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Staff Spotlight – Muriel Drago

Muriel Drago-Program Assistant Bethany Women's Center-001To kick off this new year, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Muriel Drago. Muriel began working at N Street Village in 2007 as a program assistant in Bethany Women’s Center.  This past year, Muriel joined the Clinical Care Specialist team, where she offers ongoing support to clients, coordinates intakes, and welcomes newcomers to the community. Muriel recently shared with us more about herself, her experience at N Street Village, as well as her reflections on 2012 and wishes for 2013.

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?
MD: I first came to Washington, D.C. in 2006 as a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. I always wanted to work in the substance abuse arena and decided to attend University of D.C. to receive certification in addictions counseling.  I was first introduced to N Street Village by a classmate who started working at the Village. After completing my educational hours, I began working for N Street Village in April 2007. Working for an organization that promoted dignity and respect and worked with a vulnerable population was especially important to me as a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
MD: On a daily basis I meet and collaborate with my colleagues to ensure that our clients receive quality care.  It is a joy to come to work every morning and see women who are working hard to live a better life as well as working in a community that promotes a positive lifestyle through a variety of programs and services.

NSV: What has been your greatest 2012 accomplishment at N Street Village?
MD: In 2012, I transitioned into a new position at N Street Village, becoming a Clinical Care Specialist and began working very closely with one of N Street Village’s newest permanent supportive housing programs, Erna’s House.  It is a professional accomplishment that is very fulfilling to me and I am excited to continue to serve the Village in a different capacity.

NSV: What is one of your favorite N Street Village memories?
MD: Christmas and Recovery Housing Graduation days at the Village have always been special to me.  On Christmas Day, everyone gathers together in Bethany Women’s Center for an exciting game of Christmas Bingo. There is always a lot of laughter, good cheer and joy throughout the community and a feeling of gratitude.   Recovery Housing’s graduation is a time to celebrate women who are demonstrating success in the program.  Their family, friends and the community gather to offer encouragement for the women to continue their sobriety efforts.

NSV: What is your New Year wish for the clients you work with?
MD: My New Year’s wish for the clients I work with is for them to continue in their efforts to reach their goals and to let them know that N Street Village is here to support them.

NSV: If you could go to a movie theatre tomorrow, what movie would you want to see and why?
I would like to see the movie Flight, starring Denzel Washington, who plays a pilot struggling with alcoholism. I am always interested in anything involving substance abuse, alcoholism and recovery.

NSV: What is your favorite song of inspiration?
MD: My favorite song of inspiration is Mary J. Blige’s song titled “Just Fine”.  I love the lyrics — “So I like what I see when I’m looking at me when I’m walking past the mirror, no stress through the night at this time of my life,  got my head on straight, I got my mind right, I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just fine.”

NSV: Describe N Street Village in 3 words.
MD: N Street Village in 3 words to me: Support. Hope.  Joy.

How Can We View Homelessness?

 

By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.

As I sit here on my last day working at N Street Village, I want to take a moment to share what I learned working with individuals experiencing homelessness.  The overall theme of the various realizations I’ve had this year is this: never think that you are immune to the challenges that other people face. Most of you would probably nod your heads, easily agreeing — but how much do you actually believe it could be true? What if one day you became homeless?

I believe that understanding the actual possibility of hardships like homelessness happening to us allows us to better connect with those who are currently experiencing them and eliminates the “us/them” mentality that prevents real social change.

It wasn’t until I started working with individuals who experience homelessness that I realized how little separated them from me.  While poverty and homelessness disproportionately affect some populations more than others I met so many women who do not necessarily fit into our preconceived notions of “the homeless.” Some held steady jobs and raised their children in their own homes, and suddenly — either because of hard economic times, divorce, or health issues — lost their income and housing. Even those who had friends and family willing to provide a temporary safety net eventually needed to find income and housing on their own again.

For a while I was really upset at the realization that homelessness could happen to anyone.  As the year went on, I decided to channel my feelings about this into really getting to know clients as individuals and focusing on how I could best provide services that would help them move forward. Now I see our clients as women working incredibly hard to overcome hardship while trying to enjoy each and every day.  That’s why I like to describe them as women experiencing homelessness rather than women who are homeless. This mindset is what makes it possible for N Street Village to provide clients with the high-quality and meaningful services that we would hope to have for ourselves and our loved ones if we were in their place.

Spending my service corps year at N Street Village has been an eye-opening and insightful journey. I am forever changed and committed to the act of leveling the playing field for all in society. Thank you N Street Village for allowing me to have this experience.

 

Photo of the Week

Signage for AIDS 2012 appeared this week in Logan Circle. The International AIDS Conference runs July 22nd through July 27th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Photo by Tim Fretz, Manager of Foundation and Government Giving

Elaine Wants to Share Her Story with You at Our 6th Annual Luncheon

Evelyn and Elaine in the staff office of the drop-in day center.Those who attended N Street Village’s Annual Luncheon last year at the National Press Club heard Evelyn Green share her story of recovery.  It was a transformative moment for Evelyn, who twenty years ago used to sleep on the very same steps she walked up that afternoon to enter the National Press Club building as a featured speaker.

Evelyn overcame decades of addiction and years of homelessness to become the manager of the Village’s drop-in day center and a beloved mentor to hundreds of women in need.  And when the day center needed a new program assistant, Evelyn was one of the first staff members to endorse hiring Elaine, a former resident of N Street Village, for the job. “I see a whole lot of myself in Elaine,” Evelyn said. “I met Elaine when she first walked through the doors and it has been inspiring to be a part of the process she has gone through. She has so much to share with our clients, our staff, and our community.”

This year’s 6th Annual Luncheon at the National Press Club will be Wednesday, June 6th.  We will be welcoming internationally renowned motivational speaker Gloria Mayfield Banks, an Elite Executive National Sales Director with Mary Kay, Inc., and we will present our Community Ally Award to the Washington, D.C. Chapter of The Links, Inc., in recognition of its members’ commitment to empowering and enriching the lives of women in our community.  Joining this inspiring line-up, Elaine will take the podium to share her personal success story — from N Street Village resident to one of our newest hires.

“I really thought I was going to die on the street,” Elaine said. “I was hopeless. Today I have hope, I have focus, and I have life.  It is an honor to share my story on the same stage that Ms. Evelyn stood on last year with many of the people who helped us get where we are today.”

Purchase your 6th Annual Luncheon tickets today!
All attendees will be entered in a drawing to win a trip for two to St. Kitts. 

Photo of the Week

An early spring harvest of snap peas goes straight from our community garden into the salad created by N Street Village volunteer Joan Dodek for lunch. N Street Village’s community garden is planted and maintained by N Street Village clients, staff, and volunteers year round.

Meet Our Honorees

On March 21, nearly 450 friends and supporters of N Street Village came together at The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., for the Village’s 2012 gala. This annual event celebrates those in our community who help homeless and low-income women make positive changes in their lives and also honors the achievements of our clients. This year’s gala was a huge success, raising more than $620,000!

At this year’s gala, we recognized three remarkable N Street Village clients who are an inspiration to all of us: Noelle Beamon, Bobbie Estes, and Carol Unger. The women received the N Street Village Steinbruck Award, which is presented annually to the clients whose leadership, persistence and determination reflect that of Erna and John Steinbruck, the co-founders of N Street Village.

In this video, which was shown at the gala,  Noelle, Bobbie, and Carol share what brought them to N Street Village and how their experience in our programs changed their lives for the better.

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Photo of the Week

N Street Village Gala co-chairs Melissa Maxfield (far left) and Jill and A.B. Cruz (far right) with N Street Village executive director Schroeder Stribling and Steinbruck honorees Noelle Beamon, Bobbie Estes, and Carol Unger celebrate together at the 2012 Annual Gala, which raised over $620,000 in support of N Street Village programs and services.

Celebrating the Power of Love

It is – without question – Valentine’s Day at The Village.  Our walls are decked out in red and pink hearts, and our clients are distributing the handmade cards they carefully crafted in art classes to friends and staff members. Valentine’s Day only happens once a year, but at N Street Village, we celebrate the power of love to change women’s lives every day. One place you can see this love in action is in our Wellness Center.

The Wellness Center offers a wide variety of classes that encourage women to love themselves by taking care of their minds, bodies, and spirits. Watch as two clients, Tonya and Patricia, share how this self-care approach is improving their lives and providing them with the opportunity to love who they are inside and out.

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Video created for N Street Village by Becky Harlan | @beckyharlan | www.beckyharlan.com

Saving the Best for Last — Thank You!

The Walkathon has come and gone and this record-breaking year — we have much to celebrate, thanks to you!

With your support, an estimated 3,436 walkers joined N Street Village this year, in-person and virtually, which guaranteed that we will receive an additional $50,000 from Fannie Mae!  We recruited almost 800 walkers more than last year.  We estimate that we raised approximately $285,000, which will support our award-winning housing, employment, mental health, physical health, and addiction recovery programs, which serve nearly 900 homeless and extremely low-income women in our community each year.

We could not have done it without you! Thank you so much for joining us this past Saturday, virtually walking, recruiting your co-workers, friends, and family, and supporting N Street Village!  During this week of Thanksgiving, please know that when we reflect on the many blessings bestowed upon our community, we will be giving very special thanks for you!

Please enjoy a thank you video and photos from this year’s final Walkathon on the National Mall.

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