“When I came, I had one bag of clothes to my name,” she said. “Now I have too much laundry.”
The single mother of three was referring to entering Beatitude House 22 months ago, struggling with drug addiction and other challenges. Nearly two years later, however, her life in many ways has taken a 180-degree turn.
Erica, who didn’t want her last name used to protect her children’s identities, shared her story of triumph during a news conference Tuesday morning at the Wick Pollock House on Wick Avenue to announce Beatitude House’s Inspiring Hope campaign, along with the facility’s future plans.
The 28-year-old Beatitude House, sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, is dedicated to transforming the lives of women and children who are dealing with problems such as poverty and drug addiction by providing homes, offering educational opportunities and fostering healthy families, its mission statement says.
“Our mission is as needed and vibrant today as it was in 1991. To continue this work, we have established a campaign to raise $3.4 million,” Sister Patricia McNicholas, BH’s co-director, said in a statement.
Since its inception, the facility has assisted more than 7,000 women and children, Sister McNicholas said. This year, about 60 women and 90 children are in its safe homes, she continued.
Beatitude House, 238 Tod Lane, Youngstown, serves all women and children bound in the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
The money will be used largely for new and enhanced programs, capital improvements and endowment funding, noted Ellen Tressel, the campaign’s co-chairwoman.
“You can provide hope to those trying to break that cycle of generational poverty,” Tressel said in her remarks, adding that about $2.1 million has been raised so far.
Instead of battling addiction, Erica’s goals now include obtaining a state license to counsel those who are struggling with chemical dependency. Another is to spend about six more months at Beatitude House, said Erica, adding she recently celebrated two years of sobriety.
Kayla Sawhill said her primary ambitions are to graduate from Youngstown State University within a year with a bachelor’s degree in political science, earn a master’s in business administration degree from YSU and land a career as an analyst to further explore the relationship between business and politics, she explained.
Getting there, though, was anything but straightforward for Sawhill, whose struggles began when she was in second grade.
“Beatitude House basically saved my life,” said Sawhill, who recalled that her mother had suffered the first of two job losses because of medical problems.
She also is part of the facility’s Ursuline Sisters Scholars program, which works to help students — especially single parents — who are low-income rise above poverty and obtain a post-secondary education. As part of that effort, scholars receive financial support for food, clothing, transportation and other essential needs; also offered are mentoring, grants for academic-related needs and workshops on topics that include stress, time and financial-credit management.
In addition, Beatitude House provides an Immigrant Outreach program with English classes and tutoring for immigrant women and their children, Sister McNicholas noted.
The immigrant effort’s other outreach services include transportation, food distribution and enrichment activities such as library visits and summer camps. Also, volunteers provide friendship, mentoring, guidance and tutoring.
Making additional remarks at Tuesday’s gathering were Teresa Boyce, a Beatitude House co-director, and Fred Moran, president of Window World of Youngstown and a Beatitude House board member.
“This success campaign will ensure Beatitude House will meet the needs of clients and will introduce new programs,” Moran said.