This blog post has been provided by Tamara Draper, an Account Executive at Accuity, Inc. Nearly 30 years ago, Draper and her children stayed at The Salvation Army Evangeline Booth Lodge for a short period of time. She has spent the past 27 years giving back and supporting The Salvation Army.
Thirty years ago, I found myself jobless and homeless with an 11-month-old daughter and 9-year-old son. I had just gone through a devastating divorce for more than a year. I was taking steps to move my family to Albuquerque, New Mexico to start over. My soon-to-be ex-husband decided he did not want a divorce after all, and wanted his family back. We reconciled and decided the entire family would move to New Mexico. He found a job and we found a home. I would pack up the kids and leave for New Mexico in a month. Once I quit my job and gave notice to our landlord, my ex said, “I changed my mind. I don’t want to be married after all.”
I was devastated, angry and embarrassed. I had nowhere for my children and I to go. I was too humiliated to tell my family and too ashamed to call someone and cry for help. Still in shock, angry and alone, I exhausted what I thought were all of my possibilities. Eventually my children and I started living out of my car.
Thankfully, after only three nights in my car, a friend who I had confided in telephoned one of the state offices looking to help me. I was in such a fog – and still perhaps in denial about the seriousness of my situation – that I do not really remember what he went through and who he spoke with. But in a short period of time a van driven by The Salvation Army came and picked us up and took me and my children to The Evangeline Booth Lodge.
I was angry with myself for being gullible – for getting into this situation. But I knew my children did not deserve this. Little did I know when we arrived at Evangeline Booth Lodge, that we were only 30 days away from receiving financial help from the Army to find an apartment.
That little bit of money they gave us is what I used to start over. We actually did end up in New Mexico and it was there that I met a woman who helped me start a small business. Three years later when the business closed, I returned to Chicago, found full-time work and really start over.
Upon our return, I started to give back to the Lodge. Every year my children and I volunteered the day before Thanksgiving prepping and cooking the meal, and cleaning for the residents. We did this for many years. I also donated items to The Salvation Army Thrift Shops. Three decades later I still call them to pick up items. When my income increased, once a year I would purchase large Rubbermaid containers and fill them with items a person would need once they were ready to leave the Lodge.
Then as God would have it, I became the president of my company’s community service committee, Accuity In Action (AIA). AIA is an employee-run program dedicated to supporting local community organizations through volunteerism, fundraising and donations. Our committee connects Accuity employees with volunteer opportunities for local non for profit organizations. I liaise with potential volunteer partners, develop and implement fundraising programs, and manage volunteer events. In my position, I’ve connected Accuity volunteers with The Salvation Army to work at the annual Christmas Radiothon and undertake various projects at different corps community centers.
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