Throughout 2018, Alamo City Moms Blog will be spotlighting one local nonprofit each month as part of its ACMB Cares campaign. Our goal is to familiarize readers with nonprofit organizations that are making an impact in San Antonio through their connection with moms and/or children. This month, we are featuring Magdalena House.
Many of us consider ourselves pretty fortunate. Sure, life has ups and downs, but we have great kids, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and loving, supportive partners.
But what if all we had were the great kids? What if we had a partner who was abusive and made us feel unworthy of love? What if leaving him meant no home, food, or way of supporting our kids? What if we didn’t receive enough education to be able to find a job that could support our families?
Enter Magdalena House, a transitional shelter for women and children who are escaping abusive and violent situations. Founded by Rev. Denise Barker, Magdalena House has opened its doors to families for more than 10 years. It offers families long-term shelter, a loving community, healing services, and the opportunity for mothers to go back to school. For many women and their children, it is a life-saver!
To give you a sense of Magdalena House’s impact, San, a “graduate” of Magdalena House, happily shares her experience.
Q: What brought you to Magdalena House?
A: I was a victim of domestic violence. My six-month-old son and I left my abusive partner in North Dakota and came to San Antonio. Two days later, I registered at San Antonio College. I had no place to stay, and the Women’s Empowerment Center at SAC suggested I contact Magdalena House. I imagined a women’s shelter as a big place with big bedrooms with lots of people—I didn’t want that! When I visited Magdalena House, it was completely different than what I’d imagined—it was very homey and warm. I was nervous, but everyone made me feel very welcome. I stayed at Magdalena House for two years and completed my certificate in community health and almost all of my associate’s degree in community health at SAC.
Q: Tell us about your life now.
A: I live happily and independently with my two children in the Rio Grande Valley. I teach nutrition to youth in grades K–12. My favorite kids to work with are the troubled youth in boot camp and juvenile. I talk to them about nutrition, and we make snacks together. I am working on my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice so that I can work more with this population.
Q: How has your life been affected by living at Magdalena House?
A: When I first arrived, I was very quiet and never thought I could stand up and express myself. Ms. Denise (the executive director) is a big part of changing that. She asked me to give a speech at the Magdalena House Gala, and ever since then, I just can’t stop talking! She helped me find my voice.
I have become a stronger person, more open minded. I am not afraid to stand up in front of 120 people and talk. I have learned to be an advocate to people I meet who have been in abusive relationships. I let them know they don’t have to live like that. Every woman has the power to succeed and break the cycle of violence.
Q: What about living at Magdalena House most helped you?
A: Living at the Magdalena House helped me attend college full-time and kept a roof over my head. My time there also helped me to heal emotionally and learn to walk tall and forgive.
One of the biggest gifts was the friendships I made there. I bonded with the other women because we were all walking through a rough patch of life together. I had felt like I was the only one. To find other women who had gone through the same thing and who understood, was awesome! I felt like I was no longer alone.
Q: How did living at Magdalena House affect your son?
A: My son has a very kind heart. I remind him that when we lived at Magdalena House, we didn’t always have our own space. At Christmas, I couldn’t buy him gifts, yet people there showered us with gifts! I remind him not to look down on others who don’t have anything. He gets it. He’s quiet about it, but he’ll tells me, “Mom, we’re going to have a pizza party at school, but not everyone can pay to come. Can you help pay for my friend?” When we drive by a homeless person, he always wants me to stop and give money.
Q: How has your time at Magdalena House made you a better mother?
A: I learned how to discipline and how to be patient. I am a calmer mother. I set expectations for my kids. I remember talking about chore charts for kids—that really stuck with me. I keep telling them you go to school, you try your best, you go to college.
Q: How would your life have been different without Magdalena House?
A: I see friends who have been in abusive situations and still go back to them. I may never have snapped out of it. I was 18 when I had my son. I stayed in that relationship because [my ex] was the breadwinner and I had nowhere to go.
Magdalena House let me discover that I could be independent, on my own. The people at Magdalena House showed me that others care. They gave me the skills and resources to succeed. They emphasized the importance of going to school. They even showed me how to change a flat tire!
Q: What advice do you have for other moms?
A: You need to find your own way to interact with your child and create your own parenting style. Everyone is different and has different parenting styles. When we see other moms doing different things with their kids, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like we need to do that, too. We compare ourselves a lot!
Magdalena House invites you to attend its gala, An Evening of Hope, on Saturday, September 29 at La Cantera Resort, and meet the next woman who will be empowered as San was by speaking about her experience. This event provides the majority of funds for all aspects of Magdalena House, from shelter to education and counseling. Visit maghouse.org to learn more about what Magdalena House does and how you can volunteer, be an advocate for women and families, and contribute.