United Way: Community Services are stepping stones

She didn’t feel like she belonged or had anything to offer, and was using alcohol and other substances to cover up her feelings.

(The name of this story’s subject has been changed to protect her privacy.)

Betsy is the kind of person who possesses enough self-awareness and compassion to make the conscious choice to cross the street to share a smile with someone. She knows from personal experience that this seemingly small act of kindness and connection can make all the difference — because it wasn’t all that long ago that she didn’t care if she woke up the next morning.

“I was in a really difficult place,” Betsy said. She didn’t feel like she belonged or had anything to offer, and was using alcohol and other substances to cover up her feelings of being alone and unworthy.

“I am glad I reached out for help,” she said, even though it wasn’t easy to lift up the phone and take that first step. It was like being covered in a “big, blankety hug”.

She started with the Cowichan Valley Women Against Violence Society Horizons program where she learned to trust herself as well as other women. They gave her the courage to get up in the morning and follow their example. She started to feel at home for the first time in her life. Walking down the street she didn’t feel judged and was uplifted by the people who smiled at her.

The next stepping stone was a Global Vocational program to learn some job skills, and then, a real-life interview at the Cowichan Family Life Thrift Store, where she now works as a volunteer.

“I was nervous,” she said. “It was a do or die situation. I hadn’t worked outside the house for 20 years.”

But she knew as soon as she spoke to Maureen Gallinger, CFL director, that she was in the right place at the right time. “I felt warm and comfortable.” She also found out about CFL counselling services which really helped her to learn how to like, and then love herself.

Initially, Betsy worked in the back of the thrift store, but after a few months she was encouraged to try working directly with customers.

“I thought: Wow. This woman sees something in me so I’d better go with it. Now, it’s a staple in my diet,” she says of her work in the store. “I feel worthy. I am helping CFL, as well as other people. It’s unbelievable. For the first time in my life I know what community is and the world is no longer a big, scary place. I am turning my fears into curiosity.”

United Way Cowichan funds over 20 local programs that help Cowichan residents, like Betsy, become healthy, strong community members. All funds raised by United Way Cowichan stay in the Cowichan region. Consider an investment in your community today; Local Giving, Local Results. Please call 250-748-1312 to make a donation, or visit our website: www.cowichanunitedway.com