Gina’s Journal, Entry 1 – 7/20/2015
“Lois* was used to living her life worried about her son, but she did not think she would need to be worried about how she would be treated.”
This is my last week at work before I take my vacation. I will be gone for two whole weeks in Montana – and getting married – yay!! Getting everything in order before I leave feels like a chore, but thankfully I have other employees now… unlike last year. This week is a time of big changes. A resident in one of the upstairs apartments, Ms. Lois is leaving. She has been at the YWCA facility for close to a year and has become a joy to see every day! She came to the YWCA as a referral through Adult Protective Services. She came to us as a 65-year-old woman who was living with her daughter-in-law after moving in with her to help take care of her son and his wife’s child – while her son was doing time in prison. Lois was used to living her life worried about her son, but she did not think she would need to be worried about how she would be treated. While Lois was attempting to help with her grandchild, she began to be verbally abused to the point where she could no longer take it. I learned upon Lois’s arrival with a APS worker that she had a big personality, but she had seemed apprehensive and scared. I showed her to the emergency shelter room on the main floor of our building and Lois settled in, and shortly became everyone’s favorite. She makes people laugh, she listens to their stories, and she voices her opinion. She is the peacemaker in the shelter, helping the different personalities come together.
“She has an amazing story of cervical and breast cancer survival”
As I met with Lois, she really did not have any idea of where she may end up, but she wanted to stay in Minot until her son got out of Prison. As luck would have it, one of the YWCA’s Permanent Supportive Housing Units became free. Lois qualified for the apartment and moved from the shelter into a 1-bedroom apartment on the third floor. Lois really blossomed while staying here. She has an amazing story of cervical and breast cancer survival, loss of parents and siblings, and lost her children to prison and bad behavior.
Lois helped new women coming in to the shelter by showing them around, letting them know the ropes and truly being a positive influence to others. Despite all of her colorful life experiences, she has managed to continue laughing, smiling and bringing joy to the other shelter residents. She has renamed the donations room, filled with generous donations from the community, the “Boutique”. This way, the women feel as if it’s not a handout of something to be ashamed of, but rather a place to go shopping for things they do not have. Lois has been a spokesperson for the shelter and has stood as a feature speaker at the Women of Distinction Banquet.
Lois has called the YWCA the best kept secret of downtown Minot, with no signs to label the building as a shelter or the YWCA. She has expressed that she truly feels that the YWCA shelter and Housing Unit has given her a safe, secure place where she feels comfortable. She ‘loves her little apartment.’
“She is the definition of a survivor and what it means to embrace every day for what it is”
Recently Lois came to me saying that she was moving back to the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. She was a nanny to a young lady, “Sissy,” from the time Sissy was 7 years old and she is now 30 years old with her own children. Lois has friends all over the nation, but Sissy has always kept in touch. Sissy has asked Lois to come back and help her by living with her and taking care of her children, as well as just being back where she belongs. Lois is leaving her apartment and moving to Mississippi on Friday. This is a sad day for anyone who has grown to love Lois and all that she brings to other women, the YWCA and Minot. She is the definition of a survivor and what it means to embrace every day for what it is, living in the moment and knowing that having a positive attitude and laughing at yourself and WITH the people around you is necessary to cope with life’s many non-stop challenges.
This is the final thing I will say about Lois, because I get emotional – she has made my days here as the Director very bright. I have cried with Lois, I have yelled at her to reel her back in, and most importantly I have laughed and shared with her. She has respect for women and their stories, she listens, and she is honest and direct. I will keep in touch with Lois, because she has made a direct impact on my life. I wish her nothing but the best of luck in life, and I will think of her often.
*permission obtained for names to be used.