Last night was Good Counsel's 17th Annual South Jersey banquet benefitting the moms and babies of Riverside home. Spending time with the moms, staff, volunteers and donors is always so uplifting. God bless our speaker, Mamie and her son Grayson. May God bless our honorees Mary Reilly and Anthony & Renee Fanty. And may God continue to bless the mission of Good Counsel. Below is a copy of Mamie's written testimony she spoke last night.
Good evening Ladies and Gentleman, My name is Mamie and I’m an exodus mom of Good Counsel Homes. It’s an honor and privilege to be here among staff members, moms at good counsel homes and speaking to you today about my journey before, during, and even after leaving good counsel.
I’m originally from New Brunswick, NJ. I’m 2nd generation of West & East African descent, West Indian and Salomon. I was raised in a single mother household untilI was 8 when my step father came into our lives. I have 16 half-brothers and 18 half-sisters and 1 biological sister. I’ve come from a big family of support. I was raised well from the women in my family, educated and taught to become strong women. I went to college and got my degree in 3 different fields. In my early and middle childhood, I seen the struggles of being a single mom watching my mother take odd jobs, while going to nursing school. We have slept on family member’s floors and in our cars.
Seeing that, I’ve always told myself I won’t end up like this, I’ll make sure when I have children, they have the best. My struggles early on made me the woman I am today. I had a phenomenal relationship with my mother and sister. One day, it came crumbling down when my mother was diagnosed with kidney failure. She fought a great fight and died on Jan 1 2013 when I was getting my associate degree. That was the hardest day of my life. If you know me, my mother is my rock and foundation, we were basically twins. After having to make a decision to take my mother off life support, plan a funeral, and burying her, I went into a dark place. I was partying with the wrong crowd, getting into trouble with law and choosing the wrong men. I got into many partnerships that came with domestic violence, being sexual assaulted and thinking that it all was fine. I just became numb and wanted to die. I was just spiraling out of control and nothing seem to work until I was arrested and placed in jail for 8 months.
During that time, I went to church in the county jail. The Church of Highland would meet the young women and I had realized God didn’t want this for me and I was sent here to wake up and have a second chance at life. I had a mentor Mrs. Jamika who took me under her wings and helped me when I got out. Things were changing until I met my son's father, who at the time was everything I thought I wanted and needed. In the beginning everything was great. Then that other side came out and then came the abuse. I was abused emotionally, physically, sexually and verbally. You think it would be a sign for me to run but it wasn’t because I was used to it and started to think maybe this is how I am supposed to be treated to be loved properly. I was working three jobs, going to school full time to graduate on time and taking care of the household. Me, him and his other children. Then Covid started, and with us not really having an outside life I was thinking this was a way to actually fix our relationship. It worked for a little bit and then I found out I was pregnant. This was our 4th pregnancy and I knew this time around I had to put my child first. The other 3 pregnancies I miscarried twice and had a stillborn. Part of me was in denial until I saw my baby's ultrasound and knew something had to change for good. I wanted to give my baby the love my mother gave to me.
When I told my ex, he wasn’t thrilled, he even offered me money to abort my child. He also told me if I didn’t he was going to kill me. It was Mother’s Day all of this took place and I cried the entire day. I called my sister and my aunt in NJ. Everyone was excited but knew I had to leave Alabama, so we came up with an escape plan. My work mom at my job came and got me and packed my things and we started to find a safe haven. My aunt remembered Ms. Faye from good Counsel and we called them. I talked to Ms. Vanessa and knew I wanted to stay in Jersey and was placed in Riverside to be closest to my aunt. As we were booking my flight, my so-called best friend told my ex what was happening and he found me and abused me again and sexually assaulted me. If my work mom and her husband didn’t come home that night, I probably would have died and wouldn’t be talking to you today.
After he was arrested, we called my family and went straight to New jersey. All I was thinking about was everyone's safety and if my baby was okay. When arriving at Good Counsel, I immediately felt at home. I remember reading this verse when we got their Psalm 46:1 and knew everything will work out. As we entered, I met Ms. Isabel who was the case manager at the time and Ms. Dominque who was the house manager at the time and some of the moms.
At first, I was very shy, guarded and was watching my surroundings. As the day went on I was finally greeted by Ms. Anissa who was a RA at the time. Honestly, I actually can’t even say that because Ms. Anissa was literally was doing everything. All the moms were just calling Ms. Anissa's name. The first time I actually seen her she had 2 babies in her hand and she was chasing after another one that ran out the room. Although she looked very busy she kindly spoke to me and asked me did I need anything. She introduced herself and I asked her did she need help. She laughed and said “I am fine. I can do this with my eyes closed” and she wasn’t lying either.
As time went on, I was given a mentor who is in a way just like me, Ms. Anissa. She was a breath of fresh air and she didn’t know it at the time but I knew I needed her. During my pregnancy, I fought her very hard and didn’t really at the time believe what she was telling me. She was my oasis. It took me a while to get to know her but she was the right person to mentor me. I was completely helpless and homeless but knew my son needed the best. I got a job as soon as I came and went to my doctor appointments like I should. My baby boy was brought into the world during a cold winter day. My reason for it all still til this day. It wasn’t until I had complications with my healing c-section and had to be hospitalized again that I decided to really let my guard down with Ms. Anissa. It was in that moment right there that I knew God sent us here for the right reasons. My son had to stay at the home while I was hospitalized for almost 2 weeks and the person who had him the most was Ms. Anissa. When I returned home the staff and the moms was telling me how spoiled Grayson was and it was all because of Ms. Anissa. I was also told Ms. Anissa was stuck there for 3 days during a snow storm and never complained not one time. Still in shock that someone can love and take care of a child that wasn’t there’s like their own opened up a new line of respect I had for her because I was so sad and upset that I had to leave my baby.
While in Good Counsel, I was excelling in many things and attending church online. The staff and girls loved my cooking and always wanted me to cook. I finally found peace. Although it was chaotic at times. Living in a house with 9 other women with different personalities can definitely be a lot. But most of the time it felt like a sisterhood, something I was really looking for. Somehow, I’ve became the house mom. I made goals and knew what I wanted to secure my son and our future. I knew I wanted to go in the medical field since I love helping people. I had a plan not for me but the other moms as well. We would link up in the dining rooms and I would print out applications for the moms to fill out. Whoever came, came. Some just took them and left. I applied to every low income and section 8 housing. I really used up a lot of ink and paper at Good Counsel.
My mentor took me to Ewing Cemetery to see my mom for her birthday. I've really gotten close to Ms. Anissa. Especially after I left. I automatically thought I would lose touch with all of them when I left and I didn’t. She is more like another mom to me. Or should I say a sister I think we close in age. She has helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses and she has pushed me to be the best person I can be.
While at good counsel, I started to save, I gave Ms. Anissa my bank card to hold since I love shopping. I started a CNA class in Jersey online but quit for personal reasons. Boy, can I tell you Ms.Anissa was upset but she understood why at the time. Then came Ms. Tenesia. The piece to the puzzle. Ms. Tenesia was another one who stayed on me and loved my son. As my deadline was approaching, God had a plan and everything fell in place. I was approved for low income and got my apartment in Salem, VA. Paying only $7 a month for rent for the first couple months. Ms. Tenesia jokingly said she was moving with me and act like she was packing her stuff. She told me I could go but Grayson had to stay here with us. A week later Me and Ms. Tenesia packed me and my son stuff up and left after I promised I would make her my famous cornbread that everyone loved.
Fast forward to 1 year later, I still have my apartment in Salem, VA. I had to do odd jobs and finally completed my CNA class last October and graduated. I just finished my RMA class and will begin my RN in January next year at Galen College for Nursing. I work at Woodland Hills Nursing Home and Spring tree Rehab & Health. I’m also CPR certified. Today I wouldn't have all this without good counsel, I doubt I could have done any of this. They had set the foundation of my life and I couldn’t thank them enough for all their hard work, motivating me, dealing with my many attitudes and it was many, and teaching me to breathe and don’t take many things personal. Remember what your goal in life is.
For the moms there now and the future ones to come, I want you to take advantage of every opportunity they offer. It is a family, sisterhood and a place where staff knows your comfort and will push you to be better than what you were even when you may feel like there just being hard. It’s A lesson behind everything even when we don’t want to see it. I don’t know everyone story but I bet I was one of y'all when I came through that door. Even through the hard times they taught me love because no matter how hard or difficult I was they never gave up. Each one of you have a story and you never know who you can impact as Ms. Anissa, Ms. Tenesia, Ms. Dominique and other staff did as well. They really impacted my life and beyond. I couldn’t thank you enough. Grayson loves these ladies sometimes I feel more than he loves me. He really thinks they are his moms. Especially Ms. Anissa. She doesn’t miss a beat. We talk everyday and she makes sure she sends her Grayson things in the mail. The help never stopped. If I tell her he is having picture day, an event at school, he’s outgrowing clothes, or simply questions on parenting she handles it. You will be surprised how many times I have came home to a package on my step from her not for me but for Grayson and she will put it on the thank you card “this is not for you but for my baby give this to him”.
I recently came to the home and did a life skill with the moms about housing. They enjoyed it and I hope I motivated them to know that this isn’t the last stop.
Since being here I have overcome so much. My past does not define me. So, with that being said I would like to first thank Chris Bell and the amazing donors of Good Counsel homes. I would also like to thank Vanessa who gave me many of chances to get it right. And last but not least the staff. New staff, old staff, and soon to come staff. I don’t know where I’ll be without any of you. I thank you and appreciate you not just from me but the mons who came, who are present now, and who will enter in the future. ThankYou.
To support more moms and babies like Mamie and Grayson please visit our donation page here. goodcounselhomes.org/donate
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