From Where I Sit – Spring 2021
I often think of the plaque in the Harvard House that reads: Home is where the story begins… Reflecting on the past year, I’m realizing in a new way that change is synonymous with beginnings. Every one of us can list the many ways we have had to make changes in our lives over the past year. The pandemic did not take into consideration plans or hopes or obligations. Instead, we had to learn to navigate our lives in spite of it. Now that there seems to be some light on the horizon, my thinking turns specifically to what have I had to do differently? … how has it impacted my life? … my thinking? … do I want to continue and why?
At Crossroads, nothing could be done as it was before, but everything had to continue. Groups continued, but with less staff and volunteers. Coping skills and mental well-being became a constant. Job Search was limited during Stay-At-Home Orders, but employment was found nonetheless. Board and Committee meetings occurred via Zoom. Plans continued for the purchase of a property and the implementation of a new transitional housing program. Virtual became a tangible word in our everyday vocabulary.
We have completed our first virtual fundraiser for Crossroads, Inc. I think it is amazing/inspiring how many participants actually chose to walk whatever number of miles. Face coverings and social distancing did not deter physical participation. It would have been easy for me to virtually walk the 15.8 miles from California Institution for Women to the Harvard House in Claremont or to walk that number of miles over the two-week period. Despite three months of preparation and walking over 175 miles, I would not say that the walk was easy. Somewhere around mile 12, I began questioning the audacity of my commitment to walk it all at once. What got me over the hump was companionship and conversation: welcome distractions and encouragement which helped me push through the tiredness and discomfort. Taking a shortcut along the Metrolink tracks, as we rounded the corner of Lincoln University a welcoming group of supporters were waiting our arrival in the Curtis Realty parking lot. Balloons, signs, and cheers of encouragement and excitement announced that we had “made it.” And together we walked the last .8 mile to the Harvard House. I thought about the many people involved in our Virtual Walk: donors from across the county, and as far away as Ireland and South Africa, the Mile Sponsors, people walking near and far, singly and with others. My initial statement or reason for walking from the prison was to bring attention to the challenges women face walking out of prison. But it was in that last .8 of a mile that we made a much stronger statement together: It takes all of us to create an environment where women are able to face the challenges of leaving prison and learning a new way of life.
The Tortoise and the Hare
From March 14th until March 28th, Jim Brashler, with the encouragement of his wife, Lenore, walked two blocks each day in support of Crossroads’ Walking Home fundraiser. Given Jim’s current medical challenges, each block measured his courage and commitment to uplifting the beloved community. Lenore encouraged donations in an email entitled, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” comparing the efforts of Jim and Sister Terry Dodge in the virtual walk. Jim, the Tortoise, calculates that he raised over $1,000 for Crossroads.
Both Jim and Lenore have been long-time supporters of the women of Crossroads since returning to Claremont in 2012 and moving to Pilgrim Place. Jim helped to build raised garden beds and has made soul-warming pancakes at the annual Crossroads Easter Breakfast, all at the Harvard House. Lenore has volunteered as the computer technology teacher for the residents, a job that made her think critically about andragogy and technology. Both Jim and Lenore are passionate about criminal justice reform and about the unjust treatment of non-whites in the US.
Jim and Lenore met in high school, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as members of a brass ensemble. Jim played the tuba and Lenore played the French horn. They married, he became a theologian, teaching primarily on the east coast, and they had two children. In retirement, the Brashlers moved back to Claremont where Jim had studied at Claremont Graduate School. Lenore played in the Claremont Symphony and she and Jim played together in the Pomona City Concert Band until last spring when the quarantine went into effect. There are plenty of unknowns going forward for everyone, but given Jim and Lenore’s curiosity, insight, and generosity of spirit, the music of their lives will continue.
The event may be virtual, but the results are real!
Our Walking Home Virtual Walk has been a success and we look forward to next year’s event. Hopefully, masks and social distancing can be replaced by friends and family walking together to celebrate and support the women of Crossroads, Inc.
Thanks to the generosity of 17 sponsors (listed on back), 70 walk participants who covered over 800 miles, and donors we have raised over $30,000!
We sincerely appreciate all of the support. Our community has walked, shared and invited others to participate, snapped photos, made donations, created teams and more to ensure that this event was a success.
Beyond the financial support, it is a poignant reminder of how much our Crossroads community stands behind the organization and helps make the programs and services they provide possible.
Walking Home Committee: Lydia Garnac, Leeann Nabors, Sean Harrison, Rachel McDonnell and Mary Eme
A special thanks to our Walking Home Sponsors!
Teamwork wins the day (and hearts) for the women of Crossroads, Inc.
The ‘Crossroads Staff’ team met up at the Harvard House at 6:00 a.m. We were cheerfully greeted by Sister Terry who gave us some last minute advice, grouped us together for a send-off picture, gathered up all our belongings that she deemed unnecessary for our trip, and sent us on our way like a mother sending her kids on their first field trip. We began the first leg of our trip, which would take us to the Crossroads Office in the Claremont Village, at 6:09 a.m. We made our way down Harvard Avenue, talking excitedly about what was to come, more than likely resembling the four main characters from the Wizard of Oz. If only we were participating in this walk to receive something as simple as a brain for a straw-filled head, or some courage to be the king of the jungle, how easy it would be…but our purpose was so much more than that. We were walking to restore guidance where many had lost their way, dignity where it may have been stripped away, and lastly but certainly not least, we were walking to show love to the formerly incarcerated women whom we have dedicated ourselves to serve, until they are able to love themselves. As promised, Sister Terry was waiting at the office with needed sips of water and a few words of encouragement. We paused briefly to take a group picture then moved along in the direction of San Jose House, via Indian Hill Blvd, with Jackie White, our dedicated and fearless Director, leading the pack.
During our brief stop at the San Jose House, we added a resident, Shawn Dailey, to our team. She had requested to walk the last part of our trip with us, 1.7 miles to San Francisco House. It was something she was not sure she could accomplish but was willing to try. Her reason was simple, yet definitely heartfelt; she said she wanted to support Jackie the Program Director, and Ymeka, Robyn, and La Donna who are staff at Crossroads, because we show her support every day. We stood close on the front yard at the San Jose House so that Sister Terry could take a group photo marking our progress, and set out on our scheduled route; San Jose Avenue to San Antonio, down San Antonio to San Francisco, then across Towne Avenue.
The last leg of our walk was life changing to say the least. I couldn’t help but notice how Jackie, who kept the lead by at least one hundred feet the entire time, kept looking back to check on her teammates. It created somewhat of a domino effect and we were all checking on each other. We had straggled apart and seemed to be socially distancing since there was at least ten feet between each of us, but we were just going at our own paces. I had a sudden realization that brought a smile to my face; this is teamwork. This is what they mean when they say “No one left behind.” After all, that’s what Crossroads does. They ensure that formerly incarcerated women have the resources and tools they need so that they do not get left behind. They ensure that women in need of recovery have a chance to live a drug and alcohol-free life so that they too are not left behind in the world of addiction.
As we got closer to San Francisco House, Jackie was sitting on the front wall waiting for the rest of her team, and Sister Terry was pulling up in the driveway. The way they cheered for us as we approached at 7:40 a.m. was nothing short of awesome and heart-filling. Taniza, Jackie’s daughter had given up her Saturday morning to come and walk with our team and her mother Jackie who is also an alumna of the Crossroads program. That’s what Crossroads is all about; family reunification, rebuilding broken relationships, recovery, restoring, and so much more. This is a day I’m sure that none of us will ever forget. As for our One-Nun cheerleading squad, she showed up in her shining white Prius with much-needed Starbucks Coffee and breakfast burritos for the team that walked only a third of the fifteen miles she walked last weekend. But, from what I learned about Crossroads today, I know that her fifteen miles will be added with our five and we can all gladly say that we have walked twenty-one miles for the women in this program. That’s what teamwork is… that’s what Crossroads is.