A NEW Look: Case Manager Denise Ziegler

Case Manager Denise Ziegler considers herself Superwoman. She doesn’t wear a red cape or fly an invisible jet, but her days are devoted to helping others and saving the day.

Denise works as a case manager for New Horizons, helping mothers find stability and confidence, and helping their kids stay motivated and inspired. Denise is also earning her BA in criminal justice. As if that’s not enough, Denise takes care of her elderly mother and most weekends, all four of her grandsons, ages 12,11, 5 and 1 stay with her.

Serving others, she said, is just who she is.

“When I started working at NEW, I could really identify with the women because of my own personal experience,” she said. Denise had her own battle with addiction as a young mother, so she sees herself as a real life example of someone who has succeeded despite setbacks.

“You see the struggle especially when they’re trying to stay clean,” she said. “You show them more than you tell them. You say, ‘I was where you are and look where I am now?’ I really have compassion and a real love for what I do,” she said.

After Denise earns her BA, she plans to get a job working in a jail or with women coming home from jail. Her kids and grand-kids are all doing well and she has no intention of giving up her Superwoman title any time soon.

“It’s all about giving back, and sharing your experience of strength and hope,” she said.  “You want to make a difference in someone’s life and I think I have.”

Did You Know: Case Manger Antoinette Norris

Did you know that Case Manager Antoinette Norris always seems to have a smile on her face? A DC native and the youngest of seven children, growing up, Antoinette was always fascinated with human behavior. “I wanted to know why people do what they do and why they think what they think,” she said.  Antoinette’s brother went through some life challenges and she remembers asking her parents, “Why can’t he just get it together?” It was this desire to know and understand that lead her to social work. “I wanted to find out how I could help people change their behavior,” she said.

Antoinette earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and then a Master’s in counseling, both from Trinity University. When she graduated she was determined that she did NOT want to work with adults. She took an internship with Rachael’s House in any case, because she needed it to graduate. In true optimistic Antoinette form, she ended up connecting to her clients. “I was already very women-centric in my thinking, but I didn’t know it at the time,” she said “These were women. I’m a woman. That right there is a very powerful connection,” she said.

After more than a decade in the field, does Antoinette now understand human behavior? “I don’t know,” she said, “but what I do know is for the most part, people just want to be heard. The women I work with feel voiceless and powerless, and a listening ear can be medicine for the soul.”

Did You Know: Case Manger Mozell Brown

Did you know that this week, case manager Mozell Brown celebrates 27 years of sobriety? One of 12 kids in her family, D.C-native, Mozell lost her mom to cancer when she was 10-years-old. “I didn’t know how to cope,” she said, so around the age of 13, she started using drugs. “I stopped believing in God and I became this very angry little girl,” she said. She eventually dropped out of school and became homeless.

Then at the age of 31, she decided she had had enough. She quit using drugs and alcohol, and didn’t relapse once. She earned her GED and her bachelor’s degree in social work. Sometimes Mozell shares her story with her clients, so that “they can receive that hope, that if it happened for me, it can happen for them,” she said.

When she got sober, she also regained her faith in God. Prayer, Mozell said, is a big part of her life. “You just pray. Cause prayer changes things, but you have to believe in order for it to change.”

Letter from the Executive Director

When volunteers came into our NEW homes this year, they were tasked with a specific mission: A group from Morgan Stanley painted the YEP classroom; A group from Reid Temple AME brought lunch for the women; a group from Deloitte organized a holiday party. These capable volunteers assisted us with solutions to real needs. And we were so grateful.

But something else happens when our willing and compassionate volunteers come through our doors, something that may be deeper and more meaningful in the long run: They connect with the NEW women and kids, and they begin to see them not as problems that need to be solved, but people who are striving to be happy and build new futures. We saw that when volunteer Elizabeth got out the Uno cards and challenged 10-year-old Kassandra to a game.

We saw that when volunteer Christina lingered after her yoga class, to speak with Serenity about breathing and the intersection of singing and yoga. We saw that when Kathy dropped off lunch for our women at Rachael’s House and stayed to join them in a little song.

When women come to us seeking help, it is often after a long road of suffering from the physical and mental stress of being homeless. We can give them a place to stay. But what is more challenging is restoring the women’s sense of self-worth and confidence which must come before there is stability and independence. This does not happen overnight. And it requires more than just NEW’s support — it takes a village.

Having volunteers treat the women of NEW with compassion and respect goes a long way and even little interactions can have big (and positive!) outcomes for the women. For the volunteers, the experience is not just nuts and bolts of the work, such as when the Morgan Stanley crew painted the space where our Youth Enrichment Program kids meet. It’s the heart that goes into the volunteering that brings a multitude of returns for all.

As Mahatma Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We are so grateful for our volunteers!

Warmly,

Wanda Steptoe Executive Director, NEW

Moving Into Success: Donna Burke

Donna Burke first tried marijuana when she was 12 years old. It was peer pressure, she said. Later, she was first introduced to what she called “the drug of my choice, which was crack cocaine.” Then her great-grandfather died and she found out that the man she thought was her father was not her father. That sent her into a tailspin that solidified her drug habit. “I escaped into the world of drugs,” she said. She was in and out of jail, treatment facilities, and her family’s lives. She was diagnosed with HIV in jail, she had a daughter, and all the while, she prayed to God that she could get clean before her mother and grandmother died.

Then, one day, at the age of 48, she got tired. She went into a recovery program and she got sober. Both her mother and grandmother were alive to see it. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” she said. “I know that there’s a God because he heard my prayers.”

Donna with her daughter and granddaughter.

Today, Donna lives at New Endeavor’s New Hope permanent-supportive housing, where 10 women who suffer from chronic illness live in five 2-bedroom apartments in Southeast. “I’m just trying to live every day to the fullest,” Donna said.

She is now close with her daughter, Chantay, and she enjoys taking care of her one-year-old granddaughter, Serenity. They are instrumental in her recovery, she said. She drinks beet juice everyday, and she works to help others get clean as a residential aide for Echelon Community Services. “I deal with people in recovery. It helps keep me grounded,” she said. It’s her way of giving back because someone helped her, she said. “Once you get clean, you want to see everybody clean. You don’t want to see anybody suffering. It hurts me emotionally.”

Donna has been sober now almost eight years and is thankful to NEW. “I like this setting because we live in a community. We’re not isolated,” she said. Going to work she sees people on the bus who are sick from addiction and she thanks God she doesn’t live that way anymore. A relapse, she said, would be a slap in God’s face after he answered her prayer. “Recovery is a way of living and you have to change people, places and things to succeed,” she said. “I had to change everything and I did. NEW is important for people who want a new way of living. Now I remain clean because I want to live.”

Gala 2018, A Record Success

The Junior League of Washington

This year’s 30th anniversary gala was a great success that raised more than $130,000! With hundreds of auction items, including tickets to Port City Brewery, to the Mark Twain Awards, and to a Capitals game, the event proved to be our most successful night yet. It was a wonderful way to celebrate 30 years of serving women and children in DC. We also honored some very special members of our NEW community. Read more

NEW Volunteers

With Volunteer Managers Antoinette Norris and Moira McLaughlin leading the charge, we had another active season of volunteering with both new and seasoned volunteers alike.

We were impressed and amazed by the efforts of the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) who raised $72,500 for our Youth Enrichment Program (YEP) at their annual gala. Every year they choose a different charity, so we were so lucky to be chosen this year.

This fall, the Connelly School of the Holy Child hosted their annual walk which raised more than $3,000 for NEW. Then this winter two seniors, Charlotte Bell and Molly Argerisinger organized a winter clothing drive for NEW and collected winter hats, scarves and gloves that are coming in handy in this cold weather.

A volunteer women’s network group lead by Laura Fiallos from Morgan Stanley, painted our YEP classroom a bright blue accent wall around a subtle pink. Sure to inspire any kid working on homework!

A women’s group from Shiloh Baptist Church prepared and joyfully served dinner to the NEW women, talking and laughing with the women.

We were so happy to welcome Christina Lammey from Shaw Yoga who teaches a regular yoga class to the New Transition women. Christina has helped the women push themselves and care for themselves while also encouraging them to be strong and healthy. Namaste!

An entire team from Deloitte lead by Sharen Howell and Stefanie Carter, organized a holiday gift giving effort for our YEP kids. Deloitte requested wish lists from all the kids and took great care to find just what the kids wanted. “I feel like I know the kids and their little ambitions by what gifts they wanted,” Sharen said when she helped drop off the presents. Another team from Deloitte then threw a holiday party where the kids enjoyed opening their gifts and eating cookies.

Carin Johnson, who was once homeless in Maryland and running from an abusive relationship, came to speak to both our New Transition and New Horizons women. Her story was an inspiring one of struggle and ultimately success. She now has a home, a family and a thriving career.

A group from Bessemer Trust helped decorate our headquarters for the holidays again this year, hanging a wreath, trimming  a Christmas tree, and spreading their holiday cheer throughout the building.

Students from Washington Latin Charter School, lead by Hope Foster, donated hair supplies, packaged in pretty bags, to the women at New Transitions and New Journeys.

Young girls from Girl Up, a nonprofit that aims to empower girls world-wide donated toiletries to NEW, and included handmade notes to the women wishing them a happy holiday.

A group from Reid Temple AME Church baked a delicious meal for our 29 women at New Transitions and New Journeys.

We are grateful for all the community support we get, and we know we could not do what we do without the kindness and thoughtfulness of so many wonderful, caring people.

Letter from the Executive Director

Letter from the Executive Director

The #metoo movement has spawned a national discussion about serious issues that face so many women. This is a good thing. And yet, I can’t help but feel that the #metoo discussion has not been all-inclusive. Our women face myriad problems, not least of which is sexual abuse and domestic violence. This kind of trauma often leads to things like addiction and homelessness. And yet there are some people who are inclined to think women who are homeless become so of their own accord, their own mistakes, their own poor choices. Our women are judged in a way that the wealthy Hollywood stars who have also been wronged, are not.

The reality is, it’s amazing that women with little to no resources, forgotten by their communities, find the inner strength to keep going. And yet they do. Their will to live and achieve a better life is inspiring. This is why our work is so important.

You won’t see our women in The Washington Post next to the #metoo hashtag, but they have suffered nonetheless. It’s up to us, here at NEW, and all our wonderful, generous donors like you, to remember them, understand their struggles and be a part of their success, not because there is a movement with a hashtag, but just because it’s the right thing to do.

Warmly,

Wanda Steptoe, Executive Director