Iretta Alexander’s story is evidence that lives can change in the blink of an eye. Just a few short months ago, Alexander was working hard to make ends meet. She had a good job at a local nursing home, an apartment and a nice vehicle. She distinctly remembers the day everything changed for her.
Alexander had worked three shifts at the nursing home that day, and her hands were literally raw. In desperation and pain, she went to the emergency room to have her hands examined. The physician informed Alexander that the soaps, lotions and cleaning supplies at her job had caused a severe infection in her hands. Alexander could not put her hands in water for at least a couple weeks, making it impossible for her to wash herself or do the necessary tasks at her job. To her surprise, her employer was less than supportive, informing her that she was fired.
The fear of unemployment hit her immediately. She had been in her apartment for almost a year and worked hard to make monthly payments on her 2003 Crown Victoria. Alexander searched for someone who could help her pay her rent until her hands healed. Despite her efforts, she was turned away repeatedly. "They treated me like a criminal," Alexander said of those she turned to for help.
A week before Christmas, Alexander’s landlord informed her that she was being evicted. She had nowhere to go, so she turned to Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler for help.
"Suzianna (Fritz with Second Place East Homeless Services) treated me like a decent human being, not some low-life homeless person," said a teary-eyed Alexander. "She was nice to me. I felt hopeful not hopeless when I left Catholic Charities."
Catholic Charities was able to help Alexander find a new apartment that not only was cleaner, but also a safer place to lay her head. "I sleep good now," Alexander said with a smile.
She gained something much more valuable from Catholic Charities than an apartment; she restored her self-respect.
"Catholic Charities gave me back my dignity, they gave me hope -- hope in a very dark place," Alexander said. She now refers to Catholic Charities as her "beacon of light," her lighthouse in the midst of a storm.
"People don’t appreciate what you do at Catholic Charities," she said. "You made me so appreciative."
Alexander truly is a fighter. She has pulled herself out of a situation many of us cannot fathom. Alexander is an inspiration and has high hopes for her future: She is currently employed and studying to become a medical secretary.
Friends now look to Alexander for wisdom, as she has weathered a potentially devastating storm and came out renewed and inspired.
"Whatever I do, I want to give back," she said. "I hope that I never make anyone feel the way I did. I will always remember."