2018 Walk of Hope

Reducing Poverty…Promoting Recovery...Strengthening Families

Adan's Journey of Hope

In 2004, 10-year old Adan Pacheco took an unforgettable journey. Over the course of five days and nights, he and his mother walked from Mexico to Arizona, each carrying a 50-pound backpack and four gallons of water. Despite being led by a guide, they encountered challenges along the path, including armed civilians attempting to bar their way.

On the second night, Adan was so exhausted he actually fell asleep while walking and in the darkness, stumbled into a large cactus, piercing the skin covering his knee. His mother was faced with a choice: stay behind with her son, facing unknown dangers or keep walking. So, she asked the guide to treat his wounds and then she helped him to his feet so they could continue their march to a new life.

Once they arrived in Arizona, and his mother boarded a crowded minivan and headed to New Jersey to reunite with his father and sister in Freehold. Adan had been told that he would be one of very few Mexicans to arrive in the U.S., but quickly learned this was a falsehood. He enrolled in the local elementary school where due to a language barrier he encountered a rocky start. His perseverance and instruction provided by an English as a Second Language (ESL) class helped Adan reach fluency in English fairly quickly, though.

Adan was able to assist his parents as an interpreter and even earned recognition as one of his school’s top students by the end of fifth grade. He continued to succeed in school, but never dreamed that college would be an option for him. But everything changed with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA). With the assistance and encouragement of Catholic Charities’ Ocean Community Services staff, Adan applied for DACA and was awarded work authorization and certification, opening up the door to a college education and the ability to work to pay for his education.

Adan is now in his third year at Brookdale Community College and hopes that Comprehensive Immigration Reform will pass —  making his temporary solution a permanent path to citizenship. He plans to transfer to Rutgers or NYU to study Linguistics and hopes to work for the United Nations.

Presently, Adan enjoys his work at Community Services as a part-time Case Aide, where he has already boosted enrollment in an ESL health literacy class and plans to start a new program geared to coaching teens in study skills, college preparation, interview skills and job training.

According to Lisha Loo-Morgan, Immigration Services Case Manager, “The very first time I met Adan in our office, I knew he was someone who would excel and get ahead.” She and Carmen Pagan, Ocean Community Services Program Director, agreed that Adan was highly determined, intelligent and compassionate, so when a part-time position opened up, hiring him was a no-brainer. “I saw how patient and caring Adan was when helping others new to our community,” says Pagan. “He served as his parents’ interpreter, so helping others just came naturally to him. And, as an immigrant who endured and overcame many barriers himself, Adan is a great source of inspiration to others.”

Donna’s Recovery from Homelessness

Donna’s journey began in 2007 with a gradual and steady series of losses, starting with emergency surgery, 18 months on strong pain medications, the deaths of her mother and closest friend. “Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time — I was preoccupied with taking care of my mother, recovering from my own surgery, grieving for my friend who died of breast cancer — but it was as though my entire world was crumbling,” says Donna. She developed a dependence on alcohol shortly after stopping her pain medication. Her marriage fell apart. She lost her business and had to sell the home she once shared with her husband. 

Donna left for a three-month recovery program in Georgia. It succeeded in helping her with ongoing sobriety, but when Donna returned to the Monmouth County community she had once called home, she had no place to go. 

After a stay at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, Donna went to Catholic Charities’ Mercer Community Services and asked to apply for the Rapid Re-Housing program. After a screening with a case worker she returned to meet with Mosudi Idowu, the program’s coordinator. “When I recounted my journey, I started to cry and couldn’t stop the tears,” says Donna. “Mosudi says he would do everything possible to help me achieve my goals, but that I had to work with him and observe the program’s requirements.”

Donna found part-time employment at a large retailer, but finding housing was far more challenging because she had poor credit, a vestige of financial problems that started when she was ill.
Undaunted, Mosudi would not give up and found a landlord willing to rent Donna an apartment. Rapid Re-Housing paid the security deposit and found her an apartment.  She continued to live out of the Rescue Mission’s shelter for several months until her move in date.  Since she was working, Donna was guaranteed a bed each night and had access to her belongings and the shelter during the day. To keep from being on the streets, Donna would spend hours riding the bus at night to various neighborhoods and shopping malls throughout Mercer County, getting acquainted with her new surroundings. On one trip, she scribbled the name of a garden apartment complex that seemed attractive to her. Months later, she would realize her dream of residing there.
Last year for the first time in many months, Donna had all of her children and grandchildren by her side as she celebrated her 60th birthday. “My kids told me they are so proud of me and proud of what I have done to get my life back. It was the greatest birthday gift I have ever been given.” 

??????????????Wilson's Journey to ???????Recovery

In 2006, Wilson Bagley found himself in a crisis. After being homeless for three days, he ended up in a Trenton hospital. Following a weeklong inpatient stay, he was released to Catholic Charities’ Milestones program for eight weeks of outpatient treatment. Wilson graduated from Milestons and continued his treatment at Catholic Charities’ Partners in Recovery program.

Wilson describes this period as a “dark time.” He denied that he had a mental health diagnosis, but soon realized that he had to take the program seriously in order to get better. As time went on, he started to understand his illness, and that he could recover. 

Wilson was referred to Supported Employment and became actively involved in the “finding Your Purpose Group” run by his Job Coach Denise Higgins. There he created his own purpose statement to become a Consumer Advocate. After graduating from the Partners in Recovery Program, Wilson took the opportunity to complete a course for consumers to become peer counselors. As a result, he became certified and now runs a Wellness Group helping others to discover and create their own purposes.

In 2008, Wilson joined the Consumer Advocacy Network. He worked closely with the network and attended many advocacy events. His role in advocacy led him to volunteer not only at Catholic Charities, but at other organizations in the area, including Crisis Ministry and NAMI Mercer.

Wilson is also a member of the Social Policy Committee, an advisory group of Catholic Charities.

Foster Mom gives her home and her heart to more than 90 newborns and older infants

In 1964, when Jane O. Warren was 44 years old, she took up a new avocation: fostering babies for Catholic Charities Children & Family Services.  She fostered infants for 35 years before retiring.  During those 35 years she cared for 97 babies.  Most of the infants came directly from the hospital and stayed with her until they were adopted. Others came to her from abusive parents.  They would stay with her varying periods of time ranging from just a couple of weeks to nearly 2 years. 

The infants were comprised of nearly every ethnicity and race, but to Jane, each one was her baby.  Some of the infants she cared for were from substance dependent mothers and the babies needed to go through withdrawal.  Some needed surgery, some came to her with heart monitors.  All were loved and made to feel that they were very special by Jane, as well as by her family and friends.  The infants were given opportunities to experience family activities such as shopping, boating and swimming just to name a few.  Each baby went to his or her new parents with a book of photographs and a history from birth until adoption, both lovingly compiled by Jane.  Also, each baby left Jane’s care with a box full of clothing, food and any other necessity that will ease the transition from foster to permanent home.  As each baby left Jane, they also took with them a piece of Jane’s heart and carried it with them along the rest of their journey. She made sure that they knew they were loved, perhaps one of the greatest gifts any child can be offered.  

"We are rich only through what we give, and poor only through what we refuse."
— Anne Swetchine
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