The Stars Shine At N Street Village’s Annual Gala

On April 6, 450 friends and supporters of N Street Village came together at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington, D.C., for The Village’s annual gala. This event celebrates the founders, generous sponsors, and client success stories at N Street Village. The gala was a huge success: We exceeded our fundraising target by raising more than $600,000!

Steinbruck Award recipients Carol Toran, Rene Petaway, and Camela Carney photographed with Founders Award recipient US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

This year, we honored US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and long-time volunteer and honorary board member Carol Wheeler with the Founders’ Award. The Founders’ Award was created in 1998 to honor friends of N Street Village whose personal and professional efforts to provide opportunities for individuals living on the margins of society.  Recipients of this award make it possible for N Street Village to continue our work serving homeless and low-income women.  Carol graces N Street Village with her unprecedented and long–term dedication, involvement and investment in the women we serve; and Secretary Sebelius plays a pivotal role in ensuring access to health care and housing for women living in poverty.

Dr. Wendy Mayer and Jane Saari were honored with the Hospitality Award, which honors volunteers who provide critical support and quality services to our women and whose volunteer activities live out the founding mission of N Street Village to welcome the stranger and provide hospitality. Jane and Wendy were recognized for their start-up and ongoing work with the N Street Village Knitting and Crochet Circle that lifts the spirits of our clients.

This year we recognized three remarkable N Street Village clients whose life changing achievements are an inspiration to all of us: Camela Carney, Rene Petaway, and Carol Toran. The women received the N Street Village Steinbruck Award, which is presented annually to the women whose leadership, persistence and determination reflect that of Erna and John Steinbruck, the co-founders of N Street Village.

Camela Carney was born and raised in Washington, DC. She had her first child at the age of 16, and worked to support her son while still in school. She graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, moved out of her parents’ home and into her own place. She worked as an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Interior for 12 years. However, she became involved with the wrong crowd and began using substances. As her substance abuse progressed, she got married, thinking that a stable marriage would help her overcome her addiction. Camela and her family moved to Germany; however, her addiction continued. When they returned to the United States her marriage became troubled; she and her husband separated. After the separation, she gave birth to their daughter. Camela’s parents took custody of her daughter since she had no resources. Camela began abusing more substances to lessen the pain and stress. Camela came to N Street Village in October, 2008, because she wanted to regain her hopes and dreams. In November, 2009, Camela completed the Recovery Housing Program where she lived in a therapeutic community with other women working to stabilize their mental health and overcome addiction.

She then moved into the Transitional Housing Program in January, 2010, where she learned to maintain her recovery while pursuing self-sufficiency goals. During this time, Camela completed a recovery program at McClendon Center, an organization that helps individuals commit to a substance-free lifestyle. She also enrolled in the N Street Village Employment and Education Center, which assists women in achieving their literacy, vocational training, and other employment goals. Camela now serves as a Senior Peer Corps mentor to incoming clients, is on the committee for SoulFeast at Luther Place Memorial Church and works part-time at a senior citizens housing center. Camela said, “I am honored and grateful to N Street Village for giving me the opportunity to become a productive and responsible citizen.”

Rene Petaway was born in White Plains, NY. She spent the majority of her adult life in New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband and daughter. She worked for non-profit organizations and the Connecticut school system as a behavioral specialist for about 18 years. Rene retired from Boys and Girls Village Day School at age 60 to have more time for herself. In 2007 Rene came to Washington, DC, to help her daughter and to care for her grandchildren. However, Rene was isolated from her familiar surroundings. With no friends and too much time on her hands, she went from social drinking to becoming an alcoholic. Eventually, she moved out of her daughter’s home but spent much of her savings on rent and alcohol. She eventually realized that she could no longer afford to live alone.

In July, 2009, Rene arrived at N Street Village at her daughter’s recommendation to seek housing and employment assistance; however, she discovered that she needed a recovery program to help regain her sobriety. In August, 2009, Rene became a resident of the N Street Village Luther Place Night Shelter and became an active member in our community. As of December 2010, she now lives in her own independent housing. Rene serves as a Senior Peer Corps member, welcoming newcomers, and as a client volunteer, speaking to donors and community groups. She co-facilitates the Anger Management group offered in the Wellness Center. Rene completed the Thrive DC job training program and volunteers at the Festival Center. Rene said, “When I felt all hope was gone N Street Village gave me love, care and empowered me to be the confident, hopeful and happy woman I am today.”

Carol Toran is a native of Washington, DC. She is the youngest of five children, reared by her mother and father until the age of 12, when her mother passed away. She graduated from Immaculate Conception Academy, then attended and graduated from two trade schools for cosmetology and business. Carol married when she was 18; she has three daughters and two granddaughters. In 1993, Carol got divorced and became dependent on substances. In 1997 she entered into a treatment program on her own and is now in her 14th year of sobriety. She was working as a teacher in a child development center when she lost her job in July, 2009, and became homeless in August, 2009.

In October, 2009, by referral from WEAVE DC, Carol came to N Street Village as a client of Bethany Women’s Center, the day program where women have daily access to meals, showers, clothes, and opportunities for education, relaxation and socialization. She then became a resident of Luther Place Night Shelter, and later moved into Transitional Housing where she now resides. During this time she joined Team N Street, our client volunteer program, where she serves as a receptionist in Wellness Center. She has completed the Working in Supportive Senior Environments (WISE) program through the N Street Village Education and Employment Center; this job training and placement program prepares women to work in supportive roles in senior care. Carol has also completed hospice training and she participates in Thrive DC’s job training program. She now has two part-time jobs, one as an administrative assistant and the other as a caregiver. Carol said, “N Street Village has been a saving grace for me. It has given me my life back.”

At N Street Village, women like Camela, Rene, and Carol find the support they need every day to stabilize and improve their mental and physical health, recover from addiction, find employment, and move into stable, affordable housing. As one client said, “N Street Village has given us back what was already in us.”