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Staff Spotlight – Shane Yost

910_10151239651758095_1571912476_nThis month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Shane Yost.  Shane joined N Street Village as the Manager of Individual Giving in October 2012.  Part of Shane’s responsibilities include overseeing mailings and sharing the good work of N Street Village with supporters.  Shane is originally from Rochester, N.Y.; he spent time living and working in Texas before moving to the District in 2000. Let’s get to know Shane:

NSV: What is your role at N Street Village and how do you spend your days?
SY: I share with our supporters how their donations positively impact the lives of our clients. One way that I am able to do this is by interviewing a client about her story and N Street Village experience. It is a great privilege to hear about the struggles that a woman has encountered and how she is striving to make her life better. I then use that interview to write a piece to share with our donors.

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?
SY: N Street Village is a place that truly values women and provides them with opportunities to better their lives. This is apparent as soon as you visit. I knew that this was a place I wanted to be a part of – a place in which every person is valued no matter what their background.

NSV: In the last year, what has been your greatest accomplishment working at N Street Village?
SY: I started the Village View, our print newsletter, which shares our clients’ stories with our supporters. I am honored to share the stories of women who have experienced so much hardship, yet remain strong and positive.

NSV: What is one of your favorite N Street Village memories?
The Valentine’s Day Tea Time hosted by the N Street Village Mentors. It was such a joyful occasion to see the clients laughing, singing, and dancing. N Street Village strives to be a place where clients can experience happiness and hope—this event demonstrated what we are all about.

NSV: What is one of your favorite places to visit in the DMV?
SY: I love running along the Anacostia River Walk trail in Southeast Washington. It’s peaceful and beautiful along the water and much less crowded than other trails in the area.

NSV: If you could go to a music concert tomorrow, what artist/group would you want to see?
SY: Led Zeppelin 1973

NSV: What is something that people reading this may not know about you?
SY: If I were not working at N Street Village, I would be a rock god just like Robert Plant.

NSV: Describe N Street Village in 3 words.
Vibrant. Life-affirming. Community.

“I Ain’t Gonna Let Being Homeless Get Me Down”

With these words, Lolita Mitchell’s deep voice resonated throughout Luther Place Memorial Church on a recent Sunday. Lolita, a resident of N Street Village’s Recovery Housing program, was leading N Street Village’s Ambassadors of Praise choir and Luther Place Memorial Church’s chorus as they sang at the church’s annual homeless memorial service.

Ambassadors of Praise

The Ambassadors of Praise at rehearsal

Two years ago, singing in a church choir was the last place you would have expected to find Lolita. Her mother had just died, and she was at the self-described rock bottom of her addiction. Now as a resident of N Street Village and a member of the Ambassadors of Praise, Lolita finds she is better able to focus on her recovery and make the changes she needs to lead a healthier, happier life.

An Ambassadors of Praise practice is a joy-filled space. The choir director is Rev. Karen Brau, pastor of Luther Place Memorial Church and member of N Street Village’s Board of Directors. She begins each practice by asking everyone’s name and how they are doing. Any woman who comes to N Street Village can be a part of the choir so from week to week, members change and new voices are welcomed. In the opening prayer, Pastor Karen gives thanks for “gifts that sound way better when they are together.”

Pastor Karen finds that the Ambassadors bring added vibrancy to worship at Luther Place Memorial Church, and the community has warmly welcomed them. Pastor Karen notes, “They give people who hear them an opportunity to receive joy.” She is hoping to have them sing there at least once a month, but for now they have been performing at special events including the homeless memorial service, Christmas Eve service, Pastor Karen’s own wedding, and the Soul Feast block party.  In perhaps their biggest performance, this past spring they sang a cappella at the Kennedy Center as part of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

For now, they gather every Wednesday in the Wellness Center to sing and give praise for the good things happening in their lives. Pastor Karen believes that music has a healing power, especially for women in recovery. For all the singers, the choir gives them an opportunity to be a part of something larger than themselves.

The choir also stretches their abilities. Many of the women have never performed before and often consider their individual voices to be weak. Lolita is one of those women. She insists that she doesn’t have a very good voice but notes that “when I sing for the Lord, the songs come out beautifully.”

Despite her reservations, in many ways the Ambassadors is a natural fit for her. She was raised in the church, and her mother was a longtime pastor’s aide. She stopped attending church and “went down the wrong road.” Now, thanks to N Street Village she is traveling down a healthier and happier road.

By Shane Yost, Manager of Individual Giving – story originally published in the N Street Village’s Village Voice newsletter.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dave Weinstein

After Dave Weinstein retired from a career in information technology, he was looking for a way to share his passion for financial management. Dave’s own experience has taught him that almost everyone has a hard time talking about money. Dave does not, and as such he wanted to share his skills with others.

That’s why Dave is a perfect fit for our Education and Employment Center (EEC). In his volunteer role, Dave has taken on the difficult task of helping N Street Village clients—women who have very little income—understand how even they can save money.

To do this, he will have a woman map out her expenses for the month so that she can see exactly how much money she is spending. Inevitably, Dave reports, she is surprised when she realizes her expenses are less than her income but she has no idea where the additional money went. With this lesson, Dave demonstrates that there is always room to save.

Dave notes the many challenges Village clients face. For a client who has had very little control over her money for most of her life, patterns are hard to change. Without bank accounts, it is easy for a client to spend impulsively. And despite having a limited amount of money, she can be very generous, often lending to friends. The end result is that by the middle of the month, she has spent her entire income and saved nothing.

One money management skill Dave advocates to change this is for a woman to pay herself first before paying her bills. This way, she always saves money. For Dave, even if a woman sets aside just a few dollars a month, it is an accomplishment, and helps her have more control over her finances.

In addition to working with clients individually, Dave is excited about a new endeavor working with Senior Peers, the Village’s client volunteer team. He’ll be conducting three hour-and-half training sessions helping them develop better financial management skills.

The Village salutes Dave for his sharing his skills and helping women take control of their financial situations.

By Shane Yost, Manager of Individual Giving – story originally published in N Street Village’s Village Voice newsletter.

“This is awesome!”

 

This past March Elaine Webber became the newest Program Assistant at N Street Village’s Bethany Women’s Center. Each day she welcomes newcomers and regulars with a warm smile and an attentive ear. Some may come simply for a shower or a meal while others are seeking treatment for an addiction. Elaine listens to their problems and helps them access N Street Village’s various services.

Elaine’s number one priority for each woman who walks through the door is to make sure she feels welcome. When a woman tells Elaine that she doesn’t know what being homeless is like, Elaine responds simply, “Yes, I do.”

That’s because for ten years, Elaine lived on the streets of Washington.  She spent her days at a bus stop drinking and wandered the streets at night, sleeping on church steps or in apartment hallways. She was estranged from her family. She ate out of a trash can.

That was six years ago. Today, Elaine is sober.  She has an apartment of her own. She has reconnected with her family. And she has a job that she loves. When Elaine reflects on her life now and where she’s been, she exclaims emphatically, “This is awesome!”

Elaine’s story is about the power of community, the power of hope.

When she was living on the streets, Elaine first came to N Street Village for a meal. When Bethany Women’s Center manager Evelyn Green asked her for her name, she reluctantly gave it, but made sure not to come back for a long time. As a homeless woman struggling with addiction, she felt invisible and wanted to stay that way.

One day Elaine met a friend from the streets who had entered the Village’s Recovery Housing program. She was impressed with the changes she had made. A seed was planted, and one year later, she had her last drink and also entered our Recovery Housing program.

Elaine knows firsthand the healing power of N Street Village. For Elaine, N Street Village is a community of hope, dignity, and respect. After coming to the Village, she received treatment for her high cholesterol and high blood pressure. She participated in yoga, meditation, aerobics, and poetry classes while also attending group meetings to deal with her addiction. She met with a psychiatrist regularly to discuss her depression. Working as a volunteer receptionist in the dental clinic, Elaine gained valuable job experience.

Today, Elaine is the one who makes sure that no woman feels invisible. Her own story serves as an inspiration to the homeless women she works with every day. She knows what it’s like for them — to struggle with addiction, to feel invisible and hopeless. But more importantly she also knows what it’s like to get your life back. And each day when she comes to work, that’s what she helps women do.

By Shane Yost, Manager of Individual Giving – story originally published in N Street Village’s Village Voice newsletter.

 

Photo of the Week

Manager of Individual Giving, Shane Yost, keeps his heels close after attending a "high heel shoes are mandatory" event hosted by Benevole in honor of N Street Village this past Saturday. Shane went shoe shopping with one of his friends to pick out this fabulous pair.