Anita in the kitchen at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center

When Anita first arrived at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center (MSPWC), her immediate focus was on recovery and maintaining her sobriety, but what she found was so much more. At MSPWC, a day shelter for Baltimore’s homeless and impoverished women and children, Anita met with a caseworker who assessed her needs and helped her in developing a plan to meet her immediate goals of recovery while preparing her for the future.

Anita enrolled in several classes offered at the Center aimed at not only sustaining her sobriety but also building other skills she would need for a life of stability. She says that she was particularly fond of the Art Therapy classes which she credits with helping her to release her emotions, allowing her to see things from a new perspective and reconnect with her senses. Among other classes, Anita also took an introduction to computers class where she learned the basic skills of utilizing a modern computer and the internet. “I even have an email address now,” she adds.

MSPWC has also assisted Anita in replacing critical documentation she had lost such as her birth certificate and identification cards. “Without these forms of identification, I did not feel like a whole person, so that too was extremely important to me,” adds Anita. Like all the women and children who visit MSPWC, Anita was also provided access to three meals a day, as well as laundry and shower facilities.

But Anita’s experience did not stop there. In an effort to give back to the place she felt had given her so much, Anita started volunteering her time at MSPWC. She first started setting tables and cleaning up the dining room, then soon found herself working in the kitchen helping to prepare meals. “I really liked being in the kitchen,” she recalls. Anita says it gave her something positive to fill her time and since cooking was already something she liked to do, it made it all that much more enjoyable.

After several months volunteering in the kitchen Anita learned what it takes to prepare nutritious meals for a large number of homeless and impoverished women and children, the Center serves an average of  70 people every night. Soon after that, the position of evening cook became available. “I immediately thought of Anita as we began our search for a new cook,” says Symone Hurt, Operations Manager. “In this new position Anita can continue to grow strong and to be a role model to the other clients that if you just believe and try, you can make it happen.”

In late December 2009, just after celebrating one year of sobriety, Anita was hired as the evening cook at MSPWC. She says that her experience as a client has helped her gain a greater insight into how to be successful.

“I try to be as accommodating as possible,” says Anita, “and it makes me feel great to know I am not only feeding hungry people but that they are getting hearty, nutritious meals.” Anita also says that she does her best to add variety to the menu, recalling her own experience of sometimes eating the same type of meal several days in a row. “I feel very connected to the needs and desires of these women and I do my best to make things better for them whenever I can,” she says.

As for her greatest challenge, Anita says that learning to season such large quantities of food has been a bit difficult. “It’s a bit of trial and error learning how much seasoning to add, I just hope it’s more trial and few errors,” she adds laughing.

When asked if she ever imagined herself in a position like this Anita laughs and says no, she never even imagined herself a client at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, let alone a cook there, but she adds that she is so happy with this job that she hopes to stay at the Center for a very long time.

My Sister’s Place Women’s Center is a comprehensive resource center welcoming Baltimore’s homeless and poor women and their children. The mission of the program is to provide a safe, supportive environment where vulnerable women and their families can access housing, referrals, life skills training, and other resources to achieve and sustain self-sufficiency. Learn more here.

My Sister’s Place Women’s Center