted to feel and smell a clean environment one more time. I laid down on my clean carpet in the apartment.

All of a sudden, the weight of my situation hit me like a ton of bricks. The sound of my crying came up from the pit of my stomach. I let out a huge wail, and the tears burst forth from a crack in my spiritual dam. I lay on my stomach, wailing, flailing, and beating the floor. Why was this happening to me? And, how in the world could I possibly manage what I knew I had no choice but to live through? After about 20 minutes, I picked myself up, and then I locked the front door. I walked across the street to the manager's office. I took my house keys off of my keyring, and turned them into the night drop box. For the first time that I could remember, I had no house keys on my keyring. It was finished. I was officially homeless. - November 2008

This is a recollection of the beginning of my 18 month journey in which I was displaced on a hard-core level. I had always had people to let me stay with them, and to otherwise help me out. But this time, I was on my own. You know, it's amazing the things that you take for granted as being part of your everyday life, until you lose them. Your house keys really become precious metal. You realize that you don't have a phone number to call your own. You find yourself in a Catch-22 situation: You have no way to be reached to obtain services to better yourself, and you can't better yourself without a method of contact. But more than this, you have no idea what it feels like to not even have the dignity of having something so basic as a phone number, but you do know the shame of feeling utterly helpless. This is why it was so meaningful to me to obtain a phone number from a local charitable organization that worked with Community Voice Mail. I first received my Community Voice Mail number two years ago. I still have it, and it has been the one constant in my journey back to independent living.

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

3 Good days in NYC

Recently two of my board members and I traveled to New York City to celebrate being one of eight finalists for the Lodestar Foundation’s elite Collaboration Prize. The Prize was created by the Lodestar Foundation to expose and reward successful collaborative model in the nonprofit and public sector, ultimately creating an extensive database of models and lessons learned. See the database at the Foundation Center .

Databases don’t ordinarily inspire most of us, but this database is the gateway to an endless supply of national good news stories infused with a heavy dose of candor and a tone of humility. The overarching themes? Set aside egos, replace with a shared vision, and maximize complementary strengths to fill service gaps. Said another way? Mission, mission, mission.

The Grand Prize went to Adoption Coalition, an Austin-based group that set out to reform the failed system of foster-kid adoption. Their post-collaboration results were stunning—not only did they increase the rate of adoption by 70% within two years; they reduced the number of transitions that foster kids experience and created “forever families” for kids who are too often forgotten.

What had started as a competition became a feast of inspiration, ingenuity, and hope, with stories like these:
Graduate! Philadelphia fixed the problem of “brain-drain” by mobilizing the assets of loyal Philadelphians. Now, local talent has a supportive and flexible path to finish their college degrees.
FeedMore, admitted that the community didn’t need two food distribution agencies and kitchens, and then knit together the donors and resources of the former competitors to ensure that no one need go hungry in Richmond Virginia.
• Twenty private colleges in Wisconsin, WAICU, took on the unglamorous but valuable task of consolidating back-office administration so that savings could be re-invested in financial aid.
Network for Good recognized that most technology does not abide by the “build it and they will come” tenet. They merged with the customer-support-focused Groundspring to train nonprofits and recently celebrated reaching the half a billion dollar-mark in brokered donations.

• The WIN Family Network in Southern CA created a first-in-class program of clinical case management for infants and their families, breaking down the old silos of care so that families can achieve stabilization faster and more completely.
• And, the Gulf Coast Consortia coalesced by recognizing that the big and meaningful problems that science sets out to solve are rarely solved by one discipline alone. Their efforts have yielded multi-institutional training, shared access to state-of-the-art facilities and tools, and tradition of interdisciplinary scientists who are encouraged to think big.

Congratulations, Adoption Coalition, and fellow finalists! Thank you for inspiring us and for elevating good news about everyday miracles in the nonprofit sector.

Jenn Brandon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Heart of CVM

Last week, we received nearly fifty poems describing the heart and soul of what we do. The winning poem was submitted from Pinellas, Florida. This wonderful poem has been submitted as our entry to the CTK Foundation Heart and Soul 2011 contest. It was especially powerful to hear poems submitted by voice mail in the voice of the authors. Take a moment and read or listen to a sample of the varied submissions we received. They are posted on our web site.

Thanks to all who participated!

"Onward I’ve walked a thousand miles in these torn and tattered shoes I know I’ve made mistakes but this is not the life I choose I’m the soldier that defected to a life of drugs and drinking I’m the scientist that lost his mind, now, Lord KNOWS what I’m thinking But the truth is that I think the same as all my brethren do I stand today, a broken man, but I was once like you At least, with CVM, I know I stand a fighting chance Today I plan, tonight I sleep, tomorrow I advance" – CVM Manager