Friday, December 12, 2014

Home, not Homeless, for the Holidays


Many of our mentees spend the Holidays alone. Family connections are often times frayed and friends are inconsistent at best. For some of our mentees, this will be their first Christmas in years not spent either on the streets or behind bars.

This is true for one of our Craine House mentees, Shy (not real name). I recently met Shy during one of our Trusted Mentors Recognition Night events when she accepted an award from her mentor, Mary. Shy confidently took the microphone from her mentor’s hands and launched into a heartfelt message of gratitude. “Mary sees me for me. She doesn’t see me as a number, as a criminal, as an ex-offender. She sees me for who I truly am.” Shy so eloquently verbalized the value of the mentoring relationship that I quickly tracked her down after the event to ask for an interview.

I met Shy a week later at her then home, the Craine House. The Craine House is one of our agency partners that provides a secure and structured environment where women serve their sentences for non-violent felonies. It offers a unique and positive environment in which preschool children may live with their mothers.

At 27, Shy has lived many lives, and has the wisdom to show for it. She’s birthed two children, spent years incarcerated in state prisons and has moved from a tiny rural town to a bustling urban community.

In exactly seven days, Shy will begin a new chapter of her life. She will move into an apartment, along with her two kids, while maintaining the job she’s held while living at the Craine House. “I’m mostly nervous about how my children (ages five and eight) are going to react.” Since they were ages five and two, her children have been raised back in her small rural hometown by their grandmother.

When asked how having a mentor has helped her to stay positive and focused while in the Craine House, Shy spoke of the enduring value of friendship. “At first, I mostly wanted a mentor to get out in the community.”  It didn’t take long for Shy and Mary’s mentoring relationship to blossom. “I love having Mary in my life. She’s not like a counselor or case manager. She shares her life with me. She’s a true friend. It’s great knowing you have someone you can trust and have freedom to be yourself with.”  

Mary and Shy have indeed explored the community. Shy shared a story about a special outing that Margo planned as a surprise for her mentee. Shy shared, “Mary doesn’t like the outdoors, but she knows  I do.” Mary planned a day hike around the IMA’s 100 Acres Woods one sunny fall day. Shy says that Mary was out of her comfort zone: “She hates nature and bugs… She planned this outing because she knew it was something I’d enjoy. That meant a lot.”

As Shy makes the transition from the Craine House to self-sufficiency, she is thankful to have her Trusted Mentor, Mary, as a support and friend along the way. Shy knows that she’s not alone on this journey. We are thankful that this Christmas will truly be a bright one for Shy and her family. We are thankful for Mary and all the mentors who make a difference.