top of page

Such is the Power of Love

Spring is in full bloom in Philadelphia and at Dawn’s Place. Seeing the beautiful and colorful flowers emerge on our grounds, where there was only dirt just a bit ago, puts me in mind of the transformations that occur inside Dawn’s Place as well. I’m thinking about Sandra.* The first time I met Sandra was on a frigid December night, well over two years ago, when I took a volunteer shift at the house. I rang the doorbell, and it was opened by a woman with wild hair and unkempt clothing. Sandra’s big brown eyes narrowed at me suspiciously when I explained that I was volunteering to spend the evening hours at the house with her and the other women. Later that evening, Sister, who was still in the house, explained that Sandra was struggling with severe mental health issues, as a result of a history of horrific sexual and physical abuse. As that evening wore on, the mental health issues became increasingly obvious. Except for a brief period when Jeopardy was on, Sandra became increasingly paranoid and restless. She thought that the other women in the house were conspiring against her. At one point, she called out to the police, who were outside involved in a traffic stop, that she did not feel safe. To all of this, Sister responded with kindness and an incredible amount of patience. Despite the fact that I was there and that she had already worked a full day, Sister refused to leave until after the night shift arrived. Like all of the Dawn’s Place staff, Sister took personal responsibility for assuring the sense of safety and well-being of our women. Nonetheless, before Sister and I left that night, I told her that I did not believe that Sandra could remain at Dawn’s Place - her mental illness was too severe. Sister sighed. She agreed with me, but believed that Dawn’s Place was the last best hope for Sandra. Fast forward two years. I came to Dawn’s Place on an errand, and a well-groomed and smiling young woman answered the door. I didn’t recognize Sandra, so she shyly reminded me of our mutual Jeopardy watching. Sandra positively glowed as she told me that she was about to graduate Dawn’s Place. For the first time ever, she is now able to live independently! Sandra would be the first to tell us that her emotional and mental stability was built slowly and painstakingly with hours upon hours of trauma therapy, patience, attention, and kindness. Just as flowers need hours of sun, rain, and bees, to thrive and burst out of the dirt and mud, our women need the care of all of us: staff, donors, and volunteers to make something beautiful out of their lives. Such is the power of love. *Not her real name -Mary DeFusco, Esquire Dawn's Place President of the Board Director of Training, Defender Association of Philadelphia


bottom of page