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Sister José Women’s Center: Sisters Helping Sisters

Sister José Women’s Center: Sisters Helping Sisters

Through our conversations about mental health this past month, we were thrilled to learn about the work that Gale Sherman is doing at the Sister José Women’s Center and are pleased that we can share her story with the Zentangle Community!
 
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Gale Writes...

Mental Health Awareness Month & Sister José Women’s Center: Sisters Helping Sisters

  

Many of those currently without homes (usually referred to as “homeless”) have mental health issues. They range from severe and chronic issues to those brought on by their current living situation. Homelessness not only robs the victims of dignity but also of self-confidence and the ability to focus on things unrelated to their safety, their next meal and where to sleep. Pre-pandemic, Sister José Women’s Center provided basic services (shelter, food, showers, laundry) as well as professional services (social, medical, etc.) to 36 overnight guests and about 150 women a day.
 
In 2017 they began an empowerment program which included my proposal for weekly Zentangle classes. In the beginning Danita Noland, CZT taught with me and we had 8-12 students with a variety of needs beyond drawing patterns. Living on the street is a great teacher for survival but diminishes many of their social and learning skills- listening/hearing, paying attention, following directions (think “stepouts”), helping others, being kind, and how to focus- “one stroke at a time.” Fortunately, Terry and Cheryl came to the first class and every week for at least 18 months and they had retained most of their social interaction skills. Our classes included (and still do) lots of repetition, going slowly- very slowly, and focusing on: “relax,” “breathe,” “appreciate” and the wonderful suggestions in the 10 to Zen poem Molly has shared with us: “Let go of comparing… competing…judgments…anger…have a proper belly laugh at least once a day.” After a while, every time I’d say “There are no mistakes, only new opportunities” and “There are no erasers in Zentangle, just like in life’’ the guests would create a chorus followed by giggles.


From the beginning it was obvious we needed to provide lots of individual attention. Terry and Cheryl made that possible in the beginning. Immediately I began asking my Zentangle students to volunteer, so when Danita took a full-time job 3 months later, I had others wanting to help. We have a team of about 10 (many who are seasonal) and they all have one thing is common and it’s not their pen skills; they are kind, gentle and naturing. Within a year, Val Barsevich CZT37 retired from teaching and became my co-leader.  We created a 25-week curriculum, regular sign ups (using SignUp Genius) and had classes numbering 12-17 guests. Our classes became the most popular elective for the women enrolled in the empowerment program and, unlike the others, women who were living on the street could also come to Zentangle.



 
Through our classes, the Zentangle team has been spreading kindness to those not use to receiving it while encouraging and naturing women who struggle with all depths of depression, anger, self-doubt, and fears. They tell us Zentangle has helped reduce their stress, increased their confidence and helped them feel more hopeful. We can see the changes in their faces, by their body language and how they treat each other.
 
The Sister José staff met the Covid-19 challenges with determination and creativity. They continued to provide food, health and hygiene supplies and clothes to women while following the social distancing protocols recommended by the CDC. The reconfigured interior spaces limited the number of women who can live there while receiving services, but their outreach is just as strong. Last month we re-started our weekly Zentangle program with the new protocols in place.  Though fewer guests can attend our classes, their need for the benefits of the Zentangle Method are as great as ever.
 
The staff and community partners remain dedicated to the vision of the Sister José Women’s Center: being “passionate about creating a community where every homeless woman has a safe harbor and a path to a sustainable existence.” Our volunteer Zentangle team is pleased to be part of this effort!

Bijou

27 comments

  • Thank you for sharing!

    Simple on

  • I finally took time to read the BLOG. It was after today’s 30 minute, post-seminar #37 zoom meet-up with Zentangle HQ. Thank you for the opportunity to show Zentangle to others. Lois Holthaus, CZT#37.

    Lois Holthaus, CZT37 on

  • I truly loved this article. I have been in their shoes homeless, mental stress, depression, anxiety over 11 years ago. I didnt learn about Zentangle until May2020. When my friend knew that I was down, depressed and mentally fragile. She showed me a video of Zentangle on YouTube and I was hooked. I love to Zentangle. But recently broke my writing wrist … so I am watching videos and looking forward to holding my pencil and pens again. Keep up the great work. I have great ideas for the shelter that I stayed at for over a year. After I get my CZT CERTIFICATE.

    CYNTHIA PALACIOS on

  • God bless you, Gale!

    Aurora Dabacan on

  • This is an wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it.

    Joyce Rosenberger, CZT36 on

  • Beautiful Sharing. Thanks for an inspiring story that you are creating!

    Linda Close on

  • Inspiring story. Great work!

    Rimona Gale on

  • What an inspirational story ! Good work helping others -and showing Zentangle can bring an inner peace that is so good to share with others . Keep up the good work 💫

    Penny on

  • I love this story! Thank you for sharing it here!

    Brenda Campbell, CZT29 on

  • So inspiring my friend. Love seeing it in action. You are a gift…

    Jody Genovese on

  • Gale, it’s wonderful to learn how you are broadening the Zentangle community in such a compassionate way. Reading of your work has been incredibly heartwarming and the art is beautiful! Wishing you and your students all the best. Your proud classmate, Sandy

    Sandy Kelley-Jones CZT on

  • Gale, thank you for sharing your story and for the wonderful, inspiring work you are doing! You are making a difference!!

    Denise Fairbank CZT29 on

  • Gale… Thank you for what you are doing to help others regain their self-esteem and find purpose in a very bleak world. Praying that God will bless you with renewed strength and resources to continue this important work. I’m sure many of us wish we lived closer and could join you in your efforts.

    Bonnie Johnson on

  • Dear Gale and all the helpers,

    that’s a wonderful project you do with all of these women. We have to be thankful that we have the possibility to help others with the Zentangle method, to believe to themselves.
    Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us
    and God bless you all
    Kind regards Julia, czt

    Dr. Julia-Maria Weber on

  • Gale, you are SO inspiring! You’ve been so committed to this program for such a long time and I’m so proud to say I know you and have had the chance to tangle with you. You’re such a wonderful, giving person and I love what you’re doing. Next time you’re in Missoula, give me a shout out. I’m now a local!

    LovelyRita on

  • Love this form of giving. I have an idea. Don’t know if it’s feasible or not, but if you have access to T-shirt printing in your area, would be nice to give each participant a T-shirt with their own tangle tile on it. It could be that the company would even donate their printing services. Just a thought. Thank you for this method of returning good to the universe!

    Paula Schneider on

  • That was lovely, thank you for sharing, Gale!

    Susan Goodman on

  • Thank you for sharing this. Such an important service.

    SPARROW JENNIFER on

  • Excellent idea! Inspired to help others!

    Layla on

  • What a lovely way to help! I’m also glad to hear that you could continue with the program now. Covid has closed so many free spaces, like libraries, for long times in many places, where homeless people could previously just sit down and rest for a while. It’s good that many organisations could continue with their help and that especially now many places are opening up and giving more chances for people to do other things than just fulfill their basic needs.

    Annina W on

  • Great inspiration for us all, Gale. I’m glad you do what you do!

    Betsey on

  • What a wonderful way to create an inclusive community — letting Zentangle teach its principles! Thank you to Gale and all the volunteers.

    Linda on

  • What a inspired way to teach the Zentangle method. I was thinking it is about time I returned to my classes at my local library. They closed down our homeless shelter and we see so many more at our public library. Time to give back and do it one stroke at a time. Thanks for this wonderful message.

    Melinda Barlow on

  • WOW Gale! I love what you are doing!

    Clara A Brunk on

  • I am so touched by this story … The work you all are doing is obviously helping SO many women (and by association, their “others”) to raise their self-esteem. I believe self-esteem is the key to our healthy survival! Your enormous contributions to those less fortunate may very well be saving lives. <3

    Jan Brandt, CZT12 on

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