WINGS Shares Stories of Inspiring Survivors in Honor of Women’s History Month
- Posted by Sarah Swiston
- On March 27, 2023
- Chicago, chicago metropolitan area, Domestic Violence, domestic violence agency, domestic violence organization, DV agency, dv survivors, End Domestic Violence, family services, Housing Programs, International Women's Day, non-profit agencies, northwest chicago, Survivors, volunteer domestic violence agency, WINGS, WINGS Program, Women, Womens History Month
March is Women’s History Month and features International Women’s Day on the 8th. Throughout WINGS 37 years of service to the community, the agency has seen thousands of examples of inspiring women overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. Below WINGS shares stories below of inspiring survivors in honor of Women’s History Month: Michelle, Maudell, Sarah, and Jennifer.
Michelle – Empowered WINGS Graduate Becomes Alderman of Prospect Heights
Michelle came to WINGS in 1993 when she was eight months pregnant with no car for transportation and no one to turn to.
“I was not in a good situation with my boyfriend at the time and didn’t want to bring my newborn home to the unhealthy environment we were living in,” Michelle says.
“To this day, I’ll never forget when WINGS called me to say I was accepted into the housing program. What a heaven-sent gift! I was shocked, happy, and relieved,” Michelle recalls.
“Once I moved in, I felt very blessed to have such great support services. With WINGS guidance and resources, I felt like I was becoming the best mom I possibly could be,” Michelle says.
Over the years, Michelle had another daughter and eventually found a career opportunity that she feels was the platform to success in her professional life.
For over thirteen years now, Michelle has been working at a well-known local company and is currently the Senior Customer Service Specialist.
While Michelle has always been interested in making her community better, over the past four years she has served as alderperson of Prospect Heights after being voted in in 2019. She is currently running again for this position, read more in the Daily Herald here:
Despite her busy schedule, Michelle still makes time to support WINGS. She and her daughters, now grown, have made it their mission to pay it forward to survivors in the program now by volunteering, supporting fundraisers, and hosting drives for our most needed items.
In recognition for all she has done for WINGS, Michelle was awarded the David K. Hill outstanding graduate award at our Purple Tie Ball last October.
Michelle says, “It is so nice to be a part of WINGS sisterhood of graduates and talk to them at WINGS events. It is such a great feeling to see people the agency has helped bounce back from hard times…I give so much credit to WINGS and what they do to make their clients stronger. I’m blessed to be a part of their history.”
Learn more about Michelle:
Maudell – “Six Months was Life Changing for Me”
In 2008, Maudell left a domestic violence relationship. She came to WINGS Transitional Housing Program with her eight-year-old daughter and nine months pregnant. She completed WINGS two-year Transitional Housing program in only six months.
“I could have given up, but I said, ‘no one is worth my children losing me.’ If there is anything I can leave, is it’s not always about you. It may not make sense now, but it will in the future,” Maudell says.
Ever since graduating from WINGS Housing program, she continues to find ways to give back. Maudell speaks to groups to advocate for WINGS whenever she is asked. She has been a mentor to other survivors.
Maudell says, “I work at organizations that contribute to 501(c)3s and WINGS is always at the top of my list.”
This Valentine’s Day, Maudell organized a candygram station at Paylocity. Over two days, employees could stop by Maudell’s table in the lunchroom to make a unique candygrams with a hand-written message inside. Candygrams were donated to WINGS and brought numerous smiles to survivors.
Maudell shares that she is honored to be a part of WINGS. “That six months (at WINGS) was life changing for me. Whenever I speak about WINGS, at a 40-hour training or talking to a young lady, I talk about the importance of therapy. In my community, the African American community, it is stigmatized. You always hear, ‘Don’t say anything outside the house.’
The reality is, therapy for me became a lifestyle. I still go to therapy to this day. I look back and I’m so glad it was a requirement at WINGS at the time, because I can’t go through life without knowing who I am. The more I know, the more I grow.”
This year WINGS is in the process of opening a new community counseling center in the Northwest suburbs. Maudell came to speak at the check presentation with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Senator Ann Gillespie which will fund the build out of the new space. Click here to see the Facebook live event: https://fb.watch/jeZXJ82CWt/
Maudell adds, “One day I’m going to have enough money to put my name on a therapy room at WINGS because it is very important. The getting away is the hardest thing, but it is still a challenge after you get away to be able to handle that. When you go to therapy, you learn and don’t make those same mistakes. It is vital to the growth of families.
I’m breaking generational curses and I’m a generational blessing. I don’t like to call myself a survivor, I like to call myself a victor of domestic violence. I’m victorious over domestic violence.”
Watch Maudell share her experience at WINGS Open House:
Sarah – Operation Shelter Cupid: “You are Loved and You are Not Alone”
Sarah McClarey fled domestic abuse with her two young sons in 2005 to WINGS Safe House.
“My last Valentine’s Day with my husband resulted in me being violently attacked. I felt so pathetic, ugly, and worthless. I remember looking in the mirror afterwards and barely recognizing myself.
I later learned that intimate partner violence often escalates around holidays because of the heightened emotions. It made holidays all the more painful and lonely, to be so aware of how much I felt hated, in contrast with how I thought holidays were supposed to be,” Sarah shares.
During her first Valentine’s Day living at WINGS, Sarah bought herself roses. Sarah says, “I felt so happy because I was free. I was in a better place – good things were ahead of me.”
Now thriving, for the past 14 years she has raised funds to buy and deliver Valentine’s bouquets to WINGS and other Chicago-area domestic violence shelters.
Called Operation Shelter Cupid, Sarah delivers around 175-200 bouquets each year.
Along with the beautiful bouquets, Sarah includes a heartfelt note: “…Although I don’t know you personally, because of where you are living, I can guess you have been through some pretty hard times. I wonder if someone, or maybe many someones, made you feel as though you were pathetic, ugly, and worthless.
It is important to understand that you were lied to. The things that were done to you to make you feel like that were very wrong. We are highly valuable creations who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect…You are beautiful, you are loved, and you are not alone.”
Click here to read People article where Sarah was featured:
Jennifer – Seeing through a Broken Mirror
Jennifer came to WINGS Suburban Safe House with her nine-month-old daughter.
“I came to the United States with high hopes and expectations after five long years of waiting for a visa to join my husband. The reality hit, as slowly the dreams of a home filled with joy and laughter began to crumble,” Jennifer shares and continues,
“He was emotionally, financially, and verbally abusive. As I saw myself through his eyes, I begun to question my own existence. I sunk into such a deep depression that suicide seemed like a welcome door. But my faith in God incurred me to life. I summoned the courage to leave. It was really hard, in a strange and foreign land.”
She continues, “When I explained my situation over the phone to the WINGS rep, her words were like a healing balm. She said, ‘Jennifer we have room for you.’
I was provided with an avalanche of resources during my time at the shelter. I was treated with such dignity and respect. I grew. I learned. I healed.”
Highly ambitious, she set out a long list of goals she wanted to accomplish. With support from WINGS Housing Programs and wrap-around support services, she obtained an apartment, advocated to receive child support, and filed for a divorce. Financially she started saving aggressively and paid off all of her credit card debt, which increased her FICO score. Additionally, she obtained her U.S. citizenship.
Jennifer says, “God led me to WINGS, and in two short years I have accomplished so much more than all the years I stayed tied to his opinions. I established credit, bought a car, got a job, a house, and started a second degree with a clear path to a PHD in medical physics; the list is endless…”
“…I stand here today not because I am strong or out of sheer luck, but because I made the choice to take my life back. With that choice, life realigned itself, putting people on my path that saw me as God sees me: precious, priceless, intelligent, worthy of love…”
“…Here’s the thing, a broken mirror will always give you a flawed reflection of yourself. It is not you who is broken, but the mirror. Looking through the mirror of his eyes, I felt I had no value, no worth…
“…But I changed my perspective, looking to the one who made me and the core of who I am. No one has creative license to question your existence, not even you. You were created on purpose, for a purpose. I began to see myself through the eyes of people at WINGS like Miss Jackie, Miss Melissa, my beautiful baby girl…”
“…I am deeply grateful for the kindness and generosity that has enabled organizations like WINGS to assist victims of domestic violence. The ripple effect of your munificence is far reaching. Because of your generosity, WINGS was able to give me wings to soar.”
View Jennifer’s speech at WINGS Open House event:
Empowered Women Empower Women
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