WCW: Candace Gregory-Open Door Mission

For over 60 years the Open Door Mission has been committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty. They serve over 2,000 hot, nutritious meals everyday. EVERY. DAY. Many of the people’s lives they change are veterans of the U.S. armed forces and survivors of abusive households. The average age for a homeless child in America? 9 years old.

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I was invited to a Brunch and Learn at the Open Door Mission a few weeks ago and came out with a very different perspective than I had going in. Candace Gregory, the Mission President/CEO and fearless leader had ignited me. She had absolutely broken my heart, filled it again and then set it on fire. In a good way. Hearing the FACTS about the nations homeless population and seeing her pure dedication and passion in doing the best work she can in OUR city-was tremendous. I looked over at my Mom and said, “I want THAT.” Meaning, that illuminated drive and purpose she was sharing with all of us. It was so palpable, I haven’t shaken it off. I’ve absorbed part of her mission and have been working to spend some of my time and energy to do work for the Open Door Mission and Lydia House as well. (The Lydia house takes in women and children) There are VERY many ways to donate and serve the Open Door Mission, who takes no federal funding and operates from private donations.

So it’s my pleasure to include Candace Gregory as my Woman Crush on this Wednesday.

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What gets you out of bed in the morning? My kids…..bahahaha….I actually do not require that much sleep so I am usually up and going at the crack of dawn.

 What is your motto/mantra? It is what it is….

 Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life when it comes to what you do? Next to Jesus, my parents have been the biggest influence on me and mt life. Their faith, work ethic and integrity.

What are your personal core values? Faith, Trustworthy, Work Ethic and Joy.

Why do you do what you do? It’s my calling to serve others and I want to be obedient to God.

 3 Things you can’t live without. Dark Almond Chocolate milk, my kindle and lobster.

 What do you want people to know about your job? It’s rewarding to see lives changed everyday, to see God at work in people’s lives but its overwhelming and discouraging at times the amount of need that is going unmet.

 Who is your rock? Next to God, my husband, Steve.

 Working at a Non-Profit in Omaha is: awesome.

What is the biggest unfairness in your world? Social Injustice

What is the biggest joy? Several joy’s come to mind – Graduation day and hearing the informational stories of life change….volunteers that are faithful and serving ….and the ocean.

 Something you think but never say. Seriously, are you out of your ever loving mind….

Quote that just “gets you.” If you can not feed everyone than feed one…Mother Theresa

What is your theme song? Overcomer by Mandisa
How can people be involved in your organization and why is it so important? The Open Door Mission could not do what they do …without volunteers. We love volunteers. You are never to young or too old to make a difference. Time changes lives. Please visit http://www.opendoormission.org and click on the volunteer button, today.

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Finding purpose at Target

When do you get involved?

I was gallivanting through my local target store, decked out in a Southern Belle costume, including a wide brimmed straw hat, lace fan and short gloves. There are two ways you can travel when dressed like that.

A gallivant and a stroll. And I was running too late to stroll.

A man stopped his friend and pointed at me and said, “Now, that’s class.” I logged it in my memory forever–it was hilarious.

I only had two items, the lanes were full, I spot one down the way that seemed to be moving faster and then I hear, in a furious male voice.

“You don’t FUCKING listen. You don’t EVER fucking listen.”

And my heart skipped a beat-I look down the lane i was just passing by and a man has a young boy (around 12) by the neck, face down on the counter top. I stopped–and then consciously plant myself behind them. He does it again. The kid behind the counter is shaken but trying not to get involved, answering this guys questions about his cartwheel app. Very nonchalantly for someone who is also manhandling a human being. He was an expert.

I saw Target employees looking–pretending to busy themselves nearby, their eyes shifted in his direction. Have you ever been in the presence of something so intense, it feels like no one breathing?

This boy was autistic. He was also calm. He wasn’t throwing a fit. He was reaching for M&Ms-like my 1 year old does. The only word he said was ‘fuck’ with his face pushed into a conveyor belt. I watched the dads hands grip into his skin through his t-shirt. Even when he was perfectly still the dad had an iron clad grip on him-digging through his clothes to reach his skin. THEN, he has the audacity to look at me and say:

“Sorry for the wait.”

My face twisted in disgust. I know I can’t hide my feelings-so it was clear how I felt.

THEN, he did it AGAIN. At the top of his bleeding lungs.

“MICHAEL, YOU DON’T FUCKING LISTEN!” And twisted his fingers into his back.

“Is he okay,” I asked. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“He’s fine, he doesn’t fucking listen.”

“You’re leaving red marks all over his body,” I pointed to all the red splotches on his neck and arms. “It’s making everyone–me, it’s making me so uncomfortable.”

And this guy lost it. He is looking at me dead in the eye, red faced and again as loud as his voice could get:

“GET IN LINE LADY. HALF OF AMERICA THINKS I’M A SHITTY DAD! THE OTHER HALF THINK I ABUSE MY SON. HE’S GETTING KICKED OUT OF SCHOOL BECAUSE HE DOESN FUCKING LISTEN.”

His frustration was palpable. He was shaking. I was shaking. No, I can’t imagine the daily patience needed by parents of children with learning disabilities. But, I can imagine how you wouldn’t deal with it.

“When you do this in public, you make it everyone’s concern,” I eked out. He took of with his son and I could barely count my money out. The teller asked ME, if I was okay. Yeah dude, I’m fine.

I have a history of domestic violence. I can absolutely NOT watch someone be publicly humiliated and walk by like they’re not a human being themselves. I mean, should any of us? Turn a blind eye? We don’t know people’s situations-does that mean we shouldn’t question the bad things we see?

That morning I spent time at the Open Door Mission where I learned that 50 percent of women and children placed there are escaping Domestic Violence. It was a morning full of tragic fact and wonderful hearts and hope.

That night at my fundraiser, I saw a man I sent to jail over domestic violence 8 years ago. A man who violated me, while some people stood by silently and others came to my aid.

What is this theme? I believe in things being put in front of you for a reason. If it is part of your purpose in life, to take it on and make a change. Even when you would prefer to choose another cause.

My husband reminded me that he wasn’t there to protect me. He asked what if that guy had turned around and hit me or worse. I didn’t consider that in the moment.  He said that “these things happen around you and you soak them all in, you can’t take on everyone’s problems baby.” He’s right. And I get that. But if it happens in front of me, is it still not my problem? I have no definitive. Just questions, unresolved.

On the flip side, I wondered if I made it worse for the boy. If now, out of his own humiliation, the Dad would take it out on him. Take me, out on him. And the cycle continues.

So, I’d love some insight. The truth is in hindsight, the day was so full of dichotomy, coincidence, reality-it was sobering. (Despite the fundraisers free beer)

It felt like purpose.

Off thinking and praying,

Beaufield.