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LJ Idol week 22: open topic


“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…”

“What happened?”

“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 [info]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.***

This was beautiful.

“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.”

I especially connected with this line, in particular, in light of what I wrote for my entry this week. Absolutely agree that there are a lot of steps that need to be taken in order to reach the "big picture" goal.

Thanks. I was trying to figure out how to build off beldar's piece and it seems to me like his main character cheated, so I wanted mine to take the longer, wiser road. I was writing her advice to Angela and nodding - funny how sometimes characters tell us things we weren't expecting.

This was very sweet! I have a good friend who works for a women's shelter so it resonated with me a lot.

Thanks so much. I actually researched a local shelter to be sure I had at least the basic facts right, it astonishes me how much they do.

Very well done. I like your piece fleshed out from your partner's.

Thanks a lot, the idea for this (what happened to the foundation in Chicago that Webster left in the lurch) was actually beldar's, but it resonated with me. I'm glad it worked for you as well.

What a great thing, to help battered women. These type of safehavens are invaluable.

They really are. I was trying to figure out what the foundation in Chicago would be and started researching online a bit and found a local womens shelter. I'm amazed by how much they do, with so little.

It was a blast working with you on this!

For anyone seeing this comment, note that the magic here is all beeker's -- all I gave her was that there was a woman in Chicago with a noble cause, and Rebecca spun this tale. Awesome!

Aw, thank you sir! This was a lot of fun, and your idea was a great starting point.

That was such a sweet story. Your main character is awesome :)

Thank you. I like Danielle, and think I need to be more like her.

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I really liked the ending and the subject matter and just..it is true. Sometimes focusing on what you have already accomplishes your dreams better than chasing for what you want.

Really good points.

It's easy to get lost in the big picture and forget to take the steps right in front of you. I think all of us feel like that sometimes.

Thanks for the kind words.

Aw, this was just so nicely done. What great characters. :)

Thanks so much. I really like these two, I don't know if they'll lend themselves to anything else, though.

Whoa, that last paragraph...I didn't see that coming.

My college roommate worked at a family shelter for a number of years. She still occasionally volunteers there. How they make do with what little they have is nothing short of amazing...

I used a local shelter as the model for Danielle's, and looking at their needs list and seeing something as mundane as toothbrushes reminded me that I don't have to have hundreds of dollars or weeks free to help.

This was lovely :) It's easy to forget sometimes that there are always lots of little steps involved in reaching your goal. I know I have to remind myself of that almost daily.

The big daydream is fun, but we all have to do something about it too. I'm in the same place. Thanks.

Aw! The ending just...gah, that's perfect. Makes the whole piece even better than I was already thinking - what a touch!

Thanks. Interestingly how Angela related to Danielle was the first thing I knew, so I can't quite imagine reading it without knowing that. I'm glad the reveal works for you.

Anything worthwhile takes work. Oddly, this is a lesson theater has taught me. If you take too many shortcuts, or rely on past triumphs, or whatever, the end results is obviously half-assed. You can fake it a little but really if you're not serious about what you're doing, and organized, and hard working, it will show.

Anyhow, nicely done.

I'm reading it believing that Angela is an angel, to contrast beldar's entry.