The Joys of Truly Making a House a Home: My Story as a Journey Home Volunteer By Rosemary Keogh O’Neill
It all started because I was upset after the November election and needed to do something. So I signed up to provide a Thanksgiving meal for a Journey Home client. We made a turkey and all the fixings for Ulysses in East Hartford so he could host his daughter and granddaughter for the first time since he got his Journey Home apartment.
It was a great experience so I signed up with Journey Home again at Christmas to help someone else. This time I was assigned to Fatima, who has two children. I bought and wrapped toys and collected some household goods. When I asked her on the phone what else she needed, she said simply, “a mattress.” She had been sleeping on an old stained box spring with her two children.
Through the West Hartford community Facebook page, I found someone willing to donate a beautiful bed and I delivered the mattress to Fatima. But then I had a boxspring and frame with no home. So Journey Home directed to Rosa, who had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I brought her the box spring and frame and found out she needed so much more. She is raising three young children (two of whom are autistic), is working and is going back to school.
With all her needs, my quest became like a scavenger hunt. Through the same West Hartford site, I located a toddler bed and mattress, dressers, curtains and rods, children’s clothes, and blue candy (a specific request from her daughter). As I was contacting people and picking up items, I started meeting great people around West Hartford. They were so willing to help and interested in what we were doing. One mom explained to her son that his mattress was going to a kid who has no bed.
As I picked up a table from a woman in West Hartford, she handed me a small bag of skin care products for myself to thank me for what I was doing. Wow.
The delivery to Rosa and her family was hard work, but so rewarding. My husband and I rented a truck and lugged all the stuff up to her third floor apartment. We gave her a gift card and asked if there was anything else we could do. She said, “I don’t know how to even thank you. I don’t even know where you came from but I just feel so blessed.” And she hugged us both. What a reward.
Next, we “adopted” Sue, who had been in her apartment with her son for a month. When she told me she had nothing, she wasn’t kidding. It was empty except for her bed and one for her son. Again, we started searching around West Hartford and hit pay dirt. We got a kitchen table and chairs, sofa and loveseat, a television, sheets and towels and dishes, books and clothes for her son. Stephano was thrilled with the books – and, yes, even more by the TV.
Since Sue didn’t need a bed we had located, we took that over to Nathaniel in East Hartford and set that up. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a bigger hug in my life.
I was telling these stories to my 86-year-old father on the phone one night, jazzed about how great it felt to be doing all this. He said “I am so proud of you.” We’re not really an emotional family, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I remember him ever saying that to me. The next day, he sent me $500 to give to my Journey Home friends. Wow again. The circle never ends.