Thanks to the 20 years of support from our community, we are celebrating the accomplishments of the women we serve … like that of Michelle:
December Feature Story
WWIN Grantee Receives the Best Gift Ever!
Michelle had been sober for nine years, but her missing upper teeth served as a painful reminder of past years of drug abuse. Her imperfect smile shattered her confidence and made it difficult to find employment. She could not afford the dental treatment necessary to replace her teeth and was desperate for a solution that would enable her to better support her two pre-teen children.
An internet search led Michelle to Washington Women in Need and she decided to apply. The dental grant she received allowed Michelle to replace her upper teeth with a full set of dentures. On Christmas Eve of 2009, Michelle received her best gift ever — a new smile!
Michelle describes the WWIN grant as life changing and the WWIN staff attentive and respectful. She even refers friends in need to WWIN! With her renewed confidence, Michelle finds it easier to hold a steady job. Michelle and her fiancé have six children, ranging in age from 5 – 17 years old, and she enjoys playing games and hanging out with the family in her spare time.
November Feature Story
WWIN Grantee Finds the Resources
For most of her adult life, Cyllene felt “bounced around” from therapist to therapist without the consistent counseling she needed to truly cope with painful issues from her past. She first sought professional help in college as she tried to deal with emotions and fears stemming from childhood traumas. Although she met with a number of therapists over the years, she could not afford to maintain a consistent, long-term and grounded relationship with a single counselor. Because of this, she continued to wrestle with her identity, tumultuous relationships with family members and her overall happiness.
This period of off and on counseling ended in May 2011, when Cyllene received a counseling grant from Washington Women in Need (WWIN). The grant opened up the opportunity for Cyllene to pursue not only long-term therapy, but also alternative, interactive therapy, which had not been included in her previous insurance package. Though Cyllene saw little to no progress with traditional counseling, she found reprieve and forward motion in her current counselor, who applies interactive techniques like art, dance and creativity to her therapy.
Cyllene’s story is a testament to the flexibility of WWIN’s counseling grants. The grant is not just about funding therapy, but also finding the right kind of therapy that will ultimately improve a woman’s overall health, mindset and spirit, just as it did for Cyllene.
“This is the first year that I have not gone back to my family of origin for the holidays. And I feel that is one of my first steps towards creating a healthy life of my own. I don’t think that I could have possibly made this change without the emotional guidance and accompaniment of my therapist. Thank you [to WWIN] for providing the sustained resources to create a more balanced life for me.”
October Feature Story
WWIN Grantee Uses Opportunity to Help Others
Before Lauren had even heard about Washington Women in Need, she spent years uplifting disadvantaged women in Cambodia – a pursuit she continues while studying at Cornish College of the Arts, thanks to a WWIN educational grant.
Lauren, currently a college senior studying video production, always knew that she wanted to volunteer in another country. Her opportunity came in 2008, when she traveled to Cambodia on what was supposed to be a two-week vacation. Instead, Lauren stayed in Cambodia for three years during which time she started her own business and made life-long friends.
While in Cambodia, Lauren learned that several seamstresses she had befriended were struggling with their dress making business. She knew she had to help. So, Lauren helped boost business by designing new dress patterns that had more Western appeal. Her patterns sold at higher rates than previous patterns. This compelled Lauren to start her own sewing workshop in Phnom Penh, where she hired several of her seamstress friends to sew clothes based on her patterns.
Lauren’s time in Cambodia helped shape and define her future pursuits. She came back to the states determined to use her talents to give back to the community, abroad and at home. She credits her ability to give back to her education, and also to WWIN: “WWIN is the main factor on whether I can continue to go to school. It’s great to have support from a women’s group.”
Lauren is a senior studying video production at Cornish College. In December, she will return to Cambodia for three weeks to work on her senior project: a documentary that showcases the everyday lives of several Cambodians Lauren met along her journey. The documentary will be showcased in May as her final college assignment, in much part due to the assistance of WWIN.
September Feature Story
WWIN Education Grant Launches New Career
In 2010, Claudine’s mother and best-friend went into hospice care. This was just one year into Claudine’s nursing program at Seattle University, yet she decided to leave the program to care for her ailing mother. Claudine knew that this choice would extend the expensive program for an additional year and frequently worried about the substantial financial burden.
After her mother passed away, Claudine was determined to finish the nursing program. She found WWIN through the internet and applied for an education grant. When she received the grant from WWIN Claudine was thrilled! Claudine describes her WWIN contacts as thoughtful, respectful and caring. She says, “the most magical thing for me was that WWIN believed in me when I did not.” The process helped her feel more connected to her encouraging mother than ever and the gratitude she felt gave her a renewed energy in her nursing program.
After graduating in June of 2012, Claudine passed the nursing boards in August and is currently enjoying time outdoors before she starts her next chapter in October as a nurse on the Oncology floor at Seattle Children’s Hospital
July Feature Grantee Story
WWIN Grantee Heals Others with Art in Motion
Gail was one of WWIN’s earliest grantees. With the help of a WWIN Education Grant she was able to lift herself and her family up from financial difficulties. It took her many years and the help of WWIN to develop confidence in her expressive art approach to therapy. After 30 years of teaching art in Washington and Alaska, Gail found that traditional classroom formats were too restrictive for her teaching style. WWIN enabled Gail to pursue her education and form a career in creative therapeutic counseling, to channel her passion for creative expression into teaching expressive arts to seniors and aspiring artists of all ages.
Prior to receiving a WWIN grant, in 1989, Gail was a full-time mom who had been out of the work force for 10 years. Her family of 3 was short on food and other resources. Gail began attending a support group where she learned about WWIN from a local pastor.
With the help of a WWIN grant she was able to continue her education in art therapy at The Evergreen State College and South Peninsula Community College with classes in printmaking and photography. Her WWIN grants gave her the internal confidence and external validation needed to recognize art as an exceptionally powerful healing tool that could help others “tell their truths and experience satisfaction in their lives.” Empowered with this knowledge, she went on to complete a graduate degree in Transpersonal Psychology with an emphasis on art/creative expression and healing.
Currently, Gail teaches a variety of creative therapeutic workshops and courses in the Puget Sound area. She looks for the magic in each person’s work, without judging it. When asked how WWIN has had an impact on her life Gail says, “if you have a dream, it can come true, but if you have to ask for support, you have to have a plan.”
June Feature Grantee Story
Two-Time Grant Recipient Grateful for WWIN’s Contributions to Her Life
Tara’s father had a stroke when she was just 9 years old, and as a result, he had to go onto permanent disability. Her mom was also disabled, so Tara and her family were living on their disability checks growing up in Sequim, WA. While many may pity Tara and her family, Tara feels blessed that she had the opportunity to grow up in a warm and loving household in a beautiful area of the state where she had a parent at home and also was given many opportunities for financial support.
One of those opportunities was a series of scholarships and grants to attend UC Berkeley in 1992. While 75 percent of her tuition was paid for by these scholarships and grants, she still had to fund the remaining 25 percent with loans, since she had no parental assistance. Now 42 years old, she just recently paid off the loans a few years ago.
After staying in Berkeley for several years, she decided to go to grad school and chose Evergreen State College to be near to her family, who all resided in Sequim. She obtained some scholarship work study program assistance, working for various faculty and doing an internship at Ft. Lewis.
Tara first heard about WWIN after seeing a brochure for the organization at her college. She decided to give WWIN a call and see if she could receive help to fix a painful root canal. “WWIN first helped when I needed dental assistance. I needed a root canal and crown. I had some basic medical insurance through the college but no dental. This was overwhelming with the costs of school and medical mounting. And, of course, you have to take care of your teeth right away,” said Tara. “I was fortunate to have the assistance of WWIN available. There are very few programs to help with dental.” After learning about WWIN, she decided to apply for additional aid to finish grad school. Because of the support of WWIN, Tara was able to finish grad school and even attend a special program to go down the Grand Canyon during her last quarter of school.
“I was so happy to learn that WWIN was able to assist me financially with finishing grad school and receiving my Masters in Environmental Studies,” said Tara. After grad school, she did a six month internship in the environmental assessment program at the Department of Ecology and she then applied for a permanent state position at the Department of Natural Resources.
Tara currently works for the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, where she administers programs for the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. She is now living in Olympia with her partner Mark and her two daughters, ages 7 and 4 months.
May Feature Grantee Story
Two Time Grantee Gets Her Smile Back
By the time Debbie reached age 22 she was married, divorced and the single parent of her young son. In August of 2006, Debbie was in an automobile accident that left her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Debbie was already struggling with low self-esteem issues and the accident was a breaking point.
Debbie reluctantly sought therapy at the recommendation of a doctor and quickly connected with the therapist. However, she was disappointed to discover that the hourly rate was not feasible financially. The therapist generously offered to take her case on a contingency basis, and a social worker recommended Washington Women in Need. In 2007 at the age of 38, Debbie received the WWIN counseling grant and was able to continue therapy for her complex issues. Within three months, she was driving again and had improved confidence levels. Through the therapy process, Debbie uncovered deep-routed issues from her past that went well beyond her PTSD symptoms.
Debbie steadily improved with the WWIN counseling grant. Debbie claims that the “Grant helped me work through a lot of complex issues to establish trust and courage to move forward with her life.” In 2010, Debbie applied and received a WWIN dental grant from WWIN to “fix her smile” and further build her self esteem. Debbie gained the courage necessary to begin her journey of higher education.
She began attending Edmonds Community College and received her AA degree in Alcohol and Chemical Dependency at Edmonds Community College. She continued her educational journey at Seattle Central Community College in a Bachelor’s Program. She is graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Behavior Science this quarter.
For Debbie, what stood out most about WWIN was the respect she received through the process. She says, “I had received other assistance and was not treated very well and I left those offices feeling stripped of my dignity. This was not the case at WWIN. The staff at WWIN was very kind and gave me hope. I remember leaving that office knowing that WWIN really cared. When people treat you with respect, dignity and compassion when you are at a real low point, it creates a life-long memory. “
Now, at 43 years old, Debbie believes that her 24 year old son witnessed her personal transformation and regained a mother. She enjoys spending time with him and contributing to local support groups. Next fall, Debbie hopes to pursue a master’s degree at the University Of Washington School Of Social Work. Debbie’s therapist wrote a graduate school recommendation and continues to mentor her with her life and education.
April Feature Grantee Story
Putting the Wind back in her Sails
Washington Women In Need (WWIN) grantee, Penelope, has a passion for sailing. But at 22-years old she found herself living on a sail boat with no income and very low self-esteem. A terrible break-up destroyed her confidence and her physical well-being. Without any family or support system, Penelope felt debilitated and alone. This was just over one year ago.
A counseling grant from WWIN was the boost she needed to regain her foundation. Over the past year, the therapy WWIN enabled has given Penelope the strength to address the deeper emotional issues in her life and regain confidence to move forward. As a result of her commitment to counseling, Penelope has secured a new job and engaged with the community. She moved off of the sailboat, but remains close to the boating community.
Penelope finished vocational school in marine canvas work and now designs sails and protective covers for boats. In addition, she volunteers as part of the Felicity Ann project at Port Townsend High School, which is a program in partnership with the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding that works with at-risk young ladies. The group is learning hands-on skills and meeting new friends, while working to restore the Felicity Ann sail boat.
Penelope says, “I feel changed by my new ability to open to others. I hope that other women in my situation will be inspired to do similar work, knowing that they can really improve their situation.” She enjoys working with young women to give them hope for the future.
March Feature Grantee Story
A Love Letter to WWIN
My scholarships from Washington Women In Need in 2009 and 2010 were the financial help I needed to overcome my struggles with relationships and the negative effects of a lifetime of violent words, emotional trauma, and physical abuse. Thank you for your generous support.
“I suck at relationships,” I confessed to Julie Stevens, my counselor, during our first meeting in the fall of 2009. Each week we worked together to sort and sift through the negative words spoken to me from an early age that defined how I viewed myself.
I tell you even now I am ashamed to write the words that were spoken to me from my mother when I was a girl “Angela, you are not pretty or smart enough. You cannot get along with anyone. You won’t make it. Don’t even try.”
My father left Mom when I was in first grade. My older brother of four years was often put in charge when mom was gone and he became my resident bully. Monthly, he would pick up where mom left off with painful words but if I disappointed him, he pushed me around. Mom never came to my rescue so I learned to disappear into myself in depression and the start of my mental illness. My anger turned inward. By second grade I was struggling with not being able to concentrate.
At 23 years old, I met the man whose words and actions toward me would be a comfortable fit to the abuse I knew as Nancy’s daughter and Joe’s younger sister.
Pregnant at 24 years old on January 13, 1987, I married my husband to begin a marriage of domestic violence. For 20 years, we lived with violent words, emotional trauma and physical abuse. He would say to me, “You are a lousy Christian, Angela. You are sick in the head, people will figure you out just give them time. You don’t need counseling. You need to be in a mental hospital.”
One Friday morning in March 2007, our twin daughters at age 12 watched their dad throw me around like a rag doll. From the garage door he pushed me until I fell into the gravel on my back. Picking me up, he shoved me into our riding lawn mower, grabbing me again he shoved me into the snow bank. From the back door of our home my daughter yelled, “Stop it, Daddy.”
The following week I left home and never went back to him. Unscrambling the lies from truth was a main task with counseling. Julie was my guide and re-enforcer but I was the one to put forth the effort. I gave 100%. She was very skilled at helping me trust myself when I realized a lie I had believed as truth. When I faced a challenge with one of my children, Julie was my sounding board helping me to problem solve and value my decision as their mom. Julie helped me to step by step detach from my ex-husband who at the time still had power over me with his words.
I began to trust that I was a valuable friend. I guarded my heart more than ever. I found that my friendships were real, valuable, and lasting. In my transparency and willingness to ask for help, friends committed to my success.
I am not terrified of men any more. I am developing friendships I value with guys for the first time ever and I love my adventure. My male friends are important to me. One day I will marry and be someone’s wife because I never really had that chance and want it for us. My soul mate is coming. I believe that because I see me now for whom I really am: adorable, fun, happy and a best friend.
Thank you again Washington Women In Need for financially helping me on my journey to wholeness. I celebrate you and 20 years of you loving women well.
February Feature Grantee Story
Melissa had a calling in life. She wanted to be a midwife in order to help new families begin with safety and love. However, in her early twenties, she had many struggles facing her – she was a new mother and she struggled with homelessness, transience, and an abusive partner. Faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, Melissa finally gained the courage to move home to Washington with her father, grandfather, sister and nephew.
Melissa was intimidated by the responsibility, commitment and intensity of midwifery. One day she realized that life would continue to send her obstacles, so she might as well pick her next challenge! At 25 years old, Melissa enrolled in the Seattle Midwifery School (now part of Bastyr University) to obtain her direct-entry midwife certification.
The Midwifery School is an intense cohort-based program that requires classroom time as well as thousands of hours of client contact and hundreds of live births. Melissa’s government loans just covered tuition and books, and she was having difficulties covering child care expenses, particularly given the unpredictable hours of labor and delivery. An administrator at the Seattle Midwifery School told her about Washington Women in Need (WWIN) and encouraged her to apply for an education grant.
Melissa applied for her education grant through WWIN. During her interview she also inquired about the counseling grant to help her move past her abusive relationship and history of sexual assault. Melissa ended up receiving both grants!
The counseling grant helped Melissa transform into a confident woman with the personal foundation needed to give back to the community. The education grant went to tuition and freed up some loan money for child care. WWIN helped empower Melissa to give back to the community and realize she was not standing alone.
Melissa is a licensed and certified professional midwife at Snohomish Midwives. The group accepts a range of clients (including women on Medicaid) for high-quality, truly holistic pregnancy care that integrates the physical, emotional and psychological complexities of the family. She most enjoys encouraging couples to begin their journey as parents with confidence as she feels this is the foundation of a thriving community. In her spare time, Melissa volunteers for the Washington State Perinatal Collaborative and the Midwifery Association of Washington State, gardens and spends time with her daughter and new husband.
When Melissa makes a difference for a family or a baby, she feels grateful for WWIN and everyone who helped contribute to the positive outcome and wishes she could share the wonderful moments that her grants from WWIN helped enable.
January Feature Grantee Story:
Cathy, Breast Cancer Survivor, of Lynnwood was diagnosed with Stage 3-C breast cancer in April of 2010, and she felt that she had completely hit rock bottom. After losing her job, raising three children as a single mother, caring for her mother (who had recently passed away), enduring a car accident and having to pay for the costs associated with the accident, Cathy was spent – emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. The last thing she could endure was a cancer diagnosis.
As she was going through chemotherapy, her social worker at Evergreen Cancer Center told her about WWIN.
“I was totally humbled and could not believe that there was a group out there to help women like me,” said Cathy. “I’m 64, and I have much to be grateful for, but WWIN took gratitude to a whole deeper level for me.”
Thanks to WWIN, Cathy was able to pay all of her medical expenses and insurance premiums for a year. By not having to worry about covering the full expenses, Cathy was able to focus on her health and getting through the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Because chemotherapy impacts the brain, many patients are unable to tolerate the high stimulation of television or reading, so Cathy chose comfort in music. She turned to music as a great way to relax during times that were particularly difficult for her. “Music saved me,” said Bjornsgaard. Now, Cathy wants to help others by finding ways to provide headphones and CDs to other women who are enduring painful treatments as well as to find ways to bring comfort, good energy and beauty to these women.
“A friend planted pots of flowers for me and the hummingbirds that came to them as well as the flowers were a wonderful uplifting form of beauty and energy to focus on to nurture my soul and ease my pain,” said Cathy.
Now, Cathy is taking the time to take care of herself. “For the first time in my life I can wake up and say I can take care of myself.” She just received her fourth clean check-up and is spending time with her seven grandchildren after missing many births and birthday parties during her treatment and is looking for ways to give back and to help others in need.
“WWIN means so much to me because I often think about how many more women are out there who also need help, and how fortunate I was to be selected. I feel like there must be so many more women in need who maybe don’t have a family or the support that I had,” said Cathy.
WWIN grants changing lives….
Listen to Barbara, Judy, and Cindy tell their stories.
More WWIN grantee stories……
Marilyn, a former education grantee, earned her BA in psychology with WWIN’s financial assistance. She is now working full time for the Department of Defense as a new parent support home visitor. She works with local counselors, Bremerton Navy Hospital and other community resources to help prevent child abuse and to support families with soldiers on active duty. She said of the families she serves, “They are having a tough time in this war and I am honored to assist them.”
Pam was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse including incest. She suffered from PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). Pam said she wanted to be able to have a long-term relationship; the longest romantic relationship she had ever had was four months. She also wanted to go back to school to get her masters degree. She tried to go in the past but felt too overwhelmed and quit. Since receiving a WWIN counseling grant, Pam told WWIN she has been in a relationship for over a year and also started graduate school. She expressed her appreciation to WWIN in a thank you note in which she wrote, “I was able to move through a lot of ‘stuff’ that kept me from living a more satisfying life. I think I’ve grown a lot! Thank you, and may you keep honoring women in need.”
Paulette escaped an abusive relationship 15 years ago, but not before he knocked out most of her upper teeth. Paulette had a partial denture, but it was destroyed in a car accident last year. Halfway through her junior year in the Human Services program at Western Washington University, Paulette lacked the resources to replace the denture. It was also discouraging to pursue jobs and internships with no front teeth: “When you work with people, it’s impossible to earn their trust when you can’t give them a big smile!” With the help of WWIN’s Physical/Dental/Hearing/Vision program, Paulette is on her way to a big smile and a great career.
Tina was a 37-year-old married woman with two young girls when she received WWIN’s Insurance Premium Assistance grant. She said, “I am 6 months pregnant and I lost my job in November. My pregnancy is considered high risk, so I need extra care.” Tina’s insurance premiums were $444.41 per month. To help pay for their most basic expenses, she and her husband had cashed in their IRA of $6,000 and taken out a home equity loan. Tina’s husband had been laid off from Boeing after 14 years and decided to go back to school. He was about to graduate from school to be a radiology technician, but for the time being they could barely make ends meet. Tina is now able to be a stay-at-home mom and her husband has graduated from school.