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Demetress looks for a job, finds a family

Demetress, a Cara and Cleanslate graduate who started her journey with us in January 2006, shares overcoming the feelings of abandonment she faced as a child, and how she broke the cycle with her own children.

“I have been on my own since the age of 12. That’s pertaining to the streets, not foster care, not DCFS, none of that. I just went to the corner store and back to the projects. Eventually, I went to jail, got out of jail, and stayed clean for a certain amount of time. I ended up pregnant with my first child. I was about to give my son up because I couldn’t find a job due to my background, but then somebody said to check out Cara.”

“When I first came to Cara, they mentioned that you have to be here every day, on time. You have to be professional at all times. I jumped up and scraped across the room and said, ‘I can’t do it. That’s not for me.’ It was a journey. These people that didn’t know me personally were talking to me and pushing me. I’d go back to the recovery home every day and look at my son. I said at the time, ‘Maybe, just maybe, if I give this a try, maybe I could be a productive member of society.’”

I am a phenomenal woman

“We had a session called the mirror exercise. Before I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t capture life, my past life and my present life. Then I looked in that mirror, and all that changed. Thanks to Cara, I started to realize I am a sister to a sister, a daughter to a mother, a friend to a friend. I said, ‘I am a phenomenal woman, a phenomenal black woman, and my smile brightens up the room.’

Everywhere I go, I become a supervisor

“I got my cleaning certificate with ABM janitorial, and so I was one of five picked and ended up getting a job. I was a floater downtown and that was my first permanent job, commercial janitorial cleaning. From that point on, I went to University of Chicago and got hired at the interview right on the spot. Then I went out for another job from Cara and became the floor supervisor. Today, I’ve been with Hyatt for four years. Everywhere I go, I become a supervisor.

“I do housekeeping, cleaning 16 rooms a day. True story; last week, HR asked me if I wanted to work the front desk downstairs. ‘Would you want to answer calls? Would you want to be a hostess?’ I said no. I like moving around. I’m a housekeeper.”

Demetress and her ‘Poppy’, aka Mr. Jesse on her wedding day.

He was a father figure for everybody

“Jesse is my Poppy now, but we used to bump heads. He pulled me aside one time and said, ‘You know, you would have gotten 100% this week (on my Cleanslate evaluations), but your attitude got you a 0.’ I said, ‘I’ve been to jail, so zero ain’t nothing to me, but I bet you I don’t get zero next week.’ The more I saw Jesse every morning and how he talked and reacted to others, I paid attention to that. He was a father figure for everybody. I never had a father, but Jesse became that father to me. He walked me down the aisle when I got married. When I have troubles, he’s always there; he’s the listening ear.”

That changed me

“If I look back on my life, I am truly grateful. Where I come from, 75% of my friends are dead. For me to have had that opportunity to get up every morning, dress up, go to Cara, go to Cleanslate, and put on my work boots…I used to do drugs at the biggest dump in the neighborhood, but people that didn’t know me believed in me until I believed in myself. I was even asked to be on TV and tell my story. That changed me!

“Today, I live in a condo. I have two teenage boys who are on the honor roll. I’ve been a supervisor. I have a 401K. I have savings. I was going to miss out on all of that until somebody said, ‘Go to Cara!’”

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