Way more than a bed to sleep in...

When her marriage ended in divorce, Melody says she lost everything – the car, the house, and her credit was shattered. She had to start over from scratch. Later, as she was trying to rebuild, she became pregnant, and her difficult path didn’t ease up. At 30 weeks pregnant with baby Eli, she totaled her car, then lost her job, then lost her housing…just one thing after another.

Since she was so far along in her pregnancy, no one would hire her. “Mama wanted to help as much as she could, but I couldn’t just live on her couch.” Melody says she remembers walking down the street, frustrated, and had a “heated discussion with God,” saying, “This is all on you! Whatever happens is on you.” That same day, she received a call from the Madonna House that her application was approved.

Melody described herself when she first arrived at Madonna House as a “very round, terrified, small, human.” Of her first experience of Madonna House, she says, “Nothing anybody could have said would have compared to experiencing walking through those doors the first time. And them saying ‘this is your room, this is where you’re going to stay, this is where we’re going to help you to get back on your feet, and this is what we’re going to do to help you’…It’s just that much of a family dynamic…It’s like coming home.”

Melody has participated in several of the programs available at Madonna House. She enjoys the group dynamics during Bible studies and likes the “Pursuit of Happiness” workshop. She describes it as a program “for making yourself happy, and letting go of the things in your past that are holding you back and the grudges you might be holding.” Melody says, “Sitting in that group and realizing how good everything is, and how positive, and we are all moving forward…It’s mind blowing to see everyone moving together towards a goal like that.”

A week before baby Eli was born, Melody graduated the “Dress for Success” program where she learned more about interviewing, creating a resume, and proper etiquette in a work environment. Now Melody works one job, is about to begin another, and is attending college classes. After getting to know herself more while living at Madonna House and interacting with other residents and the resident assistants, she is considering the legal profession. She is looking into volunteer opportunities where she can observe those in the legal field. “The best way to learn is to watch.” Her long-term goal, she says, is to own her own legal practice.

Melody is touched by the loving support of donors and volunteers. “At Christmastime, so many volunteers wanted to make sure that our holiday was special when they didn’t have to. They didn’t know me from Adam. They still cared so much that our holiday was good and that I had what I needed for Eli. That blew my mind. I’m a complete stranger to all of you and you guys are so willing to step in.”

During her second week at Madonna House, she attended a monthly dinner hosted by volunteers. Of one of the volunteer hosts she says, “I remember I walked in and she had everything so ornately decorated, and everything was so pretty. She looked and me and said, ‘oh you’re new!’ and she just wrapped me up in a hug and I almost started crying. She made me feel so welcome and so comfortable.”

Melody and Eli laugh with volunteer, Claudia, while visiting the Gathering Place

Melody works to make sure that even at this young age, Eli has plenty of fantastic experiences. “I try to take him every weekend to do something just him and me. He’s not going to remember this when he’s big, but he might remember it tomorrow…He needs those good memories even if he doesn’t remember them when he’s a big boy.”

When asked her hopes for baby Eli, who has been proudly blowing raspberries the whole time, she says, “Even when I was still very round, I wanted him to grow up healthy and for him to grow up happy, and for him to just be able to absorb as much of the world as he possibly can.”

When you donate to or volunteer at Catholic Charities, you are supporting programs like Madonna House. It's way more than a bed to sleep in...it's a new beginning for Melody and Eli.