Helping Hand Rewards partner Women Helping Other Women has been aiding women in making better lives for themselves. The North Carolina-based company offers a variety of gourmet holiday cakes, special order gift baskets and other products made by women eager for a new opportunity. While under the employ of WHOWomen, women learn life skills that will better enable them to build new lives. Profits generated go back to the community in the form of scholarships for women who may otherwise find it difficult to finance an education. Scholarships are awarded to women who come to work in the bakery who want to improve their life and the lives of their children or to high school graduating young ladies who may not otherwise be able to attend college.
One of the best things about social enterprises is seeing how they change people’s lives. The following is the story of a woman named Heather, whose life was truly changed as a result of her time with WHOWomen.
“I was born the youngest of three into a abusive and alcoholic home. The saving force for us children was our grandmother Clara Wilson. She taught us to survive in a hard world with love and the example of her life. I was nine years old when my parents divorced and my sister and I went to live with our mother. By the time I was fourteen I was on my own working and paying bills. I lived with friends until at sixteen I found out my mother had given birth to my little brother, Thomas. She intended to give him up for adoption, but I couldn’t see giving away my little brother. My older brother, sister and I were very close growing up and Thomas was one of us. I moved back in with my mother, worked full time and cared for Thomas. At nineteen I couldn’t live with my mother any longer so Thomas and I got our first home. I was married at twenty-one and lived peacefully for six years. In 1999 I developed cancer and underwent six months of chemotherapy. At the end of the chemo I began having severe headaches and a brain tumor was discovered. I had surgery in January of 2000, then another six months of recovery time.
During this year I lost my brother to my mother and my marriage to adultery. I worked as a restaurant manager for four years and assumed I would never have children of my own. However, in 2004 I discovered I was pregnant! I was excited, but scared because it was the pregnancy hormone that had made the tumor grow to a dangerous size. I made it through the pregnancy without any major problems and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Hollie Clara named after my grandmother. I tried to make things work with her father but he became abusive and I couldn’t put Hollie through the pain that I had gone through, so with a bag of clothes and $20 we came to Burnsville N.C. to the women’s shelter. My strength and self esteem was gone and I didn’t know how I was going to care for myself and my daughter.
The Lord led me to WHO WOMEN and they gave me a chance that I couldn’t see at the time. I cried almost every day for a month and Mat James (the founder of WHO WOMEN) gave me a shoulder to cry on, but after a month she showed me that the time for tears was over and the time to begin building my new life was at hand. WHO WOMEN provided me with transportation to work and school where I got my GED. I was able to get enough money for a car and enough to get our own apartment. I however didn’t have enough to pay the deposit on electric service. WHO WOMEN came through yet again with a loan of the $200.00 which was paid back in installments.
I worked in the kitchen of WHO WOMEN for four months baking, packaging, and shipping the wonderful products all around the country. I was given the responsibility of working food shows with Earthfare, managing the kitchen, and shipments which helped me regain my confidence.
My job with WHO WOMEN was a seasonal one and with the encouragement I received, I was able to get a job with a local grocery store as the produce manager. In the last year I have helped to increase sales by nearly fifty percent, and have received all the bonuses available. WHO WOMEN, however, was not out of my life. They honored me with their first scholarship to begin a degree in computer technology. The scholarship included a computer which I never could have afforded on my own. I now have a bright future to look forward to and more importantly, my daughter has opportunities that I never had.
The love and support I have received from WHO WOMEN has not only taught me the meaning of giving to others who need a helping hand, but this experience has taught my daughter the same lesson of love. I now look for ways to give back whenever I can I still work with WHO WOMEN in any way they need, I also serve on the Board of Directors of the Family Violence Coalition, and recently donated fourteen inches of my hair to Locks of Love. I was taught as a child by my grandmother that even though life can be cold and cruel, sometimes it is the people with the strength of love in their hearts that bring the warmth back to those that need it the most. Through certain hardships that I have faced I almost forgot that important lesson, but the wonderful women at WHO WOMEN have reminded me of it by the example of their lives and unwavering devotion to all those who come in contact with them.”
(This story, along with others, can also be found at our home website. Check it out here!)