Each year Second Story sends a holiday letter from our Board President to our community to review the past year and let you know how you can support us over the holiday season. If you would like to receive this letter to your home next year, please contact our Communications Manager and we will add you to our mailing list. Happy holidays!
I hope this letter finds you and your family well as we welcome another holiday season.
In a year marked by continued uncertainty as well as new hope, I am happy to share that Second Story has much to celebrate. Though the national graduation rate for youth experiencing homelessness is measured at around 64%, 100% of eligible seniors in Second Story’s programs, 13 in total, graduated from high school this past year. We reached our year-two fundraising goal as part of our “Together, We Do More” campaign, allowing us to provide youth the support they needed this past year. We created safe ways to meet with youth in our after-school programs so that we could stay connected to them even during the pandemic. Through each of our four program areas, our efforts impact the community in both significant and specific ways:
Second Story for Teens in Crisis provides a safe haven as well as individual therapy and family counseling for youth 13-17 like “Jessie.” Jessie was adopted from foster care with her two younger siblings when she was in elementary school. Jessie had been abused by her biological mother and struggles emotionally and mentally as a result. Throughout her adolescence, Jessie’s family struggled to keep her, and the rest of the family, safe at home. She often reacted violently toward her siblings and adoptive parents. Jessie was already connected to a web of support, including counseling, so when Jessie arrived at Second Story staff worked to build on some of the things Jessie was already learning, as well as provide a safe and productive place for Jessie and her parents to have a break. When Jessie returned home, she and her family were refreshed and ready to continue working toward stability and wellness.
Second Story for Young Mothers provides housing and support for young women and their children experiencing homelessness, like “Lisa” and her family. Lisa didn’t have a strong relationship with either of her parents. Her father physically abused her, and her mother kicked her out once Lisa became pregnant. Lisa moved from one friend’s house to the next while she waited for her baby to arrive until she learned about Second Story for Young Mothers. Since joining us, Lisa has started receiving benefits and paying off debt. She began working, attends therapy, and is participating in parenting classes. Staff are proud of her for taking advantage of everything the program has to offer and asking questions anytime she needs something. And Lisa is grateful to now have a safe, stable foundation into which her baby can be born.
Second Story in the Community offers after-school support to children and teens like “Marc“ as well as drop-in services, food, and other resources for the community. Marc began coming to one of Second Story’s Safe Youth Projects because he liked the field trips and receiving help with his schoolwork. Marc’s school had gone virtual due to the pandemic, and the program coordinator often noticed that Marc wasn’t doing assignments. As Marc got to know the program coordinator better, he confided to her that his family was experiencing homelessness, so he couldn’t do his schoolwork on his own because he didn’t have access to WiFi. The program coordinator reached out to other staff so they could come together and help Marc’s family find an affordable place to live as well as coordinate weekly grocery delivery. Before long, Marc’s family had found an apartment with Second Story’s help. Marc continues to come to the Safe Youth Project for help with homework and to spend time with his friends after school. Now, Marc has both a safe haven after school and a safe place to return home.
Second Story for Homeless Youth provides housing and support for youth experiencing homelessness like Wuilmer. Wuilmer had recently moved to Northern Virginia when he began experiencing homelessness. Wuilmer was a good student and very smart, so when he began struggling in school his counselor knew something was wrong. He was introduced to Second Story and identified one goal with staff: he wanted to graduate from high school. Wuilmer thrived in Second Story’s program. He got a car, saved money, and was even promoted to manager at his job. He is now a high school graduate and headed to college, ready to live on his own with all the life skills and security he needs to thrive.
Amidst these reasons for celebration, there is still a deep sense of urgency to our work. We need to be ready to adapt our programs so that we can continue supporting youth safely. We need to ensure the stability of our after-school programs and Second Story for Homeless Youth so that young people have help available if they return to distance learning. We need to continue providing residential support so that youth experiencing homelessness can pursue their dreams of higher education, even with an uncertain future. And we need to maintain our food distribution efforts so that families in some of our most vulnerable communities have the basic resources they need.
Time and time again I see the impact of Second Story’s work and the efficacy of our programs. We are reminded of this year after year as we see youth graduate from our programs, moving on to live self-sufficiently, pursue their dreams, and break cycles of homelessness, poverty, and abuse.
I am honored to invite you to become part of our transformational mission by making a donation to Second Story. We couldn’t do it without the support of our community, but that breadth of support requires initiative from every single one of us. It starts with you. Will you join us today, in whatever capacity you are able, and make an impact in the lives of young people?
You can give on our website, by texting “Holidays21” to 50155, or by mailing a check to PO Box 694, Dunn Loring, VA 22027. If you would like to make a long-term impact, please consider joining our Beacon of Hope Society. Members of our Beacon of Hope Society pledge to give $1,000 or more for at least five years to help ensure the longevity of our mission and the sustainability of our programs. And if you have recently made a donation to support our work, thank you. We hope you will use this letter to see the impact of your donation and to consider sharing it with someone who may be interested in learning more about our mission.
Together we can create a community where young people have everything they need to grow and thrive. Will you join us and make a lifelong impact in the life of a young person?
P.S. You can hear more of Wuilmer’s story, as well as other stories from Second Story’s young people, by viewing this year’s Beacon of Hope Virtual Fundraiser.