This Is My Testimonial
"Three years before I got pregnant, you couldn't have told me that I would be homeless and living in a shelter," says Leah Whaley-Holmes as she tells the story of her life.
"I came from a really good family, I had both my parents together and I never wanted for anything," she said. "When I got pregnant, I already had 2 years of college under my belt. But I made some really bad choices."
So what leads a good person to make bad choices?
"I was in an abusive relationship for 5 years," Leah explained candidly. "When your spirit is taken and you're getting your butt kicked on the regular, that can really mess up your perception of life."
One day, pregnant and with no where to go, Leah realized she was in trouble. She got in the car and said "Lord help me," then drove to a counseling center where they told her about Room at the Inn in Greensboro, NC, a maternity house for pregnant homeless women. Looking back, she knows that God had a hand in it because the person with an appointment after her was none other than the president and CEO of Room at the Inn. He told Leah, "Go on over there, they'll take care of you." So she did, and the experience changed the course of her life.
"When I first got there, I was scared," Leah recalls. "It was an overwhelming feeling to have people that I didn't know wanting to take care of me. It was also very humbling."
During her stay, she was given a chance to rebuild. After her son Gabriel was born, she went into an after-care program for women who want to go to college. By working part-time at Room at the Inn while earning her degree, she was actually embarking on a career path that would integrate her education with spirituality and a deep personal conviction based on life experience.
"So many things had happened to me that I kind of thought God had removed himself from my life," she said. "But during my stay, I reconnected with God and I learned a lot about myself. I guess I started realizing my purpose."
That purpose led her to Bluffton where she now manages the new Room at the Inn of the Lowcountry. The mission of this non-profit, faith-based organization is to care for mothers and their children, providing not only a place to stay, but also services such as counseling, life-skill classes, transportation to medical appointments, child care, and education assistance. Open since July of 2007, the facility currently has three clients. One of the women is taking on-line college courses while the other two are in high school and on the AP honor roll. In charge of the day-to-day needs of the house is Leah, who lives there with Gabriel and is currently pursuing a masters degree in social work.
"Every girl that walks in here I can say, I've been where you are, I know you're scared, I know things are a little crazy for you right now, but it will get better," said Leah. "Then they see my son and they see that I'm working on my masters and they know that it is possible to make it as a single mom. You don't need to depend on any man."
Hometown: Los Angeles Proud mother of: Gabriel, 3 Hobby: reading Passion: advocacy and social justice Guilty pleasure: Mexican food Inspirational figure: Jesus What's going to make her a good licensed social worker: "Being transparent with people and talking to them from personal experience, not just what I learned in books." Words to live by: "You have to be a tool of God, not just a centerpiece. I want God to use me instead of saying 'here's a pretty little trinket, let me just set her down right there." When she's 82: hopes to be telling her grandkids how important it is to live a life of active faith and fight for what's right
For more information about the Room at the Inn call 843-706-3773 or log onto www.roomattheinnofthecarolinas.org