The staff of Downtown Women’s Center say they can see God’s hand in the work they do with the people that need them the most.
Lives change, people are empowered and miracles happen as recipients of DWC services move through the Recovery Program or settle into affordable housing, according to Associate Director Donna Soria.
“The Lord is extending a miracle, love, a kiss,” she said. “He leaves his fingerprints — we know it was him.”
Soria sees another very real life-changer during the holidays and the Amarillo-Globe News Empty Stocking Fund drive. Eleven clients of the DWC — with corporate offices at 409 S. Monroe St. — were awarded ESF vouchers for $25 each this year. Soria said the voucher is something each recipient values and uses for practical purchases.
“The ESF is not just some fluffy program; it helps real people with real lives that need real help,” Soria said.
“The popular things people want are boots or coats. Some of them don’t have a vehicle, so they do a lot of walking.”
Clients live within walking distance of many of their daily destinations, so Soria said they ask for items that help protect against the weather.
An elderly ESF recipient was able to purchase a coat with his voucher, which according to Soria he needed to have in order to be able to get out in the elements and walk to the store.
“Every day he wears that coat will be Christmas all over again,” Soria said. “He is so thankful.”
“One lady was excited because she doesn’t have enough income to purchase something for her granddaughter, but with her ESF voucher she was able to go and shop for something from the store,” Soria said.
This “made” her Christmas — having the ability to go get something store-bought for her granddaughter, according to Soria.
“Boy, does that empower her to feel like she gets to contribute to someone else’s Christmas,” Soria said.
“Christmas is not just for children,” she added. “With (our agency) being faith-based, this is the time of year to celebrate gift-giving.”
According to Downtown Women’s Center Executive Director Diane Gilmore, ESF applications are completed for a specific population under the DWC umbrella.
“We only do Empty Stocking Fund applications for the folks who live in the Meridian apartment complex,” Gilmore said. “This complex provides quality housing for low-income people who meet certain eligibility criteria. Many of the individuals live on set incomes and have low incomes.”
Soria said tenants living in the Meridian apartment complex, located at 2201 S.W. Sixth Ave., are not part of the DWC Recovery Program.
“Meridian is a smoke-free and alcohol-free complex and people love living there,” Gilmore said. “The complex was started in 2009, and we knew it would be tough to have smoke-free apartments.”
The tenants don’t take exception to the smoke-free policy.
“When you care about them and you do it for the right reasons, it all works out,” Gilmore said.
Soria said tenants of the 35-unit complex see that the place they call home is more than a place to live. They are on the receiving end of case management, love, friendship and the knowledge that someone is checking on them.
On the DWC Recovery Program side, potential clients can initiate services lasting up to two years through two points of entry — either The Haven or Abba House, according to Soria.
Haven House, 1308 S. Buchanan St., is a 17-bed dormitory-style house for single women and for women whose children are in the care of someone else while the mother is completing her program.
Abba House, 405 S. Monroe St., is comprised of 10 efficiency apartments for women and children, Soria said.
Clients of both Haven House and Abba House are referred to Amarillo Recovery from Alcohol and Drugs, a 45-day addiction treatment program for the homeless population. This treatment program coordinates and works with all homeless shelters in the area, according to Soria.
Clients use education and tools provided at ARAD and typically stay with DWC for six to eight months.
After that, the ultimate goal for all women in the DWC Recovery Program is to move to the Gratitude House, also under the DWC umbrella.
Gratitude House is a 40-unit apartment complex for women and children, a housing unit that Soria stresses feels more like a community than just a place to live.
The women of the Gratitude House provide a support system for each other and become close — so close they sometimes don’t want to leave.
Soria said resident there are welcome to stay as long as they are working toward self-sufficiency while working through college and moving toward securing stable employment.
Churches, companies and individuals have adopted the apartments under a DWC project called “Adopt an apartment, adopt a life,” which has resulted in refurbished spaces that feel like a home.
DWC also runs thrift stores in downtown Amarillo.
Soria said DWC staff members see God’s hand when they are serving their clientele and tenants.
“These are the people who need him the most,” she said. “I love it when the Lord rushes in, scoops everybody up, and makes it OK.”
“We know it’s all going to work out for the good.”