May 10, 2009

Items Still Needed to Help Turn House into a Home

You can call it "stuff."

You can call it "crap."

You can call it "gently used crap."


We've had a solid response regarding our assistance with Presbyterian Night Shelter's Operation Move Out, but we still have some work to do in order to make a house a home for one of Fort Worth's homeless residents. (Original blog post here)

I asked PNS to share the story of one of their clients in the program – someone who has picked themselves up, are standing proudly on their feet, and ready to get off the streets of Cowtown.

Hopefully this story inspires you to help us with this endeavor:

Melissa Bertrand has never had a home to call her own.

The 44-year-old has never had the chance – until now.

Melissa, who has been homeless on and off since she was a child, came to the Presbyterian Night Shelter about one year ago after being released from prison. Now, Melissa is one of 65 homeless clients participating in the Shelter’s Operation Move Out, a project where PNS is helping 65 homeless move out of the Shelter and into their own homes through funding from the city of Fort Worth’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. The project kicks off in mid-May.

“This will be the first time ever that I will have a place to call mine,” Melissa said. “I am so happy – I’ve been dreaming about this apartment for a long time.”

Melissa, who grew up in Iowa, ran away from home when she was 10 years old because a family member was abusing her. Determined to escape her abuser, she hitchhiked more than 1,000 miles to California.

Because she was too young to work legally, Melissa worked odd jobs such as mowing yards, cleaning houses and working in the fields. When she was 17, she began working as a stripper.

“My life wasn’t great in California,” she said. “I hitchhiked again to Texas a few years later to start again, but it just got worse.”

Melissa, who was 29 when she arrived in the Fort Worth area, was homeless. She began taking drugs and entered into prostitution. For the next 14 years, she lived on the streets and in and out of motel rooms.

“I was addicted to heroin and doing every kind of drug I could get my hands on,” she said. “Everything changed when I went to prison.”

Melissa was arrested in 2007 on burglary, drug and prostitution charges and spent one year in prison.

“I prayed every day I was in there,” she said. “I just asked God to get me off drugs and change my life. And God answered my prayers.”

When she was released in 2008, Melissa came to PNS and met with a case manager who helped her enroll in Project WISH, an eight-week job-preparation and work-placement program at the Shelter. She graduated with an A in the course and moved on to computer courses at the Ladder Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with shelters and other agencies to teach clients computer skills and how to seek employment. Because of her success, Melissa was offered a part-time job at PNS as part of the Hope, Opportunity and Accountability (HOA) program doing sanitation and janitorial work.

“I’m so glad I came to PNS,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever get a second chance nevertheless a job, especially in this economy. I’m so grateful.”
Melissa is now taking classes to earn her GED and wants to become a social worker.
“I want to be a case manager so I can help people just like they helped me,” she said. “I can definitely say that I know where they’re coming from and I can help them through it.”
And the question you're asking yourself right now – "How can I help?"

Like we've said before, we just need your "crap." (Again, I'm just using "crap" to get your attention – we are simply gathering items to help someone like Melissa get back on her feet.)

One more time...I’m asking you to open the garage, crawl around in the attic, delve into that hall closet and help us personally adopt one client. (If you have a lot of stuff you need to get rid of….I promise that it won’t go to waste.)

Here is the list of things we need (already donated items marked off – thanks to those individuals who have already stepped up to the plate):

• Mattresses, box spring, bed frames (twin size)

• Sheets, pillows and pillow cases (twin size)
– Sheets (still need more, though)

• Furniture including chairs, table, couch
– Living Room Chair
– Coffee table
– Futon 

Alarm clock

• Toiletry items such as shampoo, soap and toilet paper
– Toilet paper (still need more, though)

• Towels and washcloths
– Towels (still need more, though)

• Cleaning supplies including brooms, mops and cleaning sprays
– Cleaning supplies

• Laundry detergent

• Microwave

• Toaster


• Vacuum

• Kitchen items such as paper towels, rags, hot pads, measuring cups, etc. (We have a little bit of stuff like this, but we need more)

• Monthly bus passes

May 6, 2009


It’s no secret that I’m looking for a part-time job.

I haven’t announced it to the world by renting a billboard on I-35 or buying a 30-second spot during “The Biggest Loser,” but I’ve posted Tweets about it and mentioned it on Facebook.

And, of course, everyone knows what that means...


I am still very much committed to e-Partners in Giving, but I made a promise to my wife that we would never have to be weekly plasma donors in order to pay our mortgage.

With our young company still trying to get legs, I have reached the point where it’s time to keep that promise.

Break out the want ads, start pounding the pavement ... I’m officially looking for a job, just like I did my sophomore year of high school. (Thanks to Little Caesar’s for giving a dorky 16-year-old a chance.)

A lot of people ask me, “What do you want to do?”  

Cue the intense desire to throw-up.

OR an even more vomit-inducing inquiry, 
“What are you willing to do?”

Yep...there was a little splash of puke in my mouth...OK....
swallowed harm, no foul.

Seriously, I do have a few parameters about re-entering 
the real world:
• No retail (the mall is Satan’s den)

• No fast food (even though Kevin Spacey rocked the house 
when he worked the drive thru in American Beauty)

• Nothing over 40 hours a week (please re-read paragraph five)

• No pyramid schemes (I was actually approached 
by someone when I first started this search)
Over the last couple of months, I have filled out applications and/or inquired about the following positions (responses OR lack of responses noted in parenthesis):

• Sports Program Director at YMCA 
(“We’ll be in touch.”)

• PT Activity Coordinator for Non Profit Community Center 
(No response)

• Radio Producer for 105.3 The Fan 
(Web site: “Your application has been received.”)

• Social Media Specialist / Social Networking Coordinator 
at Texas Research Institute 
(“...unfortunately your background does not meet our current requirements.”)

• “Love Movies? Articulate? Great opportunity ...” 
(No response)

With my confidence in the gutter – close to completely redoing my resume by removing any “important” titles, making my Master’s Degree disappear, and actually putting Little Caesar’s back on there.

Then I got an e-mail from a friend regarding a job opportunity. (Awwww, the power of Facebook.)

It was a forwarded e-mail and her only comment was, “You did say anything... and part time...”

The job: Carpet cleaning.

Despite frantically looking for a barf bag, I ran through my parameters – no mall, no french fries ... "why not!"

My response: “I’ll do this in a heartbeat...What do I need to do to make this happen?”

Don’t throw up! Don’t throw up!

My friend sent me the contact information of the carpet cleaner, who she knew through a friend of a friend’s second cousin. (Or something like that.)

After the initial contact, the carpet cleaner inquired about a resume.

I sent it. (No Little Caesar’s or Toys ‘R’ Us)

Are you familiar with those enzymes released in your mouth right before you chunk? Cue 'em!

CARPET CLEANER: “Can we set up a phone interview?”

ME: “Anytime.”

Cue intense dry heave.

A couple of days later we spoke for 20 minutes on the phone.

CC: “Do you like manual labor?”

ME: “Like is a strong word, but I don’t mind it.”

CC: “What kind of pay are you looking for?”

ME: “Obviously a lot, but I’m thinking there is probably ceiling for carpet cleaning – ironically enough.” (giggling a little and VERY proud of my job-related humor)

CC: “I see you have your Master’s Degree...would you have a problem being an assistant?”

ME: “Ummm...have you ever seen American Beauty? I'm looking for the least possible amount of responsibility.”

CC: “What?”

ME: “Nevermind. No, I don’t think my educational background would impact my ability to clean carpets.”

CC: “We’ll let you know. We would want this person to get started next week.”

ME: “Do you guys ever have to clean up vomit?” 

Days passed.

I actually started sharing this opportunity with friends and family – coming to grips with my destiny.

Another day passed.

Then I got the e-mail...

They decided to “go a different direction.”





Wait...where was the nausea?

Why didn't I smell burning feathers extinguished by bile anymore?

Where was my urge to find the closest toilet and give it a bear hug?

After I turned off my vacuum cleaner in mid-stroke, I realized that was the BEST e-mail that I’ve EVER received.

I literally stopped, closed my eyes and prayed. “Thank you, God. I’m following you and I appreciate you keeping me out of the carpet cleaning business.”

With new sense of purpose and direction, I started wrapping the cord around the vacuum cleaner. I put it back in the closet, walked to the computer and worked diligently on e-Partners in Giving for the next several hours.

Not a single urge to throw up.
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