Debra: A Life Transformed

Debra: A Life Transformed

When Debra entered the Women’s Residential Center, she didn’t know how much her life was about to change.  She had spent time in and out of jail for the previous 10 years and had been involved in a string of bad relationships. Then, after another probation violation, her probation officer gave her a choice: return to jail or start treatment. She chose treatment.
 
It was not easy. Living in close proximity with 40 other women who were also trying to get clean presented its own sets of challenges, and Debra wasn’t sure if the program could help her.
 
“The hardest part of treatment is letting go of the people and things you used to associate with and establish a new pattern,” Debra says. “I learned that I have choices, and those choices fall on me. No one can make me do anything but me.”
 
While in treatment, Debra began working in the Volunteers of America Oregon Food Services program and began to gain vital skills to help her re-enter the workforce.   In addition to helping her change her way of thinking, her time at the Women’s Residential Center helped Debra to re-establish her relationship with her father and her four children. 
 
When she graduated from treatment, Debra was first hired as a dishwasher and helped to coordinate meals. After six months, she was promoted to cook, and within that year, she was made the kitchen manager. Earlier this year, after two and a half years in the program, she became the Catering for a Cause Program Manager. Today, she oversees a staff of three, as well as six to ten WRC participants. Catering for a Cause produces 300-500 meals per day for both internal and external clients, as well as catering special events, parties, and meetings for businesses in the community.
 
 

Her job allows her to remain in contact with the program that transformed her life. “The WRC staff are always there to help you, even after you’ve left the program, for housing or job referrals,” Debra says. “VOA stands by their clients.  It’s a safe place; the door is always open for women to come back, and clients are always welcome here for a meal and support.”

Catering for a Cause gives VOA Oregon clients vital skills and direct experience working in the food service and hospitality business, helping them to enter the workforce after completing treatment. Support from these endeavors also goes to directly fund other VOA Oregon programs.