On the eve of 9/11, Virginia Montelongo, one of our California interviewees, sent us this inspiring email. When Virginia told us her story last spring, she was searching for a job and living in a homeless shelter. Here’s her update:
When I lost my job, my ex-husband extended his temporary support and offered to let me come live with him. While I was a student Everest College I also searched for a job but with no success, I eventually exhausted my unemployment. When that happened, my ex-husband demanded that I leave. I had nowhere to go, no one to rely upon. He knew this. He knew that I had no family in the area.
Everest College referred me to the C.A.R.E. program, a directory that referred me to shelters in the area. After calling several places, the only shelter that actually picked up the phone and said hello was First Day. They asked me to come in and apply and I did that. When they accepted me in to the program, I knew that my life was about to change and I wanted to embrace that change. My time at First Day proved to be monumental for me and for where I was at in Life.
First Day provided me the tools and resources necessary to get back on my feet. All I had to do was ask for that help. All I had to do was want to be in a better place. While at First Day, I graduated from Everest College and resumed my search for employment. I treated looking for a full time job like a full time job, because it is. With so many people out there unemployed and so little jobs, the odds were against me if I did not utilize the time I had to me, that First Day had graciously giving me by giving me a place to stay.
As I began the search for employment, I went everywhere I could. I went to Worksource and as well used the internet. I applied to dozens of jobs a day. I was called to many interviews.
First Day challenged me to focus on myself whereas in the past I would focus on the needs of others. First Day made me stronger, healthier, more self-reliant and more confident. They taught me not to be afraid to make that first step to look for a job and to improve upon myself. As the Vice-President of the Ladder Group, I learned a lot about what it takes to be a leader.
First Day remains and always will be my family. I feel indebted to them for everything they gave me. I learned never to give up and in the time I had at First Day, I never once gave up. I did not quit. That would not have helped me in the short term or the long term. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Pat Bouchard; he kept me grounded and focused with the immeasurable guidance and advice that he freely, and without complaint, gave me. Everyone from First Day I am thankful for with all the help they gave me, and continue to give me. Their support has always been unwavering.
When I felt disillusioned, they always had a psychologist for me to go to, someone on the outside looking in. With their help, I dealt with hardship easier, however, I know that Life is not easy but it will not always be difficult. I have to keep striving for excellence, to make myself better. The choices in life that I make are born out of a need to be careful for myself and for my family, which, thanks to First Day, I am slowly and surely reconnecting with.
I am now employed, living in my own apartment, working 40 hours a week. I am stable, secure and my course remains forward. This is because I did not lose focus and did not feel discouraged and I did not give up.
Giving up would not have gotten me this far and it won’t get anyone else far. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself. Seek the help you need and utilize what you have at your disposal and you will go far.