Without Women’s Bean Project, I would be stuck. Now, I’m more accountable and responsible for my own actions. I like being responsible. It’s helps to have a place where I’m expected to be on time and ready to work.
I had a nonverbal autistic boy. Most of the time, he would just sit under a table and observe. We started and ended every class by singing “hello” to each child, and they would have the chance to sing “hello friends” back. I always sang it to him knowing that he wasn’t going to respond, but I would give him the opportunity. About 3 years into the program, I sang hello to him, and he sang back. It was the first time he had ever spoken.
You’ve probably heard of fight or flight, but people fail to mention freeze. Like when you’re taking a social studies test that you studied for until 1am the night before and you’re asked about an ancient river, and then, all of a sudden, you can’t remember anything. You’re being amygdala-hijacked. If your amygdala thinks you’re in danger, it will hijack your entire system, so of course you can’t remember that ancient river. You’re sitting there sweating, and then you remember how to ground yourself with meditation. You tell your amygdala you’re not about to die, and then, suddenly, you remember that ancient river is called the Euphrates.
When I started to learn about the science behind mindfulness and how it affects our bodies, I thought “Oh, this is kind of important. We should let other people know about this.” Meditation is this trendy thing right now, but a lot people don’t really know how it works.
My oldest wanted to go to college, and we were looking at the finances. We would sit at the kitchen table and crunch numbers and get so stressed. It didn’t seem possible. As a parent, we want our kids to be all they can be, and Bootstraps helped my kids do that. I’ll always be grateful they did.
Helping women become self-sufficient isn’t just financial. It’s about mental and emotional self-sufficiency and learning their intrinsic value. It’s an amazing feeling to watch someone who walked into the room withdrawn and reserved to leave with their head up, knowing what they can do and who they are because they were authentically seen.
Grace is the student who stands out in my mind. I met her while I was working at a summer camp for individuals with disabilities. While I was there, I found out that I got a job as a teacher, and Grace celebrated with me. Just a few months later, I saw that she had received the Bootstraps scholarship. She was accepted to college, and this time, I got to celebrate with her.
Bootstraps taught me to reach for opportunity. I have a little boy, and I want to teach him the same thing. I don't want him to be afraid to try hard things.
It was difficult getting out of the house, getting a job and figuring out where my life was headed. What really appealed to me was that Women’s Bean Project focuses on empowering women to become independent and to find their own path in life. They empower our families too, which is important to me because I have five children.
I was working for a large corporation, and I started thinking, “What difference am I making in the world?” I started teaching music classes on the side. It was so freeing, and before long, I was doing this full time.
The first project I led from start to finish was for a 3-year-old girl named Kennedy. She had a severe disease that weakened her immune system, and this was during the height of COVID, so leaving her house at all was a huge risk. She needed a safe place to play and do her physical therapy, so we remodeled her family’s basement. It was just amazing to see the smile on her face while she played with her brothers in the safety of her own home.
I took a long break from piano. A lot has happened with Covid, and I felt like I couldn’t deal with another thing in my life. But recently, I picked it back up, and I feel so proud of myself.
The way my son was impacted the most is that he could see clearly. He was so bogged down that he was willing to just give up his dreams rather than deal with college debt. When we got the letter that he earned the scholarship, we sat there stunned. Then I cried, took a walk, and called everyone we knew to celebrate.
We did a project for a young kid who suffered a spinal injury in a car accident. He was a star soccer player before the accident, and he had a very hard time adjusting to his new reality. He was in such dark place as we worked to convert their garage into an accessible room for him, but since then, I’ve had the chance to talk to him again, and now he’s embraced his new lifestyle as a beacon of hope and encouragement to others going through what he’s been through.
The exercises I’ve learned have helped me so much, and I use them to help my friends. One friend in drumline has bad anxiety, and they were extremely nervous before a performance. I taught them a meditation that helped me, and it helped them too.
It took me joining Bootstraps to really understand how the financial support impacts these students. Hearing their stories puts into perspective just how great the need is and how much these scholarships affect the trajectory of their lives. They're able to move one step closer to their dreams.
I had a panic attack at school, and I didn’t know what was happening. I started freaking out for no reason. It was really scary. CLC taught me what’s going on in my body and what I can do to help myself in those moments.
Hattie has additional needs, and I never mind if people ask about her disability, but I love when parents ask us normal questions. Where does Hattie go to school? What does she like to do? I want parents to know that I’m just a regular mom.
Volunteering meets a huge need in our society. People come together with others who share the same values to ultimately make the world a better place.
The people we serve face tremendous challenges every day, and our job is to give them an advantage in facing those challenges. Helping them get back to the life they once knew – or that they’re yearning to have – is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Bootstraps taught me to believe in myself, to believe in the hard work that I put in and everything I accomplished. Now I believe that I’m capable of everything I want to achieve.
Everyone has a cause that they’re passionate about or interested in, but they don’t volunteer because they don’t know where to start or want to go alone. But after they do it once, it gets easier to do it again.
I’m proud every time I see her try something new, and I’m proud to see the confidence she develops when she accomplishes a goal.
We had a student who was autistic. We would do his lessons in 5-minute increments because he needed to move around. Years after his family moved away, I got a phone call that they were back in town, and he wanted to see his teacher. He had gotten into college and was majoring in engineering with a minor in music.
I’m so thankful for the strangers – people I’ve never met – who gave their money for me to go to school. These scholarships are important because they keep you on track toward your goals. I wish more people knew how readily available this kind of help is in the community.
We meet with the families to understand their daily struggles so we can align their needs with our expertise. Sometimes they don’t even know what they need, they just know they need help.
It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to see these students get their scholarships. Without Bootstraps, college wouldn't have been an option. It brings so much joy.
Being here gets me out of the halfway house, and now that I’m working, I get to see my new little baby more often.
We make sure that every student knows that they are unique and loved for their individual abilities. To see a child learn something new is probably the best thing you will ever experience in your life.
I used to suffer a lot from stress and anxiety. It got to the point that I would get stress migraines. Now, I do mindfulness exercises every day. CLC has taught me to be in the moment and to realize that schoolwork isn’t everything.
It’s more than just music. For some kids, this is their first exposure to any type of group setting, so we make sure that this is a safe place to learn how to behave in a group. We teach them how to concentrate, how to listen, and how to do simple things like saying their name in front of other kids.
My kids worked hard. They had jobs and got good grades and played sports, but there was still the weight of not being able to afford to take the next step in their education. There are a lot of kids trying really hard with really big dreams that can’t figure out how to make it happen. Bootstraps will come in and help them figure that out. It's life changing.
I used to think mediation was stupid. I have severe inattentive-type ADHD, I was that cliché can’t-pay-attention kid. I would space out and couldn’t remember things that were just told to me. It was actually kind of scary. But I started doing meditation, and it helped ground me to those moments. I was able to focus and remember.
These women stand tall knowing that the food on the table came from their own paychecks. The dignity that comes from employment can’t be found any other way.
We have all these different classes like math, language arts, and financial literacy. My favorite is financial literacy. As a recovering addict, I never knew how to live a normal life, so I learned stuff like how to open a bank account, keep a budget, and do my taxes. I’ve never really had to do that because I’ve always obtained my money illegally, but now I’m doing the right thing.
I’m here to hold up a mirror for these women so they can see themselves and the strength and resilience they’ve always had. In my own story, I’ve experienced trauma and loss, and I know that with the right support and community, you can find ways to move forward.
I felt proud of my kids when they graduated from college because they decided at that point that they would give back to Bootstraps. They had reached their goals because their community invested in them, and they wanted to turn around and make a difference for somebody else.
A Little Help is an amazing organization that keeps people out of assisted living who don’t need to be there. Volunteers helping in little ways can have a big impact.
I run a program for youth with behavioral challenges or who come from trauma-based environments. We use a drum circle to create a safe space. I explain to them what a circle represents. There’s no leader, no follower. We’re all equal. In the circle we respect, we create, and we make room for others, and I see them express through music in ways that they haven’t been able to express themselves throughout the day.
You think about your childhood and the things you took for granted. I jumped on a trampoline everyday as a kid. Seeing the excitement of these little girls just being able to get in and out of the house puts it all in perspective. Getting to watch these kids live their lives the way that a normal kid would be able to – giving them that freedom that they didn’t have before – it’s really special.
During Covid, I had to isolate because of my cancer. A Little Help would still call to check in, and they would drop off Kindness Kits at the door. They’ve been amazing.
I’ve lived in this community for almost 36 years, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of the students. There’s truly a financial need, and our scholarships provide a real opportunity for these students to reach their educational dreams. Every one of our scholarships is provided by the community, and it's empowering for our local kids to know their community stands behind them.
I live at a place for alcohol and drug treatment, and I was at the stage of the program where it was time to seek employment. I have felonies, so I can’t get a job at a normal place. I applied and interviewed at Women’s Bean Project, and they gave me the job. I’m a really fast learner and I take initiative, so after a few months, I’m already a Lead. I’ve started believing in myself. I didn’t think I was capable before I started working here.
The programming is a really important part of what we do. These women are able to explore how their criminal history may impact their future opportunities. They learn to talk about that and to be proactive in making better choices.
Learning music will impact a child’s life for the rest of their life. I have students excelling in science, math, and social studies. They’re excelling all around, and I credit that to early exposure to music.
Nearly every woman we hire has kids, but she might not have custody due to incarceration or addiction. During the time she’s with us, she’s often trying to reestablish relationships with her kids, and there’s something super powerful about watching your mom go to work and feel good about herself. That impact, that ripple effect, is going to affect those kids forever.
I’m closer with my friends because we’re all suffering through anxiety together and CLC is helping us get better together.
The yardwork became overwhelming. It’s been years since I’ve been able to take care of it. If it weren’t for A Little Help, things wouldn’t get done. They’ve been wonderful.
My first build was a ramp for a family who needed access to their front door. I got to experience firsthand what something like that does to change a person’s life, and it was contagious. I’ve been hooked ever since.
The look is similar to a regular construction site, but there’s this energy behind it. Everyone’s there to help, and the atmosphere is different, especially when the homeowner is there and you have a chance to hear their story. It motivates the whole crew.
I didn’t feel like I had much to offer coming from 4 years in prison, but I filled out the application. The people here were willing to help me and meet me where I was. I feel like I’ve come a long way, and I see the difference when I look in the mirror every day.
Community is something that we lose in the world today. If more people volunteered, we could get back to that. Imagine how many people we could help. Imagine what it would look like if everyone got the help they needed.
If you have the opportunity in your lifetime to witness the kind of transformation that we get to see here even once, I think you’re super lucky.
Knowing I had the backing of my entire community was so empowering for me. The feeling of not being alone, of having resources. Especially when you grow up in a small community, you see the people out there who care about you and want you to chase your dreams.
ACS introduced me to music, and that’s such a big part of my life. I listen to music every day. There are sad songs that cheer me up, happy songs that keep me cheered up, and weird songs that I just dance to.
I was really concentrating on what was on the surface of my life and not looking deeper in myself to see what really mattered. I learned that it’s not the end of the world if I mess up.
It always feels good to be acknowledged. When you know you’re working hard, for people to notice that, it’s satisfying. I know I make a difference here.
I show my students love and acceptance by tailoring each lesson to them. I can’t even explain how much I love music, and I'm here because I wanted to share that with others.
One thing I’ve learned about myself since being involved with HBF is that I’m happiest when I’m helping other people. Watching our clients light up when they see that ramp for the first time, you can just tell how much they’re looking forward to that new independence that they didn’t have when we got there that morning.
Women experiencing homelessness, unstable housing, and extreme poverty shouldn't have to choose between food and tampons. Period Kits provide for this basic hygienic need and leave them feeling more dignified.
When a woman comes to the Bean Project, she spends 70% of her paid time working in the business and 30% of her paid time goes to what we call the “You” job – working on yourself. The combination of those two things teaches her to stand tall, find her purpose, and break the cycle of poverty.
If it weren’t for Women’s Bean Project, I wouldn’t be growing as a person like I am now. I’m content here, I’m happy. I’ve never really liked a job the way I like this job.
People who don’t volunteer probably haven’t asked themselves “why not?” If I’m able-bodied and I have what I need, the question should be “how can I help other people with my time and resources?”
Think of teenagers who need a family member to help them use the bathroom or take a shower. It’s pretty remarkable to be able to give them the dignity of independence.
The system in the US isn’t set up to help everyone, so there are people who get left behind or slip through the cracks. It’s important for people with good hearts and good intentions to volunteer and meet the needs that aren’t being met.