Continued from ‘The Impact of Love, Part 1’…
“You do not want Mildred” my peers would say. Mildred is composed, self-assured, and responsible—this terrified me. She would see right through me and my anger that I would use to push away others, or my moody silent treatment that meant stay away from me; Mildred could see through it.
The first meeting I had with her that I still remember to this day was we were sitting in the office and she was reviewing my file from my previous visits and she took a deep breath and said “Amanda, what is it that you want?” Nobody had ever asked me what I wanted before. I would tell them what I wanted but they didn’t listen. Until that moment, I never felt like anyone had paused from their own agenda to ask about my thoughts.
Immediately, Mildred initiated a plan of action with me. I started the new Independent Living Program O3 (On Our Own) – today it is Rights of Passage. I was one of the first youth to participate in the program. She warned me that things might be tough and it would take time. My last intake at Covenant House I stayed 16 months. I woke up at 5-5:15 am to catch the first bus #7 all the way to Dimond High School, this is 45-50 minute ride from downtown and then I would catch it after school, go to work and come back to CH and repeat.
Mildred communicated with all of my family, even my dad. He was not very nice to her, but Mildred is not one to let that get in her way. She protected me. The biggest challenge we faced was achieving my goal of becoming emancipated. The first request was denied, but Mildred was able to find an attorney to represent my case pro-bono and we were in court maybe 15 minutes and I left as an emancipated 16 year old adult.
When I reflect on this today, I can’t believe this was my story. I can’t believe that this woman devoted her time and energy to me and to my goals. She was there to help me move into my first apartment, she was there when I graduated from high school, when I was hospitalized from a car accident she came, when my own father did not (he called Mildred instead). Even when I made poor choices that she may have not agreed with, she was there and she still cared.
I lost touch with Mildred and CHA—life happened: I went to school and had a successful business as an esthetician and I became a parent to my now 10 year old daughter. Today I am filled with love, I have a career, and for the past 3 years I have worked for the State of Alaska with Senior & Disabilities Services. I work to assure that providers in the state of AK are qualified to care for some of the more vulnerable people of Alaska. My significant other and I are celebrating seven years together, and this past September we purchased our first home. We stay busy with all those new projects that come with being a homeowner.
Unconditional Love is the foundation of CHA’s Mission and Unconditional Love is what I received there. I thought I had lost that when I lost my mother, but CHA surrounded me with support, resources, and unconditional love. My experience there changed my course in life and made an enormous impact on who I am today as an adult and also as a parent. At CHA, I learned that service to others is an incredible agent of healing. One individual can make all the difference. I want to personally thank Mildred for making the difference in my life.
I ask myself now, “How did Mildred do it?” and ponder the questions of how can one person have that much love for others? why me? How can I ever tell her how grateful I am she was there and how grateful I am that there is Covenant House?
Though Mildred doesn’t live in Anchorage anymore, Mildred and Amanda did reconnect, in November: unconditional love has a way of finding people you care about when you least expect it—
Back in November, Amanda’s best friend Sarah attended our annual Candlelight Vigil. She overheard the name Mildred, and knowing the impact Mildred had on Amanda’s life, she approached her and expressed Amanda’s feelings of appreciation and desire to reconnect with her. Both Mildred and Amanda attended the Fire & Ice Ball last month, and that is where they saw each other again for the first time after so many years, embracing through tears. The photo you see above is a Amanda (right), Mildred (left) and Dierdre Cronin, COO of Covenant House International (middle), at the ball.
Amanda represents the investment of every donor, the hard work and care of each CHA staff member, and the mission of CHA. Unconditional love is something that all children deserve, and when they don’t experience it from their parents, we always extend it to them, no matter what.