Client Spotlight: Reenae

“I found myself in a situation I never thought I would be in. When tragedy struck, I had no place to live and no income. I had three small children, and no place for them to call home. I kept telling myself this will be OK, I’ll figure something out…but soon enough we were living out of my car. My heart felt broken. When we moved into The Light House it was a new beginning. With their support, I was able to find a job and an apartment. Homelessness can happen to anyone and I’m grateful that The Light House was there for me and my family when we needed it most.”

– Reenae, Former Light House Resident

In The News: Capital Gazette Home of The Week – Bryan

“Being handicapped isn’t easy; I’ve been struggling my whole adult life. The Light House gave me a hand up.” – Bryan, Former Light House Resident, B.E.S.T. Culinary Graduate, and Current Light House Bistro Employee.

Client Spotlight: John

Photo: John and his Light House Client Advocate, Karen

I’ve never been as blessed in my life as when I walked through the doors of The Light House.
– John, Former Resident & Community Client

I’ve battled drug and alcohol addiction all my life – even during the forty years I worked as a mechanic in Anne Arundel County. On top of that I’ve suffered multiple health problems: COPD, emphysema, prostate cancer and herniated discs…it finally came to a point my addiction and health problems became unmanageable. I couldn’t keep a job, and I couldn’t keep up with my medical issues.

One day I was kicked out of my apartment and ended up sleeping in an alleyway on Clay Street. After that I slept in the woods or anywhere I could find. I had no shelter – not even a tent. I drank every day to dull the pain, and picked up small odd jobs to get by. To this day I don’t know how I made it through.

Then, I found the Light House.

Without my client advocate, Karen, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. She never let me down, she was always there for me. The first few weeks I was at The Light House I was in bad shape. She set me up with medical appointments, helped me get my birth certificate, whatever I needed to move forward.”

The people who come through The Light House doors get what they need to get back on track. This program is here for you, and all you need to do is listen and you’ll be on a good path. I’m sober today because I want to be. I want to make the friends that I have now proud of me. I want to make Karen proud, and everyone else who works here and supports this place. They all mean the world to me, and the only reason I got through it all was because of the support of the staff and Karen – they are superheroes!

In The News: Light House Receives AACo Chamber of Commerce, Inc.’s 2017 Nonprofit of the Year Award

This just in! The Light House was selected as the recipient of the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, Inc.’s 2017 Nonprofit of the Year Award!
Each year, the AACo Chamber of Commerce recognizes outstanding business achievement at their Annual Business Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet. Their 2017 Banquet was held on Wednesday, and our Light House Executive Director, Jo Ann Mattson, accepted this award on behalf of our incredible staff, volunteers, donors, clients, and community partners. Thank you to all who help make The Light House a place of healing and hope for our most vulnerable community members!

Client Spotlight: Marsha

Marsha moved into The Light House with her 16 month old daughter and twelve year old son.

She had been living with her mother while raising her son, and soon after having her daughter almost two years ago, her mother passed away, the father of her daughter developed an aggressive form of cancer, and she lost her job that she had been working at for 12 years. Within this short amount of time her entire support system was no longer there for her. Her mother was gone, her significant other was in the hospital suffering from cancer, and she no longer had employment. This left Marsha feeling very alone and scrambling for options on where to live and how to support herself. She didn’t have any close family, and very few friends in the area.

With no home, no income, no access to childcare, and no technology to apply for jobs she felt the strain of what seemed like an impossible situation. Her first step was to try and rent the living room space of two acquaintances who had many children and family members already living in their home. This was incredibly difficult and she soon had to leave after her roommates became increasingly reckless and were having serious legal problems of their own. She then moved in and out of homeless shelters in Maryland but said that “they were just places to sleep.” Her two kids, especially her son had a very hard time living in these environments. “We didn’t really accomplish anything, there was no help with moving forward. We were just there. My son had no one to talk to and the environments weren’t healthy for kids.”

Desperately trying to find a better life for her family, Marsha came to The Light House.

“Then I came here and almost as soon as I walked through the door I was getting help to take steps towards receiving health and support benefits, doing jobs searches, getting the ball rolling on transitional housing, and even pursuing my dream of going back to school.”

Marsha’s case manager encouraged her to go back to school. She helped her research different programs and degree options, apply for Anne Arundel Community College and for grants and scholarships. Thanks to this support she was able to receive full funding for her degree program. Marsha began attending Anne Arundel Community College at the end of June 2017 to earn a two year Business Management Associate degree. She has been set up with a laptop and all her books, and says that she has been dreaming of going back to school for business for many years and is incredibly proud and excited.

Having worked at a large grocery store for 12 years, she has a lot of business management experience already. “I did everything that managers did, but because of my lack of education I wasn’t able to move up in the ranks. It’s hard getting an education with young kids…It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m grateful that I finally have a chance to do it.”

The Light House has also helped her son and daughter. “The experience I got here has really helped me a lot, but also especially my kids, their happy and they have really opened up. I think they were feeling like outcast before we moved here, they were depressed…but now they’re comfortable and happy.”

Her son is signed up for summer camp and she says that “he absolutely loves it here, he gets to come to the shelter after camp or school and people smile at him, joke with him and have positive interactions. He really needs activities and consistency, and he gets that here.” She says that the few years of not having a place to call home was hard on him in school too. He switched schools multiple times, and stopped trying to make friends and generally shut down emotionally. Since moving into The Light House she says that he has opened up, made friends at the shelter and at school. “He loves school, when we were moving around his grades went down and it really upset him, but since moving into The Light House they’ve gone right back up! He’s a straight A student and on the honor roll again!”

Like most mother’s Marsha is working hard first and foremost to make a good life for her children. “The way to my heart is through my kids, everyone here is so nice to them, they make us feel like we’re home. The Resident Assistants especially are good with my son. They joke and talk with him and it makes him feel like he belongs. Sarosh (a Light House Resident Assistant) jokes around with him and makes him smile a lot. I think Sarosh really saw how depressed and shy my son was when we first moved here, and he really went out of his way to make him feel welcome and to get him to talk. Everyone really does too…they just make us feel welcome.”

Her case manager is at the final stage of getting her and her family into transitional housing and Marsha can’t wait to start her new career path after graduating with her Associate degree. The Light House gave her all the resources she needed to find a better path and she believes now that “I’m not just moving on now…I’m moving forward.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Janis

Janis started volunteering at The Light House in October of 2015 and has been a dedicated volunteer ever since. She had recently retired from Anne Arundel County Public Schools as a special educator, and was looking for the right place to get involved and make a difference through volunteering.

Janis thinks her experience as an educator and military family member taught her the significant impact that community outreach and family support has on children and families. The Light House and its many volunteer opportunities is a way for her to give back by being a part of this outreach and support.

She became aware of The Light House through talking with friends, making periodic food donations, and doing online research. Her first volunteer position at The Light House was working as a front desk volunteer. This gave her the opportunity to get to know the staff, residents, community, and the various programs offered at The Light House.

She is also now planning activities and working with children and family members who reside at The Light House. “This is such a blessing for me!” Janis says, “we have a great time playing and engaging in the different activities. There are always smiles, hugs, and much laughter during our time together. I feel quite lucky to be a part of the Light House family!” We are quite lucky to have Janis on our team, and thank her for her years of support!

Client Spotlight: Mr. Martin

What brought me to The Light House? First and foremost, I got sick, I got diagnosed with COPD and couldn’t continue to work at all, I had no income, no place to stay, and I was in so much pain…I was hurting bad

Mr. Martin grew up in Washington D.C. and Maryland. He worked in construction and maintenance in Annapolis for almost 30 years, and had even managed to set aside a savings account for the future. He was a hard worker and had expected to have many more years of employment and income ahead of him.

His life plans came to a halt though when he started to develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a progressive lung disease that gives him severe shortness of breath, chronic cough, asthma, fatigue, and frequent respiratory infections. His doctors told him that his years of exposure to fumes and toxins were a huge contributor to his COPD. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t continue to work. His savings quickly dried up due to his medical expenses and having to cover rent without an income. Soon he couldn’t afford to stay in his home.

“I became homeless, I was living with friends and places I had been doing work at, sleeping on different couches, and even outside. My lungs are so sensitive, not having a clean place to stay made me so much sicker. It was a long struggle for four years.”

Mr. Martin’s frequent asthma and coughing attacks require that he live in a space that has well filtered air, regulated temperatures, and minimal allergens. Without this, his condition becomes very painful and unmanageable. This was an exhausting and difficult challenge when he was living on friend’s couches or sleeping outside. His condition was getting worse every day, but finally a friend connected him with The Light House where he was given shelter and connected with his case manager, Jill (pictured here), who helped him on the path to a better future.

“It was by the grace of God that I found The Light House, and that I got housing.”

Mr. Martin moved into The Light House in December of 2015. His case manager helped him apply for a housing voucher, sort out his finances, and get him the medical treatment he so desperately needed. With the support that The Light House provided, Mr. Martin was able to move out of the shelter and into his new home in July of 2016. Since then, he has been able to take control of his health, go to his medical appointments, and even has a beautiful little back yard with a small garden plot. He has been connecting with old friends and has just recently been reconnected with his three half-sisters.

“I love my life now, I have peace of mind…I’ve come a long long way since The Light House took me in.”

Volunteer Spotlight: Sue and Paul Mikulski

Photo: Paul Mikulski, Chef Jim, Sue Mikulski and Chef Linda standing in front of The Light House Tower Gardens.

What started out as 24 sandwiches a week for almost ten years, has turned into so much more!”– Sue and Paul Mikulski

When Sue and Paul Mikulski were preparing to get married, their church suggested they adopt one of the Acts of Mercy. In 2008, as they were standing in their refurbished kitchen, they thought why not use the kitchen to make sandwiches for The Light House? Since then, they have made two dozen sandwiches a week, each and every week. If they go on vacation they either make ahead or make up when they get back. We estimate that they have hit the 10,000-sandwich mark!

The Mikulski’s generosity does not stop there. When Sue, a retired nurse and now a certified health coach and owner of the virtual franchise “Juice Plus+,” saw an email from The Light House asking for weeding help in our summer gardens, she had an idea. She had just attended a conference about Tower Gardens, a vertical system that grows plants aeroponically (without soil). Sue thought why not get The Light House a Tower Garden. A few phone calls later, Sue’s idea blossomed and between her, Paul, and several of their friends, we now have 8 Tower Gardens! Sue comes to The Light House weekly to check the water levels, check the pH of the water, add nutrients, and to do the occasional root training.

These Tower Gardens are a sustainable way for us to bring fresh produce to our residents and the Annapolis community year round. The residents come out to see how the gardens have grown and it is very therapeutic for them. Sue and Paul want to “feed the homeless like they’ve never been fed before” and we are beyond grateful to them.

“What do I get out of it? I get back way more than I give. I have met residents from all walks of life, all with a story.” – Sue and Paul Mikulski

Thank you, Sue and Paul, for your hard work and support!

Client Spotlight: Ellabell

The Light House Gave Me Hope

– Ellabell, Former Light House Resident and B.E.S.T. Student

Ellabell’s beautiful smile lights up her face. She has a home, a steady job and a sparkling new set of teeth. This small but mighty 58 year-old credits The Light House for giving her the hope and faith she needed to help herself succeed.

“I used to go up to 206 West Street every day to get lunch,” she recalls. “When I became homeless, that was the first place I went. I came to The Light House on a Friday, and they had a bed for me on Monday.”

The Light House provided Ellabell with food and shelter and something more: hope and faith that she could make a better life for herself and her family.

“I graduated from the B.E.S.T. Program, got a job, paid off my debt and found my own apartment. Before my mother passed away, I was able to tell her that I had a home for myself and my boys.”

Ellabell gives back by volunteering every Sunday and at B.E.S.T. graduations. Last year she learned that an anonymous donor wanted to provide the funds she needed to get her teeth fixed.

“There is so much help they give you here, but you got to help yourself. You gotta stay strong and keep moving. I’ll be 59 in January and I’ve got my smile back!”