Promise Neighborhoods volunteer coordinator

Photo by Tom Amico

I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. My husband fell in love with Allentown, and we’ve been here ever since. He came out here one day on a visit and the next thing I knew we were moving. Coming to Allentown gave me a new slate and I love the community and getting out there and actively engaging.

I think the biggest part of my personal story is how to deal with grief because it’s so prevalent and not too many people know how to deal with grief. I lost my husband last year after 33 years of marriage and it’s hard being by yourself after that long of a marriage. I decided to do some volunteering because there weren’t any grief groups that I could do so I started volunteering. For me, it was a matter of carving out a new life for myself.

My typical day starts at Promise Neighborhoods Lehigh Valley where we have a wellness center where we provide food for the community. I’m the volunteer coordinator there and have been there for a year and five months. It’s helping me carve out that new life and has given me new opportunities like talking to you right now. Promise has definitely made a difference in my life and the community we have is great. Our ability to feed the community has increased to at least 46 to 50 boxes a day, so our food and wellness center is pretty busy, to say the least.

I’m also a rape survivor and I experienced alcoholism very deeply, but Promise has helped me with a lot of my healing because I still wasn’t healing as a whole. I’m still going through my healing process. I’m 59 and this happened over 50 years ago but the effect still lasts. Certain situations still bother me, and I have triggers and as a result, I have become disabled because of that.

Gang violence and the violence in the schools are what made me want to get connected with the community. Our outreach team goes to the schools every day to try to de-escalate and combat the conflict going on. Let’s give our kids the same chance we had coming up. I didn’t experience any of this growing up! We should all be entitled to grow up peacefully with food in our bellies and our parents being able to work and come home and sustain housing.

Housing is also a real problem that I’m affected by. Because I’m disabled a lot of landlords don’t want to accept Social Security as an income and you have to have three times that amount. The new developments are pushing us out and there are a lot of abandoned buildings that they can rehab and put us in.

I would say I started feeling connected to Allentown when I was on the board of Lehigh Valley Hospital as a patient advocate and that’s really how I got started in the community then it blossomed when I got to Promise. I found my niche and they found a spot for me. We lift as we climb.

You know, I was asked the other day if I could have any superpower what it would be, mine would be to end homelessness. Right now, my goal is to spend as much time with Promise Neighborhood of the Lehigh Valley as I can. I’m 59 years old and I don’t know when I’m gonna give it up but right now I got the energy, I got the vibe, and I got my tribe so I’m just gonna keep on going.

Interviewed by Tyson Borelli ‘23, photo by Tom Amico

Leave a Reply