- Posted by Sarah Swiston
- On July 1, 2019
- celebration of courage, chicago metropolitan area, Chicago suburbs, courage, Domestic Violence, dv survivors, End Domestic Violence, freedom, Housing Programs, independence, inspiration, non-profit agencies, northwest chicago, WINGS, WINGS Program
As we celebrate our independence this week, recently 106 attendees gathered to honor WINGS Housing Program’s 2019 graduates at the agency’s annual Celebration of Courage.
“This is actually my favorite time of the year. It’s the time we get to celebrate survivors. Not only those who are moving on, but those who continue this journey…
I told attendees, ‘WINGS is just one step in your journey. Take in that moment, bask in all there is for you to get from it, and take it with you on the next leg of the race,’” La Tonya Walker, WINGS Senior Director of Programs shares.
Not only were nine women recognized for their accomplishments, but all housing program attendees, including children, were awarded with a certificate for the progress they had made on their journey to stability.
Youth were called up on stage for accomplishments for a wide range of achievements.
Children’s faces lit up when their names were called for everything from potty training and playing well with younger siblings, to cleaning up well and expressing emotions, to improving grades and graduating from 8th grade.
After dinner and youth awards, children played in the adjoining room were staff and volunteers held activities including balloon artistry from Dale the Balloon Guy, music, games, and more.
Meanwhile, the nine graduates were then recognized for their achievements. These accomplishments ranged from obtaining a higher paying job to improving their credit to completing parenting classes to saving and buying a car.
Graduates were given the opportunity to speak about their journey, offer advice to attendees currently in the program, and share their outlook for the future. Many happy tears were shed.
All of the women who got up to speak thanked WINGS staff who had supported them throughout some of the darkest times of their lives.
Often graduates encouraged current program participants to not give up, take advantage of WINGS resources, and how rewarding it feels to accomplish your own goals.
One graduate shared, “I never thought in my life that I would be buying a new car and driving it off the lot, WINGS helped me get to this point.”
- “One of my new clients cried hearing some of the stories of the graduates. She said she realized that anything is possible and there is no excuse not to move forward.”
- “One client said she was especially moved by the graduate who was eight months pregnant, found a job, and rode a bike to work.”
- “All my clients told me they really enjoyed the event and that it was inspiring to hear other resident’s share their experience.”
- “One client said she was surprised by how much fun her kids had. They loved the balloon show and had fun playing with WINGS staff at the dinner table.”
It Takes Courage
La Tonya Walker, WINGS Senior Director of Programs concluded the event with some closing remarks and a poem, “It Takes Courage” by Anonymous:
It takes strength to be firm, it takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to conquer, it takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain, it takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in, it takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend’s pain, it takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to endure abuse, it takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone, it takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love, it takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive, it takes courage to live.