My name is Bernardine. My priorities are God, Catholic Charities, and Chances and Changes. I believe that by telling you my story, I can explain how CCLC helped me clear my slate and find the freedom to become a new person.
In 2015 I was an active addict who was in immediate danger from a man. Chances and Changes gave me shelter. I was fearful but I knew I had to leave my old life. I needed to find resources and was sent to Catholic Charities of Livingston County. My immediate needs were clothing and food. CCLC connected me with the Food Pantry and the Clothing Closet. Then I needed a job. I had no phone, no computer, and no transportation. Volunteers at CCLC helped me to use the public computer. They arranged for a phone. I could not get to a drug counselor or a therapist. I met with Faith in Action at CCLC. The volunteer drivers began taking me to my medical appointments. On the drives they would listen to me, encourage me and give me practical advice. I still talk to some of them when I need a friend. After a while, I would offer to bring them a cup of coffee. They always thanked me but explained they wanted to give. So I learned. I want to give too.
It was time to move to an independent apartment but I owed RGE $700. Helpers at CCLC negotiated with RGE. They paid part, the shelter paid some and RGE agreed to give me a fresh start. My apartment is decorated with donations that come from CCLC. I like to hang inspirational pictures that help me spiritually. The furniture program delivered a good mattress that helps me sleep. The staff found me personal items, including some Fixodent. You can’t go for a job interview when your teeth are flapping.
I check every week for pots and pans. And for books. I love to cook and read, and I share. The week I found a big cast iron pot, I came to the Food Link Mobile Pantry. They gave me collard greens. I cooked them for dinner and my new church. I grew up in Mississippi and I know how to cook them up right. It’s a way for me to bless other people.
After a while, I found a job, and bought an old car. The gas card program at CCLC got me moving until I had some paychecks. And now I pick up clothes and food for women who could not get to CCLC.
One day when I did not have gas money, I took the Trailways to Rochester for an appointment. There was an old lady in a wheelchair trying to get to her family down South. She didn’t have any more money for bus fare. I knew I had to take her home with me. I wheeled her to my apartment and carried her upstairs. I could see she needed Depends. I called CCLC, and they called the Geneseo Parish Outreach. A lady from the clinic brought them right to my apartment. Pretty soon we got the lady to the shelter. I heard she go back down South. I hope she’s doing good. I’d like to be more involved in CCLC because they’ll help you get to where you want to go.
Today I have been in a stable apartment for a year and a half. I walk down to the CCLC garden and pick vegetables to take to my friends. When I go to their apartments, I’m the town crier for Catholic Charities. I don’t have money as yet to give. But every time I walk by the office I pick up any papers. I make sure their sign isn’t blown over. I found the flower that I planted in front of their door. It’s my gift; something that grows, shows life. I water it every week.
Because I don’t have to worry and be scared every month about the rent and the utilities and because I know I can get food at the end of the month when all my cash is gone, I can start to work on my focus. Children are my thing. I could not have any of my own but God has promised that I am going to help two boys. I don’t know who they are but I call them Samuel (God has heard) and Matthew (Gift of God). I’ve got to my part to be ready to help them. I’m accepted in the Foster Grandparent program at school this year. And I’m signed up to train to become a foster parent. I know that I want to provide love and structure for some kids. That’s what they are looking for: structure and love.
I need to stand up for my new life and I want to help other people stand up. In my old life I wanted everyone to like me. Now I know that will never be possible. Sometimes you have to be the person to punch the situation, to be ready to die for something, not from the old somethings. That is why I am using my own name and telling you my story. Because you might want to do something.
Will you join Bernardine and Catholic Charities of Livingston County help people get where they want to go? Donate Today