Twice in her life, Connie has found badly needed help and inspiration at the Chapman Center in Miami. On both occasions, she was a victim of circumstances not of her own making. The native of Savannah, Ga., who moved to Miami in 1978, was forced to leave after her apartment building was condemned. In 1995, Connie’s home was demolished to make way for school construction in her Central Miami neighborhood. With nowhere to turn, she and her three children — two of them teenagers — found temporary residence at the center at 1550 North Miami Avenue.
“I was so fortunate,” she said. “Everyone at the center loved us. We had a private room and three meals a day. They take people who are in need and help them get back on their feet. They helped my oldest child (a son) get a job. And they helped me learn how to be a nursing assistant.”
Connie said she was instructed on how to apply for a job, how to compose a resume detailing her capabilities and aspirations, and even how to dress to impress potential employers. “My kids took classes at the center, learned arts and crafts, and were taken on trips to Miami Seaquarium,” she said.
She spent six months at the center after which, with help from personnel at the homeless facility, she found an apartment nearby. She had family support, too, since her sister and grandfather lived in the area.
Then, sadly, in 1997, Connie, a diabetic, had to have a leg amputated. A few months later, when the apartment house where she lived was condemned, she returned to the homeless center.
” Once again, the staff was wonderful to me,” she said. “I was in a wheelchair but Mr. Brown (Operations Director Alfredo K. Brown) encouraged me to get a prosthesis. He said I should walk, walk, walk — and I did.”
Now, she has her own apartment not far from the homeless center and is on her own again. Determined to show appreciation for the love and care she has received, she volunteers twice a week for assorted duties at the center. Connie’s 23-year-old son works in Atlanta and helps support his mother financially. Her two other children attend schools in Northwest Miami. On days when she is not engaged in chores at the center, she cares for an elderly lady who, like herself, is diabetic. A lifelong churchgoer, Connie attends services regularly, often with her grandfather, and attributes much of her optimistic nature to her religious faith.
Now, Connie is planning an out-of-town trip, back to her Savannah home, for her great grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration.