annette mcdonald

Annette McDonald: Stand Up to Domestic Violence and Transition to Independence (#182-183)

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Our guest today: Annette McDonald

Annette McDonald made me feel like home when I first spoke with her. I was a complete stranger who desperately needed help. She didn’t owe me anything and could have easily turned me away.

Instead, she was trying to do everything she could to help me and make sure I (and my documentary team) were OK. We bonded immediately.

Upon my return from the documentary, we found ourselves were chatting on the phone for an hour. I found out Annette McDonald founded an organization called Access Family Services in New Jersey that provides shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Annette didn’t come from a wealthy background. She’s a single mom. Why would anyone want to pursue a career that has very financial gains for 18 years? I asked her and she said:”Fei, it’s just too important.”

Transcript

Part 1

How To Stand Up To Domestic Violence And Help Women In Need (Part 1) with Annette McDonald – powered by Happy Scribe

Hey. Hello. How are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after top 1% of the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsound heroes and self made artists.

The look on his face and the excitement of just feeling safe and being someplace where he has support and his mom saying thank you, that kind of interaction keeps me going. What I felt that night, Faye, was like, I could have worked the rest of the night with this family just to watch this little boy feeling like I’m here and I’m okay. Service to others is, to me, one of the greatest gift that we can give ourselves as well as given to others. It hurts more than the physical violence at times because the psychological piece never goes away. Walking on eggshell. The feeling as though any move you make could be the wrong move at any time. I get excited every day when I wake up, knowing that I’m coming to help another human being. Hey, there.

It’s Fei Wu host for this show. Here’s a little fun fact about me. I was originally a radio show host. When I was just 16 years old, I ran a bilingual show for the China National Radio. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was surrounded by people I admired who really knew what they were doing. So I learned by making mistakes. It was hard, but I had so much fun.

Was anyone listening?

I often wondered about that, too. But I guess the hundreds of mails I received in school and at home explained it all. Handwritten letters? Yes. I kept a number of them still in my home in Beijing. Speaking of home, my guest today is Annette McDonald, who made me feel like home. When I first spoke with her, I was a complete stranger to her. She didn’t owe me anything and could easily turn me away. But she didn’t. We bound it immediately, and you’re going to find out all about that story. And the next thing I knew, we were chatting on the phone for hours. I invited her to the show because I found out that Annette McDonald founded an organization called Access Family Services in New Jersey that provides shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. My eyes lit up. Paying forward is at the core of our podcast. We’ve interviewed so many inspiring philanthropists, social service workers in the past. Annette is among the shining stars of my world. Annette didn’t come from a wealthy background. She is a single mom. Why would anyone want to pursue a career that has very little financial gains for 18 years?

I asked her. She responded, Faye, it’s just too important. If you can spend a day with her or volunteer at the shelter, shake hands with the people you touch and you help, that experience, I guarantee, will transform you. I’ve been there, and there’s no word to describe it. If you haven’t done it, you’re truly missing out in life.

If you get a kick out of.

This conversation, I am sure you will love exploring others under the pain forward category as well. So please visit Feisworld.com Podcast. But I know if you’re listening to this, you’ve got a big heart to be interested in this conversation in the first place. We thank you for being part of our tribe, which may be small, but our listeners are legend. Without further ado, please welcome Annette McDonald to the Faze World Podcast.

I think it’s such a privilege to come from another culture, and especially I think it’s the case for women because the way I feel is I represent much more than just myself, and I want to be able to connect with women who aren’t just Asian or just Chinese, but women living in America who come from an immigrant background are immigrants themselves. 1st, 2nd, 3rd generation, doesn’t matter. And our voice in our stories can be so powerful and so resonating.

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So, you know, my mom came here when I believe in the 1970s, actually. So she migrated from Jamaica, and then she ended up what we call filing for all of us. So we came here with our green card. I still remember my number, which is crazy, my green card number. For some reason, I feel like the immigrant story is so important, and it stuck in my head where my mom always said, well, make sure you don’t lose this green card, because if you lose it, you may end up having to go back to Jamaica. So I do agree with the immigrant story and women’s story is so very important.

Wow. And, you know, I just love meeting people face to face because there’s so much when we meet someone new, we make up all the stories in our heads and a lot of our interactions today, whether it’s driven by urgency or it’s just that flash moment of that minimal interaction. And I started to think about the people I encounter in my life now, and I want to talk about the way that we met. And I’ll make that story very brief. But long story short, my documentary team and I were traveling, were exhausted, and we ran into a couple of issues that you are so caring and you’re so kind in responding to our needs, which really fostered this conversation, this relationship in such an unexpected way. And you call it serendipity, and there’s so much of that in life that we kind of overlook. What are your thoughts? I mean, how do you think this happened? By accident?

So I don’t think it’s by accident. I think people come into our lives for a reason, and I think we’re blessed when we can identify why that person crossed our path. And that’s why it is so important that no matter who it is, we treat everyone with care and with respect and with love. I ignored your needs and ignored what your concerns were when you and I spoke. Right? You and I would not be speaking today, but first thought was, what’s best for Fae? What can I do to help Fae? And that’s a natural it’s a natural part of my being that I’ve come to understand. So your needs and what I needed to do to help you was really my first priority.

And I was still touched by it because we go through life unfortunately not experiencing so much of that. So I’m in a situation, for example, that I believe if I hire someone to do something, I always pay them immediately and because they’ve done amazing work. And I’ve also encountered clients who don’t pay on time, who ignore your invoices, who don’t really treat your work with respect. And then just discovering you in that moment. We were driving and we’ve been sleeping for 4 hours a day. And that was the last interview.

And then the way that you said.

To me, you said, hey, Faye, I’m sure you and your team are exhausted. Please just grab the water, grab the snacks.

Okay.

So we didn’t take anything, but we took that message with so much care, with heart. And you followed up with me. I was in the car, in the van, huge van with a tons of equipment. And my team were asking me, they are you chatting with Annette? Every time I was texting, they’re like, you’re not talking to us, so you must be talking to Annette. I’m like, how did you know we’re friends now.

I felt the same way. And it’s interesting the way you’re coming off even your voice. I didn’t know you I didn’t know what you look like. Nothing but the mere fact that you were receptive and your voice and you were as receptive as I felt, as I was feeling very concerned about your friends and the travel and not being able to provide for your needs right away, my first thought again was, what can I do to make sure they’re okay? They’re in a strange neighborhood. What can I do? And so that your safety. Everything was about you.

And of course I became incredibly interested in who you are as a person, your backstory. So I investigated that and without you even mentioning a word on the phone, right. Clearly you are a very kind person. You have a very kind heart. So I discover in fact, that you are a philanthropist. And then you’ve been working on social service, which is a huge theme. The core of our podcast is social service. On this paying forward, could you tell me a little bit about your organization, which is called the Access Family Services? What is it about?

In a few words, we save lives at Access Family Services. We’re a full service domestic violence program in Essex County, New Jersey. We have a 15 bed homeless shelter, but it’s a 15 bed specifically geared towards victims of domestic violence and their children. And it’s a big part of our services, along with our outreach services, where we serve batters offenders of domestic violence as well. So I see both sides, the victim piece and also the perpetrators piece as well. So in a nutshell, that is what we do 24 hours a day. So 24 hours operation, seven days a week, 365 days a week with awesome, awesome help and volunteers as well.

Wow. And you’ve been doing this for how long, Annette?

18 years now. A long time. Very long time.

18 years. Could you tell us, like, how do people approach you? Because I think we break down the barrier of thinking when a woman’s life, and especially if her child’s or children’s lives are threatened. I mean, the desperation, there’s just no words to really describe it. And you have to be calm, you have to be resourceful. You may or may not have a phone where access to the Internet, how do they reach out to you and connect with you?

Well, we do for example, we have national Domestic Violence hotline. We have a local statewide hotline that they are familiar with, either through another agency that they may have come in contact with who are able to refer them to our hotline. So that’s generally our first line of contact with a woman or a man. It doesn’t matter who needs our services. That is where we begin our safety planning and letting them know about our services. That’s where the care and the concern and all of the safety planning begins right on the hotline. And it is a process at that time when they’re contacting us, they may not even want to come into shelter at all. They just might need information so that they can plan to come into shelter or plan for their safety along the way. So that’s really their first line of contact. Usually with us, it’s through a hotline.

And you talk about voice and the tone and that’s kind of how I felt. I try to imagine how these women, men, children interact with you for the first time. And I know you’re not the only one they’re volunteers. It’s impossible to do it all by yourself, but I just imagine the first interaction they have with you. What was your interaction, what is your interaction like with your clients in this case?

So one particular family comes to mind, and this just happened recently. There’s a family, actually a family still in with us. They came in to shelter and it was a young man, probably about ten or so, she came in with her children, and it was the first time, it was very late at night as well. And this child had probably a little computer, television that he wanted to bring in with him to take with him. They had obviously been to I would say maybe a couple different shelters by the time they arrived here with us. The young man said to me, can we take my computer screen with me with the television? And I said, no, I’m so sorry. We’re not allowed to have that in the room because it’s a shared space. I said, but how about I show you where your space, your personal space is, which is a room for teens and preteen that we set up at the shelter for them. And I brought him downstairs, and he saw his TV and the games and everything was set up there for him. And he was so excited, and his mom obviously was concerned because here we’re oh, no television, no screen.

And once she realized that room was there, I can see the sense of relief on her face. Then I said to him, how about I take you upstairs and show you your room? And I took him upstairs with me, and I opened the door, and I said, this is your space. He goes. Oh, my God. Is this a zoom? He said, is this my bathroom? So the look on his face and the excitement of just feeling safe and being someplace where he has support and his mom saying thank you in her silent voice, just to say thank you. That kind of interaction keeps me going. What I felt that night, Faye, was like, I could have worked the rest of the night with this family just to watch this little boy go through that sense of gratitude, of feeling like I’m here and I’m okay. So that’s just one of my interaction among many.

Hi, there.

This is FEI Wu, and you’re listening to the phase roll, the podcast. Today on the show, we welcome Annette McDonald, who is a social service advocate and started the axis family services in New Jersey that provides shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She’s a single mom with limited resources, and she’s been doing this for 18 years. Today, we share her incredible stories and those she held along the way.

This is why I sense that not only it’s an enjoyment that makes you happy, it almost feels like it’s maybe the wrong word. It’s most like an addiction, an addiction to help other people because it gives you such joy eternally. And kind of the way you describe that story, I feel like you’re showered with joy. You know what I mean? Like there’s so much of what we do in life, doesn’t matter how much you spent on material goods. It immediately I noticed myself when I was a kid, I would get a piece of candy for would feel so happy for a long time. Whereas now, as an adult, I could go shopping, find my favorite dress, and then the moment I come back home and I realized, just the package. Sometimes you don’t even touch the bag. The shopping bag. You don’t even touch it. You forgot it even existed. It doesn’t give you nearly the same level of satisfaction. Why do you think that is? Why do you think you feel that way?

We feel that way.

Helping other people, service to others, I find, has for me been so gratifying and probably for you too. And you described it. When you’re able to impact or affect someone’s life, a human being’s life, to somehow offer them something, give them information, provide a home or something in return. Yes, you know what, they’re doing that for them. And that is great. But I think that joy that you feel inside money, nothing in the world can really beat that. To me, that’s how I feel. That night when I met with that family, it just reminded me so much of this is what I need to do. This is what’s important. The smile that’s on his face. A million dollars is great. Yes. And we do need that to run these programs here in New Jersey. However, just the mere gratification of knowing that he’s safe means the world. So service to others is to me, one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves as well as given to others.

Absolutely.

What brought you into this program? Like what happened in your thirty s? And how could nobody commit to a career for forget about 18 years, even two years on average, one to two years. How did this start?

When I look back sometimes it’s important to look back, to move forward. When I look back at my history, I realized after being in this field for such a long time that I’ve had that social work heart from I was maybe seven years old. I remember as far back helping my grandma. She had three sisters. She was one of twin sister and then another. That was the first child for my grandparents parents. And I remember helping this grand aunt of mine because she had no children at the time in the neighborhood and going there after school, making sure she was clean, making sure she was okay. And I was very young, but I recall that experience for such a long time ago. And then obviously moving to this country much later on, living with my family, I ended up being a child witness of domestic violence myself. So after living many years with this and knowing for many people going through domestic violence, even children, it is a very difficult thing to talk about. It’s what we call relationships and crimes that thrive in secrecy and silence. No one wants to talk about what’s going on.

And especially as a young child growing up in a household where some of that was seen, you don’t know where to go, where to turn and what happens next. Fast forward. I moved to New Jersey and this is when I say nothing is a coincidence and I’ll get back to it. I moved to New Jersey, and I got a speeding ticket. This is my entrance into this field. And the speeding ticket led me to a courtroom. When I got to the courtroom, there was a victim there responding to a domestic violence incident. And this victim, first, she said the word, I do not want my husband arrested. Father of my children. I don’t want him arrested. And the judge said, Ma’am, I’m sorry, we are issuing a warrant for his arrest. I sat there, and I’ll tell you, Faye, up till today, I’m sure I paid the ticket because I never received any more notices. But I got lost in that whole courtroom, and in her situation, it reminded me of what I had gone through with hearing my mom saying, I’m dropping the restraining order. I don’t want to go through this. I actually went home and journaled.

That was my first entry into journaling, and I journal that day. If only this woman had an advocate with her that she may or may not have been so willing to drop that restraining order. And support is really, really important for victims. Really. The advocacy and the amount of work that volunteers and staff put in is very important. Fast forward ten years, almost to that day. I became a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter. One day on a Sunday afternoon, I would go and volunteer. And so I had that experience of working with families and then realizing that there’s so much more that we can do to help these programs. And I wanted to find out, what more could I do? And I ended up staying at that program for a very long time and take a full time job after volunteering for several months at that program.

I love the backstory. I think, like you said, sometimes we almost neglect our own stories. And it’s kind of interesting. Even with me coming to this country at the age of 17, I felt like part of me sweep that under the rug, because I felt a little embarrassed to talk about things that happened half a lifetime ago. I also assume that perhaps so many people, especially people who grew up in this country, find it difficult to relate to that story, as if I don’t want to waste people’s time if it doesn’t overlap in any way. But the most surprising thing is whenever I go on a podcast and when I’m being interviewed, that’s the number one question will ever come up is, what was that journey like? What were you like at the age of 17? Not speaking the language and finding a roommate. And it started snowing in Maine in the middle of October, and I realized, wow, we need to share. And like you said, we need to look back to where we came from, because that is our origin. So I’m very interested in your volunteer work and kind of how you set up.

And then the 18 years and I would like to perhaps help some of the listeners understand and dissect domestic violence a little bit more, because my experience working in homeless shelters and friends of Boston homeless is I learned the critical fact that people didn’t want this for themselves. People assume everyday people who have steady jobs think that, oh, because somebody did drugs or they did something really wrong and it’s not the case. A lot of people found themselves in a very vulnerable position, and they can’t get out. So kind of related to domestic violence, how should people even look at this issue? How does it come about?

Yeah, you’ve mentioned the homeless shelter than people being there in a homeless shelter. And they don’t want to be homeless? Of course not. Nobody wants to be homeless, right. So no one wants to be a victim of domestic violence. These are oftentimes the most intimate people that we love and care about who are perpetrating the violence against each other or perpetrating the violence against a victim. There’s a lot of power and control dynamics that goes on in a relationship, right. Using the children, the manipulation, the psychological abuse, all of that plays into the victimization of someone. You don’t judge. You don’t judge, and you don’t know what a person is going through. Just by assuming something. You can look perfectly well dressed, well put together, and that person is going through the worst coercive controlling behavior ever in a relationship. Coercive controlling behavior can be if you go to the mailbox to pick up an envelope, it could be our financial statement. I don’t want you to look at it and she’s so fearful, or that person is so fearful that they never go to the mailbox. And over time, that breaks that person esteemed down.

It breaks their spirit down. The fear, part of the fear of the violence or even the sexual violence connected to the homelessness is very, very.

Hi there. It’s Faye.

Again, thanks so much for listening to.

Part one of the interview. Don’t forget, there is part two. If you’re on your podcast app, all you have to do is go to your episodes and scroll right up. Part two should appear right above part one. And if you’re using a different app like I am, I love overcast. The way that you will find part two is under. Unplayed episodes should also be right above part one.

My son.

Part 2

How To Stand Up To Domestic Violence And Help Women In Need (Part 2) with Annette McDonald – powered by Happy Scribe

Hey. Hello. How are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after top one person of the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsown heroes and self made artists. Hi there. This is Fei Wu, and you’re listening to the Feisworld podcast. Today on the show, we welcome Annette McDonald, who is a social service advocate and started to access family services in New Jersey that provides shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She’s a single mom with limited resources, and she’s been doing this for 18 years. Today we share her incredible stories and those she held along the way.

But you’ve encountered so many reallife examples in my book anyway, that you know just as much and to interact with people who are going through that. Do you have any advice or perhaps if people are listening to this and if they’re going through some of these issues at the moment, like how to identify when someone is there is a power control dynamic or they are at the beginning of something.

Yeah, there are some things that we’d like to identify as red flags. If you have a friend, if a friend is with you and she’s constantly saying, well, I can’t come tonight, and she said it ten times, she’s never allowed to go out with you. She’s being isolated from maybe her family and you’re seeing that, or she never has any money to spend when you go out. There are different abusive tactics that abusers use. Right. So the most you can do is, of course, not just judge or anyone who’s listening is not judge that person. You might see her with bruise on her face. She might be your coworker at work. And each time a phone rings and it’s a time for her to go home, she’s very nervous, right. Because now he’s checking the time when she leaves work, what time is she going to end up at home? She can’t be five minutes late. And you might recognize that doesn’t seem right, she’s doing this. So I would recommend if you’re with someone, just express concern. I notice this is happening it’s a couple of times. Do you mind if I ask you, are you okay?

Are you sure there’s something that I can do to help you? Because I’m concerned, again, out of love. So those are some of the things there’s many different signs that you can identify and possibly ask someone if they’re okay or to let them know that you’re concerned.

This is so important because I almost feel like we never had a course in school, whether it’s secondary school or college, a course on how to self protection, whether that is physically, how to protect yourself. But some of these psychological barriers are even greater because it’s really sneaky and you don’t even see it coming. And it’s kind of ingrained in kind of your part of your life. And a lot of people I don’t know whether when people grow up in a household where they’ve seen that perhaps are almost mentally better prepared for it, or when people, most people haven’t seen that, and they have no way of protecting them themselves or seeing this for others.

Right. And that’s very important that you said that, because the psychological abuse and the manipulation, those are some of the most difficult things to prove, even in court when you’re going for a restraining order, and you have many people just say that it hurts more than the physical violence at times, I would hear, because the psychological piece never goes away. But the walking on eggshell, the feeling as though any move you make could be the wrong move at any time, that is powerful. And for someone to live with that, and to have to live under those conditions, you can’t imagine how they feel once they come into shelter. I often see women when they come into shelter after, I would say, a couple of days. As a matter of fact, I have one woman recently, she came into shelter, and I have to tell you, she’s an older person. And I said to her, oh, my goodness, how do you look almost 20 years younger, and you’ve only been here four days? And she said, oh my gosh, annette, my best friend, said I look ten years younger. And so and it doesn’t necessarily mean that she was being physically battered, but the psychological abuse that she was going through and the manipulation and the threats to keep her outside or do something very sneaky and manipulative, as you said, was really weighing her down and aging her.

So when we see the women and the children come in shelter, and we’re able to offer that little respite for them to get stuff together, it means the world. It really does.

So I’m interested also in the entrepreneurial aspect of access family services, because a lot of people think that, okay, I need to have a certain last name, or I need to have certain amount of wealth in order to contribute. In your case, you mentioned this is nearly 20 years ago. Not only that, you weren’t born into a family that simply gave you the wealth to do this. You’re so scrappy, you didn’t have a lot of support or even knowledge on your own. How did you start?

Absolutely what I was blessed with, and I should say that, is some knowledge from my years of doing this work and working towards becoming a domestic violence specialist and understanding a little bit about failure, a lot about failure and trying. And you mentioned entrepreneurial ship. I think I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’m a risktaker of done entrepreneurial things, even from a teenager. However, when it came to doing this particular business, because it is a business, even though we say it’s nonprofit, we have to buy toilet paper we have to buy stove, different things. The lights have to be kept on. So it is a business. At the end of the day, however, when you’re in a service oriented business like this, is not everybody or anybody’s out there that’s going to say, oh, Annette, we hear you’re starting a domestic violence program. So here’s a million dollars. As a matter of fact, I applied for a million dollars. I did not get it to do a program. There was a gap in the county that we are in right now for housing. Housing is really important. You mentioned you worked with the homeless. It is so vitally important for the women who are leaving shelter to have a transitional space.

And I thought, maybe I will work on getting a transitional housing program. Turned out that was one of the most impossible thing to do with all of the variances that you needed, all of the approval from the different municipalities. It was very, very challenging. And I had raised some monies to help put up a transitional housing program because that’s what I thought I was going to do. It didn’t work out and we did not get that grant. But I knew still that housing is very important and there was still a gap in services for a shelter. After trying maybe about four times to try and get a specific transitional housing program and also a DV shelter, I decided to ask a realtor to help me get this place where I am right now. He turned me down actually about three times. I think the fourth time I went to him, I said, listen, you’re going to help me get this place. We need to save lives. This is why I’m doing this. And he decided to help me. Prior to that, where the no money came into play, I had started just an outreach facility, just to work with people in the community who need advocacy.

There are gaps in services to help them find housing, to help them link to different services in the community. And that was just with a local church. So he offered me a space that I can work with the community from there, so we didn’t have to pay the rent for that particular space, which is great. I knew we were working towards a bigger vision, which is and was eventually what is now the shelter. And I mentioned to you the thrift shop and the entrepreneurial ideas that I come up with. And so one day I saw a homeless gentleman on the sidewalk and the pastor of that particular church says he gave me permission to use a space in the church to do like a rummage sale to try to raise the money to help pay the phone bill, because we needed money to pay the phone bill. We needed money to pay the light. And I was thinking, how am I going to do this? I have no money. But I do have a space, and if I utilize that, it can somehow help us to do rummage sales on the weekend. And this young man was sitting on a park bench right beside the church, and I walked past them one day and then looked back at him and I said, hey, how are you?

And he looked up at me and he said, I see you going in and out. Do you need any help? And I said, sure. Can you? And he was a homeless gentleman that’s been sitting there for a while. And long story short thing, he helped bring bags in and out every weekend, thursday, Friday, Saturday, to try to help us raise some money to help with just saving for the day when we had the opportunity to open the shelter.

Hi there.

This is Fei Wu, and you’re listening to the Feisworld podcast. Today on the show, we welcome Annette McDonald, who is a social service advocate and started the Axis Family Services in New Jersey that provide shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She’s a single mom with limited resources, and she’s been doing this for 18 years. Today we share her incredible stories and those she held along the way.

Oh, my God. It’s an uphill battle, for sure. And I look at you, I can imagine the 18 year old self that you probably would love shopping, dressing up. And I think most women certainly feel that way. I feel that way. And now you’ve found yourself in a business for nearly 20 years where I don’t want to say there’s no money to be found. I know people who choose to work. I know women who used to be an attorney, now working full time for the homeless shelters here in Boston, and they love it. I can see her. I don’t know how she does it, and I don’t have such a deep relationship with her. But I know many women I know choose such career. How do you balance the two? Whether you have children, how your family react to this? Because someone like you, as a serial entrepreneur, you could make a lot of money elsewhere many other ways. But doing this, that consumes you 24, 7365 days of the year.

Yeah. So the need is so great in our community for social services, period. For me, it’s a great marriage. I like to think between my entrepreneurial, visionary type of mind that I have, I have to shut it down. Of course I have to shut it down. Sometimes I get excited every day when I wake up, knowing that I’m coming to help another human being. That keeps me going. But balance is so very important, especially for us entrepreneurs, your one yourself. And so you mentioned balance, that sleep is really, really important. And I go to bed late at times. I don’t even want to say a more morning. I do what I have to do. I go home late, I have to wake up early. But I take care of myself internally, as you said, as we talked about earlier, in terms of trying to eat right and trying to create that balance and knowing that no matter what, my family still is the most important thing that I have. Most important people are my three sons that I have in my life. And so there is that balance. And bringing them in to what I do and having them understand what I do is really, really important.

And I started to do that while I was working at a couple of different agencies over the last 18 years. I’ve had my children go to travel with me to Washington, DC to help advocate for Violence Against Women’s Act and funding for programs in New Jersey to teach them a little bit about community and community building and what you and service to others. I’ve had them help serve food at times, so for me it’s a little bit easier.

What was the transition like? Do you remember a time where maybe they were younger? Like, mom, can we just, I don’t know, do something else? Go see a movie or something? Like perhaps their peers not doing what you were doing to where they are today as adults? What was that transition like, if you still recall?

I’ll tell you, with my younger one, not so much with the two older ones, but the younger one oftentimes mom, you’re at the shelter, right? Again, let me guess, you’re not on your way home, right? So I get that quite a bit. But the transition for the two older boys, it wasn’t as bad. It wasn’t as bad as what I’m dealing with now with the twelve year old, because he does require more of my time for some reason. The older one had each other. The younger one is pretty much it’s him and I. And so he’s like, I need to go here and I need to go and mom, you’re at the shelter. But then when is the other event, mom? Because I can get up there and I can speak, and I can tell them that they need to support your organization.

I love it. Make them get up there and speak. Yeah. I love these stories because sometimes women and men feel like they need a whole structure to already be in place. They need to come from a certain background to do this. And you’re a single mom.

No. I’m going to say no. I feel like there’s this thing, build it, and they’ll come. But getting to build it is one thing. It comes from the strong belief that this is for social service workers, because there are many, and you’ve interviewed some, and they just know that this is what they need to do to help another human being. If you had asked me, I don’t even know how many years ago I probably would say, oh, you’re going to end up building an organization that serves women and children, and you’re going to be the founder, and you’re going to have a domestic bond and shelter with 15 beds. I would say, are you kidding me? 40 years ago, possibly, when people were trying to save lives, and there was a movement many years ago to do that, but to put an organization together, to have a nonprofit within the last four years or so in our economic times is probably near impossible. Right. But one thing that I’ll tell you is, and again, it’s that mindset. And I’ve had to do a lot of work as an entrepreneurial thinker with my mindset to stay positive, to stay focused.

Despite all the odds against building and having this safe house no matter what, I kept my eye on the prize, and the prize was helping families stay safe. And once I know that I was solid with what my vision and my mission was, I believe that the universe sends people my way.

They do. It does. But I have to ask, since we have a few minutes left about your real estate business, because I feel like that potentially is feeling into giving you the possibility to do what you do. So could you talk a little bit about that? And I think it’s really smart investment on your part as well.

Yes, so I remember growing up with my mom when I came to this country. She’s always talked about owning property, and she never owned a piece of property then, but she’s always talked about real estate and it being a really good investment. And my mom’s name is Sylvia, by the way, and we actually named the shelter in her memory. She passed away last year. So the shelter is Sylvia’s place, dedicated to her. She’s a survivor and an immigrant who helped so many people stay in her apartment and until they can get on their feet, there are many people that live with us. But I decided to invest in real estate at a very, very young age. So you mentioned earlier about being 18 and shopping and loving the clothes and the shoes, which I love, and so I decided it’s a very young age at about 2021 or so, that I was going to save my money and invest in real estate, and that’s what I did. So, yes, while many of my friends are wearing the fabulous stuff for X amount of dollars, I was saving and planning on investing, and I did buy my first property at about the age 22, and then I kept on finding ways to invest as well.

I assume you probably have multiple real estate condos that you’ve purchased and yes.

Some failed and some didn’t. That’s the risk thing about being an entrepreneur, and you learn as you go along. I didn’t necessarily have a teacher to teach me. I just took a chance. And you do it. Just like you said, you’ve taken a chance and you’re doing your podcast and you’re an entrepreneur. You do your consulting business as well. But service, I feel like the service to others not only fuels me, but I see that and I hear that in your voice. You’re using your podcast as a platform to empower people. And that’s really awesome what you’re doing.

I so appreciate that. So if people willing to help out want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that? And the follow up question is, what are some of the opportunities to get some people involved if they listen to this podcast?

So volunteerism is very key to helping many of our agencies in New Jersey, as it is key to helping our agency. This access Spanish services would not exist without the slew of volunteers that I have currently and have had that helped really build the shelter program. There was so much work, so much money involved. I had the Girl Scouts helping to get the shelter up and going as well. They can adopt a room. They can get on the website. We have afsnj.org if they would like to get on and make a donation or contribute, like I said, to painting, doing anything, they can contact me through the website and we can talk about how they can contribute. It’s a great way to give back. Really great way to give back.

Yeah. I love that. And then I still appreciate you. Thank you for your time. I absolutely love the conversation. It’s an extension of our relationship and our conversation prior to this is so beautiful.

Well, thank you. Thank you for what you do, and thank you for bringing awareness and especially being October.

Hi there, it’s me again. I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode and I hope you were able to learn a few things. If you enjoyed what you heard, it will be hugely helpful if you could subscribe to the Phase Feisworld podcast. It literally takes seconds. If you’re on your mobile phone, just search for a Phase Role podcast in the podcast app on an iPhone or an Android app such as Podcast Addict and click subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically. Thanks so much for for your support.

Video you.

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Media links:

Click to learn more about Access Family Services
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Learn more: https://ncadv.org/take-action

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