“Hope is What We All Need” Taking Giving Back to New Levels

Today is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day in New York as declared by NYS Governor Cuomo.  Every day, The Family Center provides comprehensive legal and social services to those living with cancer and their families.  However, we recognize that our supporters face cancer diagnoses too.  Today, we salute those living with metastatic breast cancer and their families.

Long-time Family Center supporter and volunteer Yvette S. Walker is one such courageous woman.  Recently, she spoke on NBC New York about living with metastatic breast cancer.  Today is Yvette’s birthday.  The Family Center wishes her a very happy birthday and thanks her for all that she is doing to bring awareness about metastatic breast cancer, demonstrating how to live a full and purposeful life in spite of her diagnosis while also giving hope to others.  Thank you Yvette for your courageousness and determination.  The Family Center thanks you for being a part of our family and wishes you many more happy birthdays.  Please click the link to watch her powerful message for those living with this type of cancer.

Watch Yvette talk to NBC 4 New York’s Lynda Baquero about Metastatic Breast Cancer.


Starting from far left: Yvette at TFC Turns 20!; Yvette in gold, third from left, supporting TFC at the annual BLOOM fundraiser; Yvette on the right with family friends, TFC Executive Director Ivy Gamble Cobb and sister Michelle Watson; Yvette, third from the top left, with friends and family at TFC Turns 20!

Using Poetry to Heal During September’s Recovery Month, Prt. 2

Read part 1 here.

On Thursday, September 22nd 2016, B-WEL staff members, Julian Ho and Patricia Rhodie, attended a poetry reading and book signing held at Serendipity II. Residents participated in a weekly writing workshop by the NY Writers Coalition where they were encouraged to “feel, deal, and heal.” A collection of their poems entitled Clean Water is Easy to Drink was published in July 2016.

Quanda Woody, one of the poets and a B-WEL client, sat down with Julian to describe how she’s turned to writing to support her recovery.

Julian: “How did you first get into writing poetry?”

Quanda: “I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child. I wrote little short stories and as I got older, I used to write in my journal all the time. Then when I had kids, I would write stories just for them and put it in the mail because my daughter demanded mail [laughs].”

Julian: “How do you think writing supports your recovery?”

Quanda: “It releases an inner anxiety in me, where I can calm myself down. I don’t have to think about ‘oh, I’m not feeling right’ and maybe I should go do a drug or have a drink, cause that’s where it always starts, a drink, and this right here saves me. It rescues me.”

Julian: “How does it feel to be published?”

Quanda: “OH MY GOD! [laughs] When I was a little girl my dad took me to Borders book store and Mary Higgins Clark was there and she had published a book. I believe it was Where Are The Children? and I was watching her sign [autographs]…and sign…and sign…and I was like ‘oh wow, I really want to do that’ and tonight was my dream come true, I was signing autographs!”

Julian: “September is Recovery Month, what does recovery mean to you?”

Quanda: “I can finally feel safe in my own skin, it’s like finally waking up from a deep, dark sleep that you didn’t even know you was asleep. And you’re finding everything new and beautiful again in this world and it feels just wonderful to finally be completely in recovery. No half step, no nothing, and I’ve been sober since April 4th 2013. It’s a good long time and I’m feeling wonderful.”

Julian: “How have you changed since entering treatment and being in recovery?”

quanda-photo-1Quanda: “I have patience, something I never had before [smiles]. I used to say that when God was giving patience out in a line, he skipped me [laughs].”

Julian: “What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s considering writing poetry?”

Quanda: “Just write. What’s the worst that could happen? Honestly, you get everything out, you feel great about it, and it could be a million dollar seller.”

-Julian Ho, MS, CASAC
B-WEL Project Supervisor

Using Poetry to Heal During September’s Recovery Month, Part. 1

Every September, SAMHSA (the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) sponsors Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate people in recovery.  SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”


Quanda with B-WEL team members, Patricia & Julian

For the past three years, SAMHSA has generously provided funding to The Family Center for its B-WEL (Brooklyn Women Enjoying Life) project. Since its inception, B-WEL has screened over 225 Brooklyn women for substance use disorders and mental health symptoms, provided rapid HIV testing to over 85 individuals, and provided free support groups including Anger Management, Seeking Safety, Crafting Circle, and monthly Women’s Recovery Support.

Earlier this month, The Family Center was once again awarded a 3-year grant from SAMHSA to support Brooklyn women impacted by addiction and HIV risk. The Family Center plans to use peer advocates within a network of Brooklyn treatment providers to support women in recovery. Partners include New Directions, an outpatient clinic, and Serendipity II, a women’s residential treatment program.

Read about the poetry reading and book signing hosted at Serendipity II, and Quanda’s story in part 2, to be published this Friday, Sept 30th.

-Julian Ho, MS, CASAC
B-WEL Project Supervisor

TFC Takes Pride in Our Inclusive Community

Gay St 7.2016On the night of Saturday  June 11th, I was with friends celebrating Brooklyn Pride. Sunday morning I learned that there had been  a mass shooting in Orlando. It wasn’t until Monday that I was able to process what was happening. An LGBTQIA nightclub was attacked by one person with an assault rifle at the same time I had been  at an LGBTQIA event. The underlying implications of this event became very real to me. “It could have been the party I was attending if I were visiting Orlando, or if the shooter lived in New York City.” I realized that I wasn’t the only person to come to this feeling of being unsafe when friends began to state they were not going to New York City pride events because of the looming unknown.

Orlando victims 7.2016Back at work that week I talked to  my colleagues  about the fear I was feeling and I was encouraged to think of my clients that have experienced trauma and the effect this incident may be having on them. So, I checked in with my clients who have identified the LGBTQIA community as one they belonged to, and I heard story after story of times that living out loud made them feel unsafe as well as about times that it felt empowering. I encouraged my clients to have compassion for themselves in the coming weeks, and only do and read what felt good. And I decided to practice what I preached.

It was especially important that I go to the NYC Pride March this year. The March originated as a protest forty-six years ago, demanding that people could safely be themselves. It was a place where community gathered and offered comfort, understanding and empowerment. And although it has shifted greatly since its origination, this year it reconnected to that. Float after float paid homage and held vigils for our community members that lost their lives in Orlando. There were moments of silence full of shared sadness and shared hope.

Child in rainbow flag 7.2016Here at TFC we share experiences with clients every day and use the space that we have to encourage a sense of calm, peace and safety. I am excited to continue to offer our space to build a safe and caring community to all people by beginning a monthly dinner series for our clients and members of our community that identify as LGBTQIA. We welcome LGBTQIA individuals and families to join us in resisting hate with joy and compassion. The safety I felt at the parade came from being completely myself and having people not just tolerate it, but celebrate it. And if I can offer a little bit of that feeling to our clients I will always choose to do so.  If you are a current TFC client and are interested in participating in the dinner series, please contact me at fstaime@thefamilycenter.org.

Florie agenda 7.2016_cropped

Me at the 2016 NYC Pride March

-Florie St. Aime, LMSW
Social Worker for TFC’s Family Support & Counseling Program

Two Words

LWI client appreciation note 7.2016Clients come to the Legal Wellness Institute (LWI) during some of the most challenging periods in their lives. When they arrive at our office, they are struggling with illness, loss and the uncertainty of legal proceedings. Although it is the last thing any of us would expect, LWI clients always find a way to say thank you for our work.

Yesterday, our legal services coordinator, Jonathan Riedel and one of our legal interns, Ellen Degnan, received a noteworthy thank you. It was from a client with whom they had been working with on an administrative agency dispute. After weeks of diligent effort, they secured a favorable decision without the client having to go to a hearing. As you can see, the client was delighted with the outcome.

LWI Jon and Ellen w their edible arrangement 2

Ellen and Jonathan with their sweet thank you from a grateful LWI client.

Ellen said, “Receiving this gift filled me with joy because it offered a glimpse of our client’s joy, her relief, even days after we celebrated the good news together. There is no better feeling.”

LWI is thankful for the opportunity to do work that matters and frequently, for the gratitude of our clients. Of course, we never ask for a thank you, but those two words are always nice to hear.

To each and every one of our grateful clients, we have two simple words, “You’re welcome.”

The Best is Yet to Come

There have been seven birthdays, a few hundred Metrocard swipes, thousands of texts, one motorcycle accident (no injuries), two camping trips, and lately dozens of conversations about politics and socioeconomics. We’ve hit a lot of milestones together: Eddie’s two graduations, his 18th birthday, and most recently my wedding.

John and Eddie at John's wedding 6.2016

John and Eddie at John’s recent wedding

Having my little brother Eddie give a thumbs up from the back of the church calmed my nerves and put a smile on my face. After calling him my brother for many years, I now consider him a true and permanent member of my family.

The Buddy Program opened up both of our worlds to an incredible mixture of memorable experiences—mostly good, some challenging, but all of them meaningful. We’ve stood by each other through tough transitions and incredible achievements, and I know the best is yet to come.

Honoring My Favorite Guy on Father’s Day

Fathers Day blog IGC photo_James GambleWhile Mother’s Day often gets top billing over Father’s Day, for me the day has always been very special because I believe that I had the best father anyone could ever have.   My dad, James Gamble, exemplified what it meant to be a true father.  He retired from career in the printing field while I was still in elementary school.  So I had the pleasure of coming home every day and finding my dad there waiting with a home-cooked meal.  As my mom continued to work, he took on the day-to-day caregiving and household responsibilities for me and my siblings.  Trust me; this change in roles did not at all diminish who he was as a man.  Still strong, head of the household, but the best caregiver anyone could ask for.  The relationship that he developed with his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends was unparalleled.  We often called our home Grand Central Station because everyone knew that if they needed a hot meal, or a listening ear, he was there for them.

Fathers Day blog IGC photo_James Gamble at wedding anniversaryThe Family Center is honored to work with men who are partnering with us to help bring additional support to their children and their families.  Men who are not afraid or ashamed to say they need help.  I am glad that The Family Center is there to offer support and encouragement as these men tackle the hardest job there is, caring for children, helping them to mature into responsible, caring adults.

On this Father’s Day, I salute the fathers who are actively involved in raising their children.  A special hats off to the men, brothers, uncles, Godfathers, friends, who step up to care for children, who may not be biologically related to them, but who nonetheless are actively involved in these children’s lives.  Thank you for all of the support, guidance, and nurturing provided to the children whose lives you are enhancing.

Fathers Day blog IGC photo_James Gamble at IGC wedding daySo on this Father’s Day, I acknowledge the man who raised me and the many men who are standing tall, making a difference in the lives of children.  Thank you for your dedication and commitment.

Happy Father’s Day

-Ivy Gamble Cobb, Executive Director