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Home > First East St. Louis Visit: Day 2

First East St. Louis Visit: Day 2

On Saturday we returned to Opal’s House to help Essie and become more familiar with the space.  Essie put us to work organizing a huge collection of clothing donations that had been donated to her over the course of several years.  We went through the bags and divided clothes into several categories: interview clothes, children’s clothing, winter clothing, and clothing to be donated.  All of the donated clothes would be sent to another non-profit that has worked with and helped Essie in the past; this reciprocal relationship was more proof of the strong community connections that exist in ESL.

During our sorting we were able to talk with Kiki, a staff member of Opal’s House.  She clarified a lot of details that helped us gain a better view of Opal’s House as a collaborative space.  She explained that job hunting is one of the first and main goals of most of the clients, not only out of necessity, but to keep the clients focused, hopeful, and goal-oriented while going through such a traumatic time.  We also learned more about the rules, such as women giving up their cell phones for the first two weeks of their stay.  This brings into question whether this rule will also apply to email and social networking sites, which is something we will need to discuss with Essie and will be more difficult to enforce.  This may be one of the reasons Essie asked that the computer screens face the staff desks so that they might be able to monitor computer use.

One of the highlights of the day was getting a tour of the house.  Essie and the various people who have helped to develop Opal’s House have done an amazing job turning the house into a beautiful, welcoming space.  DoMonique articulated it best when she observed that the space is filled with love.  It seems as though most of the decorations were donations; which is another testament to the dedication and hard work that have been poured into Opal’s House by Essie and others.

At this point most of our planning has turned to helping to decorate the space so that it fits the spirit of the rest of the house.  The client computers currently share a desk, which give the users very little desk space.  We’d like to replace the desk, as well as help Essie hang the artwork from art therapy sessions on the wall.  We also hope to create a resource library, which could include employment resources, like a notebook of sample cover letters, resumes, and job websites, as well as a notebook about privacy and safety on the Internet.

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