Overcoming Obstacles

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When Rachel came to Gracewood, it was the end of a long road that included a broken marriage, temporary separation from her daughters, and moving 500 miles back home from rural Oklahoma to Houston to continue her education and develop her job skills.

“I’m a very strong person. I’m a very independent person. I’ve been very accomplished in my life,” the Army veteran and former day care owner said. “To hit a road block where I couldn’t do it by myself, where I needed help, for me it was humiliating.”

After living at Gracewood and completing her college education, Rachel started looking for a full-time job in the nonprofit sector, her chosen career path. Although this road was more certain, she struggled with how to explain her time at Gracewood.

“I had a gap in my resume and I didn’t know quite how to communicate that,” she said. “To be honest, I was very nervous about advertising in any way that I had received assistance from any organization because people who don’t know about Gracewood don’t always understand Gracewood.”

As it turned out, the fact that she was a Gracewood mother was instrumental in her being hired as a grant writer and development coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Gulf Coast Chapter. (She has since been promoted to Director of Development.)

After an initial interview in which she shared about her experience at Gracewood, Rachel said she was surprised to find that she got a second interview because of Gracewood.

When Rachel came in for the interview, Executive Director Jeanette Taylor had a copy of the ministry’s brochure and asked her to talk about Gracewood.

“It turns out, Jeanette was raised by a single mother,” Rachel said. “Being in the mental health industry, she was looking for a candidate who had overcome obstacles, who had had a lot of life happen to her and had overcome it. What I thought might look like a weakness was actually testament to a strength that she recognized and wanted on her team.”

“We are about helping people,” said Jeanette, “so it’s always very humbling to find people who see both sides of it. Rachel is compassionate and can relate to the struggles our clients have faced. She’s really good at telling the stories of those we serve and that helps people understand what we do.”

Today, Rachel and her daughters, Alessandra, 9, and Isabelle, 8, are settled in a house in Friendswood. Recently she hosted Gracewood staff for a visit to her office and her home.

“She said she wakes up happy to go to work and then leaves happy to be going home to her girls,” Gracewood Executive Director Debbie Rippstein said. “She told us, ‘Sometimes I can’t sleep, I am so happy.’”

Today, more than a year after leaving Gracewood, Rachel is grateful for what she and her children received. She’s on a career path that she hopes will eventually lead to nonprofit management, but the impact on her daughters is what she most appreciates.

“The effect of living at Gracewood for my daughters was that they had their mother,” she said. “Because of Gracewood, I didn’t have to work two jobs and go to school part time and have them in daycare. I could focus on my degree and also focus on my children.

“It was just a matter of stability and security, giving them room to grow and giving them room to recover and heal, giving them hope,” she added. “Gracewood gave my children all those things and you just can’t put a value on it. It will impact their lives forever.”