Thursday, February 21, 2013

Walter Hoving Home, 3


The Prayer Garden was once the hotel's swimming pool.

Continuing from yesterday and the day before:

During most of my visit to the Walter Hoving Home I followed Associate Director Teresa Wolf from room to room while she described the program in detail. She also showed me her own apartment, which looks out over the Prayer Garden (though not from the spot shown above). Like many of the staffers, Teresa is a graduate of the program, who found her calling there and stayed.

Once a woman completes the program she can head out to find a job or continue her education. Or if she doesn't feel ready, she can stay for a while on the third floor, where rules are less strict and there's even a TV lounge. Many staffers live on the third floor as well.

I talked to some of the residents, without asking details of what had brought them there. But when Teresa and I got back to her office, her story came out. She says she has no qualms about sharing it.

It took her five attempts to complete the program. She wasn't getting it. Every time she'd leave she'd end up on the street, using drugs, drinking, and worse. Every time, she'd find her way back to the Home. The last time, she found her way instead to a downtrodden hotel on Pasadena's east side, drunk, beaten, raped and waiting to die.

That story, times 50.

Teresa says she was carried out of that hotel by Elsie Benton, co-founder with her husband, John Benton, of the Walter Hoving Homes. When Teresa was 19 days sober, the Walter Hoving Home offered her a job. She grabbed it like the lifeline it was.

Throughout my whole visit, I can't believe I didn't get a decent picture of Teresa! But I got a decent picture of Taylor Johnson, Colleen Peterson and Montonya Sauls, who invited me to share a cup of coffee with them in the dining room. Montonya was one of the women who invited me in the first place (Laurie had a "pass" that day and was not in the building). You could meet these women anywhere and never know they'd come up from hell.

Some of you have said you'd like to help. You can always donate money, of course. There's also going to be a WHH Walkathon Saturday, March 16th. You can walk or sponsor a walker. For more information, call (626) 405-0950.

If you need help, call toll free and find out if the program is right for you: 1 (888) 4-Hoving or (626) 405-0950
The Walter Hoving Home accepts collect calls from jails or the streets.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

Safe Haven is what this is..

Petrea Burchard said...

You bet.

LOLfromPasa said...

Well done, Petrea. This series has been interesting and informative with beautiful accompanying photographs.

Ann Erdman said...

And they have a choir! A few years ago Mayor Bogaard invited them to sing at Pasadena's second annual celebration of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

I attended a rehearsal at the Walter Hoving Home on the mayor's behalf, and seeing how patient the choir director and the composer were with the women while expecting excellence was a revelation.

When the choir arrived at the event, in the elegant Gold Room at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, we provided each of them with a corsage, which brought many of them to tears. When it came time for them to perform, these lovely women -- many of them former prostitutes and addicts -- brought the entire audience to tears.

I'll never forget that evening in the presence of such courage and grace.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, LOL.

Ann, that's a lovely story. It sounds so moving.

My regular readers know I don't espouse Christianity. But I admire those who do so in its original spirit. Someone who calls themselves a Christian (or any religion) and proceeds to hate those who don't follow the same path is missing the point. These people appear to be actual Christians, doing good works.

Bellis said...

Petrea, my thoughts also. The Bentons are Christians in the way Jesus intended Christianity to be, helping those that society is too uncomfortable with to help, going into jails, offering a bed to a women on the streets. I wouldn't be able to do it.

Thank you for your story about the choir, Ann. We need many more Walter Hoving homes and people like the Bentons, but meanwhile, we're very lucky to have them in Pasadena.

Joyce said...

WOW, Petrea, what a beautifully written post and fun photographs! After reading Day #1 and #2, I could hardly wait for Day #3! Now I have to jump in with my comment. It was a privilege meeting you briefly before Teresa started your Tour. I've worked with the Walter Hoving Home for over 35 years (part of that at the Home in New York) and can attest to everything you said. We have a home full of beautiful ladies and have seen hundreds of lives completely and dramatically changed. Thank you for sharing our story with the Pasadena community. Joyce Racine

Petrea Burchard said...

I wouldn't be able to do it, either, Bellis. These folks have done brave and amazing work.

Hi Joyce, welcome! It was a pleasure meeting you. It must be rewarding to see the lives of these women improve so dramatically. I enjoyed meeting everyone so much.

Ann Erdman said...

I neglected to specify what the choir sang: the preamble of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, set to music.

Katie said...

Excellent series of posts! It's very heartening to read about Walter Hoving Home and the work they're doing to help women get their lives back on track.

Ms M said...

Wonderful series, Petrea! So good to read something positive, and of hope.

Susan Campisi said...

I was thinking the same thing, how this work reflects the true spirit of Christianity. Thanks for sharing this story, P.

Ann, that sounds like such a powerful experience. I would love to see their choir.

Latino Heritage said...

Great series. So fine to spiritual theory in practice.

Latino Heritage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aleana Sauls said...

I love my sister Montonya!!!!! Thank you for the pics!

Petrea Burchard said...

Hi Aleana, it's my pleasure! Montonya is one of the reasons I did this series. She helped to make it possible.

Dina said...

God bless the helpers and the helped, and the bloggers who make good things known.