I'll Be Home for Christmas

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by Felisha Ellison

When I moved to New York in August of 2015 to pursue a career in fashion design, I felt like I was on top of the world. I graduated with a design degree from Parsons School of Design and quickly landed two design internships in the city. But as my fashion career started taking off, my finances did not. I was having an extremely difficult time finding a stable living situation that I could afford and from May 2016 to December 2017, I moved a total of eight times. Despite much of the hassle that comes along with moving, I continued to persevere.

However, on January 1, 2017, everything in my life felt like it was falling apart. A few weeks prior, I graduated with a second college degree, but nothing else in my life seemed to be in place. I was single, yet experiencing heartbreak. My friendships were suffering. I also needed money, a job, and a place to live. So it was not a happy new year for me. To say the least, I was overwhelmed. To say more - I was at my wit's end. I stayed in bed and cried for almost a week. I could barely eat, and I was beginning to have trouble breathing at times. Life had gotten too real. A month later not much had changed because my crying sessions hadn't brought any progress in my life and I ended up homeless on February 1, 2017.

After moving my things into a storage unit, I sat in a rental car contemplating whether or not I should sleep in the car that night. I deciding to ask someone I had recently met if I could stay at her place for the night and she complied. For about two weeks, I asked any and everyone I could think of to stay with them for a night or two. I was looking for support anywhere I could find it. Thankfully, my parents have been able to help me wherever they could. I prayed and prayed for God to intervene. The ground felt like it had been pulled from under my feet.

I began going on multiple interviews a day. Nothing seemed to come through. I remember trudging through thick mounds of snow on my way to an interview as I left a classmate's apartment. My life felt completely out of balance. I was required to give my home address for one interview and I was questioned when I left the space blank. I finally landed a part-time job in retail in March and I worked there for eight months. During those eight months, I had to fight to keep my joy and not feel completely defeated. After working and studying so hard in school – I felt like a failure. It didn’t help that customer after customer would ask me what I was doing working in retail?! I remember breaking down into tears this past August because I wasn’t able to sign an apartment lease that I thought was perfect for me. At the time, I was living in an apartment that was making me sick – literally. I had contracted bronchitis twice after enduring unhealthy living conditions. All of this took its toll over time.

But God – he heard my prayer even when I was losing hope and feeling lost. He proved himself greater than my doubts and my shortcomings. In October 2017, I was hired to work full-time for a luxury company. One night as I was about to go to sleep, I felt God tug on my heart to check apartment listings online. Mind you, checking online listings had basically been an ongoing process for me for the last year and a half. I complied and checked, and sitting there was the perfect match for me. A newly renovated, two-bathroom apartment in Manhattan. It was close to my new job and had a washing machine and dryer in the apartment unit. Earlier this month, I moved into this dream apartment and realized that everything had happened in God’s perfect timing.  I am so thankful that God heard me and went above and beyond what I could have asked for or imagined. God answered my prayer for a better living situation in a miraculous way because I didn’t think that living in an apartment like this was possible in NY with my budget. Overall, God has turned my life around completely in just one year. These trials have only strengthened me and my faith. I am ever so thankful to be where I am now and I’m looking forward to all that God has planned for me in 2018 and beyond.

Our #GivingTuesday Story: Princess Chambers, Inc.

In 2009, Jennifer Daniel founded an organization to empower high school girls but, at the time, she didn’t know it. She was simply looking for a way to fill a need in her community after she heard that a few high school girls couldn’t afford a prom dress and would be skipping the event altogether.

Jennifer knew that she had to help and immediately started reaching out to family members and friends to donate their gently used prom dresses. Within two weeks, she had collected more than 250 dresses and hosted an event for the girls to pick them up. Over the years, through word-of-mouth and partnerships with schools throughout New York City, Jennifer’s organization, Princess Chambers, Inc., has served more than 700 girls with not just prom dresses but also make-up application and hair styling.

It was at one of these events that Jennifer decided that she wanted to do more to help the girls internally as well as externally. Many of them cried when they saw themselves in the mirror after exiting "the chamber" -- their special dressing room with personal shoppers--  because they had never felt so beautiful in their lives. Although they were transformed on the outside, there was more work needed to help fight their internal battles with low self-esteem, depression, and poor self-worth.  

In addition to the signature Princess Chambers event held at the Brooklyn Marriott each year, Jennifer created a mentorship program, “Mentorship by Sisterhood,” which supports first-year college students as they transition to a new life on campus. The program provides workshops focused on goal setting through vision boards, healthy eating to combat the “freshman 15” woes, and mindful living to deal with stress, among others. Princess Chambers also offers a diverse, custom curriculum that focuses on helping girls build self-esteem and leadership skills through self-reflection, critical thinking, sound decision making, etiquette and goal setting for local girls. Finally, the Princess Chambers’ Crowned Princess Scholarship awards one eligible alumnus with a college scholarship at their annual Garden party.

"Teenagers are constantly bombarded with images that depict standards of beauty, which has an adverse effect on their self-esteem," says Jennifer. "Our organization is designed to equip them to overcome these challenges. We are constantly evolving and intentionally seeking ways to better serve the girls within our community. Princess Chambers Inc. offers more than a free prom dress, we invest in and offer long-lasting experiences and opportunities for girls far after prom. We want our girls to be achievers and believe they can do anything beyond their current circumstances. Additionally, we want them to feel beautiful within, so they can feel confident regardless of what they identify as ‘beautiful.’ I am excited about the future of Princess Chambers as we continue to grow and serve the community.”

Learn more about Princess Chambers and how you can donate.