A life-changing phone call

A life-changing phone call

2 women sewing

Lois Shegog and Maria Payne. Photo by Sr. Eileen Connelly, OSU

When Maria Payne ended up homeless last fall after fleeing from the drug deals and violence running rampant in her apartment building, she felt hopeless and alone.

“It just wasn’t a safe situation,” she explained. “I was relieved to be out of there, but being homeless through no fault of my own, I was also depressed and on suicide’s door.”

Maria estimates she made some 20 phone calls seeking assistance and was met with ridicule and a lack of compassion. Then, she made the call to St. Francis Seraph Ministries (SFSM): the one she describes as “life-changing.”

On the other end of the line was Annise Anderson, business manager/finance assistant at SFSM, whose kindness and calm demeanor was just what Maria needed.

“When people call, you have to treat them with the respect you want to be treated with,” Annise said. “Every person is a child of God, and just as God pours out His love for us, we must pour out that love to others, no matter what position they’re in. If I can lift somebody up, I’m doing what God is calling me to do. I’m just trying to give my best to God, because it’s God I’m working for. Like St. Francis, I want to be the instrument that God uses to change somebody’s life for the better.”

Maria has found hope at SFSM, along with a valuable new skill through #Stitched#, a program of the Sarah Center. The five-week course, which teaches basic sewing skills to create items useful in daily living and as a path to employment in the textile industry, was both practical and fulfilling for her.

As the only student during her recent #Stitched# session, Maria received plenty of one-on-one attention from Lois Shegog, Sarah Center director and #Stitched# instructor. She learned to use an electronic sewing machine and tackled projects such as placemats, pillow covers, crossbody bags and baby blankets. Participants are also taught sewing terminology, along with how to make hand closures, zipper application, and work with different fabrics, including fleece and satin.

A key aspect of #Stitched# is teaching participants to follow directions and stay focused. “Anymore, most people just don’t know a lot about sewing in our throwaway society,” Lois said. “Our students go on to use their skills not just for employment, but in their families.”

Upon completion of #Stitched#, Lois takes participants out to lunch to celebrate, break bread and discuss the class. Approximately 35 people have completed the program to date.

“Maria was very focused and definitely wanted to learn,” Lois said. “She experienced the magic of sewing and was so joyful when she finished a piece and wanted to share it.”

“Miss Lois was such an inspiration through this journey. She’s been a blessing,” Maria said. “She taught me so much, showed me a lot of patience and was a shoulder to cry on. I knew from her smile that she was beaming with pride.”

For now, Maria has a place to stay through the Homeless to Hotel program and is on the list for an apartment of her own. She turned one down, Lois noted, because it was handicapped accessible and she felt someone else needed it more than her. “This shows her giving spirit,” Lois said.

The months since becoming homeless have been filled with lessons for Maria. “I’ve learned that by using my faith and my brain, I’ll be okay. I’ve also seen the camaraderie that homeless people have. We look out for each other.”

She urges others to treat those who are homeless with dignity and respect and to remember that people are “way bigger than their homelessness. You can’t judge people by their situation,” Maria emphasized.

Her experience at SFSM “restored my faith in humanity,” she said. “Miss Annise and Miss Lois saw something in me that no one else did.”

And, she added, “I’ve learned that I love sewing!” She’s continuing to put her new skills to use, filling requests from friends and family who say, “Will you make something for me?” She plans to purchase her own sewing machine soon and hopes to eventually go into business for herself.

Most of all, she’s grateful for the compassion that has helped transform her life. “This journey ended up being a blessing,” Maria said.

Learn more about St. Francis Seraph Ministries, the Sarah Center, and #Stitched# on their websites.

This article first appeared in the SJB News Notes.

Posted in: Missions