“What does your organization do, Ms. Rose?”
“Please, call me Danielle” said the trim woman in her 40’s. “We run three domestic violence shelters for women and children in the Chicago area. In addition to the physical resources, we also have informational hotlines, and offer legal services and on-site support when we can.”
“How did you get started?” the girl asked.
“Well, I got involved with the issue of domestic abuse the night I took my neighbor in after her boyfriend had hit her with a rolling pin,” Danielle said, and paused for a moment, looking pained at the memory. “I started educating myself and looked into places to volunteer. Everyone needed more resources and people, so I stayed busy. After a year or so I realized that there was one thing that the entire city desperately needed, and that was more safe beds. So I started Homefire. I was able to convince a local church to let us use part of their basement as a shelter space and installed six beds.”
Angela scribbled as fast as she could to keep up with Danielle’s story. Her English assignment was to interview someone important in her neighborhood and then write an essay about them. She couldn’t think of anyone more important than the woman in front of her.
“When did you move out of the church?”
“Not for years!” Danielle chuckled. “It takes money to maintain a space, and even more money to open a new one. We were able to stay afloat as we were, but couldn’t quite get ahead. I started pursuing corporate donations and people with a lot of money to give away. I learned how to craft a grant proposal, and how to introduce myself to strangers. There was one man who I thought was going to pay for us to open our own building. He wanted to build something new and grand, something that would make folks notice him. We had met several times; he had asked for financial information and had toured the church, but…”
“He moved away. I guess he forgot about us once he was in another state.”
“But you kept trying.” Angela was almost too caught up in the story to write.
“Yes and no. I realized that I was spending all of my time with paperwork and people with money, so I wasn’t ever at the shelter anymore, helping directly, and I missed it. I decided that I had to stop trying so hard to make the place bigger and more, and instead had to make the shelter the best it could be as it was.
“A few months later Homefire was named a top-rated non-profit in the Chicago area, which got us noticed. A few corporations came to us with offers, and by being careful and converting a found space we were able to open our first stand-alone shelter.”
“And now you have three.” Angela pulled the wrinkled Homefire brochure she had been carrying for months out of the back of her notebook and tapped it for emphasis. She kept it in her hand as she continued to take notes
“Yes, now there are three. I wish we could have twenty, and be able to offer beds to every person who needs one. But sometimes when a dream is too huge you end up missing out on the small good things right in front of you. All of our shelters are rooted in their communities, with a third of the volunteers coming from within a ten-mile radius of each location.”
“Are you saying that people shouldn’t dream big?” Angela sounded worried.
“No, of course not,” Danielle said reassuringly. “But you can’t get so blinded by the end result that you think you can get there in one giant leap. Dreams take work, and there are a lot of things to do on the way to your goal.”
Angela smiled and finished writing that out, whispering “way to your – goal” as she finished. “Alright, I think I’ve got what I need.”
“If you have any more questions for me, please feel free to come back up and ask.”
“Thanks Ms. R - , Danielle. I’ve got one of the computers in the study room reserved in five minutes, so I need to get to it.”
“Of course, Angela. I’m sure your paper will be brilliant.”
Danielle smiled to herself as the teen left the room. She remembered when Angela had arrived with her mom last month. She was quiet and kept her shoulders hunched so far forward she almost disappeared. Both women had bruises. Angela wouldn’t let go of the brochure she had crumpled in her hand, as though she were afraid that if she lost contact with that piece of paper the whole place would disappear. Danielle misted up for just a moment at how far Angela had come, and then shook herself. She had more work to do before the day was over.
***This is my entry for LJ Idol week 22 - open topic. We're intersecting again this week, my partner beldar 's entry is titled "Double or Nothing". They can be read in any order, and for that matter if you want to read more go to the topic post and see what the talented writers still in this competition are up to.***