Portraits of Strength

Stories of Redemption

The Portraits of Strength, Stories of Redemption (Portraits of Strength) gallery, created by Lydia Bailey, features photos and stories of LMM staff members who have overcome extreme challenges in their lives, now using their experiences to help others. Their adversity has turned to strength with their work going to the full sense of vocation. Hiring these individuals has greatly benefited LMM. Their stories are a testimony to the advantages of Fair Chance Hiring in the workplace. Read their stories below.

Want to learn more or host the gallery? Contact Lydia Bailey, Coordinator of Volunteers at the Men’s Shelter, at lbailey@lutheranmetro.org.

To read the full introduction to Portraits of Strength, click here.

Supervisor of Haven Home, Family Overflow

Like so many who work in service in Cleveland with LMM, Cynthia Johnson has her own story, but hers started on the right side of the counter.  Then came the fall that would take everything away from her…but would also replace what she lost with toughness, faith and experience she now uses to help the people she serves.

Property Liaison/Housing Case Manager

His voice is gravelly, but oh so compassionate as the words roll out with statements that encourage naturally from his own experience.  When he was bullied by other kids from the neighborhood, his dad taught him how to throw punches and fight back.  He was a natural at fighting, so they started calling him “Stone,” because of his fists. Now he fights differently. He fights for people.

Project Coordinator, Housing & Shelter

James talks about his coffee “Wild Mountain Blueberry.” He chuckles, “got to see what this Blueberry Coffee is like.” James is enjoying life, it seems to me, in all its small and large ways. He says “I am grateful,” more than a few times. James seems at peace, how he speaks about living a meaningful life now, having come through many years in prison.

Community Coordinator of Gateway Dorm

Mike says he’s “a street boy and don’t take kindly to threats,” but in reality, Mike comes right back with actions to help and heal, keeping lines of communication open. Kindness is Mike’s MO.  A poster of Bob Marley hangs in his office, and Marley’s “Redemption Song” captures the theme of Mike’s life.  Mike often says, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” He is a force of acceptance and respect all bound up with his off-the-wall humor and professional demeanor.

Team Lead, Coordinator of Central Intake Dorm

The residents often swarm around Terry Vaughn as he walks through the halls.  He is generous of spirit and is connected with social service agencies across the city.  They know he is the one to go to.  He grew up in a chaos that lasted 40 years.  Yet, he met some extraordinary people along the way who helped him in the slow process of building structure in his life. For the past 7 years, 2100 has given an annual award to one staff person in honor of this extraordinary man.  It’s called “The Terry Vaughn Compassion Award”.

Housing Case Worker

For Preston, humor is the key to facing life’s challenges. His story is different from many of his colleagues because he grew up surrounded by a large and loving family and found success as he went out into the world. Still, he met with difficulties in life that left him homeless and feeling helpless. So, he brings his own shelter experience to the work he does every day at 2100. He shares his story to give hope to the clients he serves, sprinkling wisdom and humor along the way.

2nd Shift Monitor

Like the inspirational sign at the shelter says, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” Nate Batiste is not looking back. Instead, Nate is claiming the person he “always knew was inside.” Initially, Dave Blunt, Operations Director, rejected the idea of hiring Nate. But Dave came back and said, “You know what, I’ve seen a change in Nate. I’ll give him a shot as a floater.” Sometimes change happens from the outside- in, through routine and training that reinforce the individual’s character. 

Coordinator, Independence Dorm/Team Lead Coordinators

Nolan White has found his vocation…being of service to others.  These days, this commitment can be seen in what he does, but also in who he is.  The empathy he brings to those he serves cannot be learned from books. His compassion has been forged through the gritty realities of his life. Today, not only is Nolan still standing, he has committed his life to serving others.”

2nd Shift Operations Supervisor

Parrish speaks in a low-key way. This belies the power of his insights. He takes every opportunity he receives and finds his best self in the process. At the age of 27, prison set him down. But the plans he made there kept him on the path to where he is today, laid the groundwork for the future ahead, and helped define the legacy he hopes to leave.

Property Liaison/Housing Case Manager

I was a child when the Hough riots happened and that was my neighborhood. I had a red wagon. I used to take groceries home for people in the neighborhood. During the riots I decided I’d take that wagon, go out and do like the big boys were doing. Looting was not a good idea. I couldn’t put a big TV in a wagon, and then somebody took my wagon. I never saw it again. It was a heck of a night. 

Housing Case Worker, Dorm Facilitator

Surrounded by plants at her office desk, Kathy leans back in a relaxed pose – an inviting way of allowing shelter residents the time they need. I’ll see the resident’s face soften, shoulders less hunched; less in a hurry to get out what is so important, what needs to be said. I have the sense that Kathy knows herself well and this shows in her patience. 

2nd Shift Operations Supervisor

Coming of age is a challenge for all of us, but when the foundations underneath us shift again and again, many never find their footing in adulthood. Even with innumerable setbacks, China Brewer has emerged triumphant.

Operations Director

Despite his strong physical presence and a past inclination to “enjoy a good dust-up,” David is a man focused on the humanity of every individual he meets. Dave ensures this understanding of humanity is at the heart of the de-escalation training, Handle with Care, that every staff member is required to take at 2100. 

1st Shift Operations Supervisor

The name, Miss Ola Quarterman, keeps rolling off my lips, even a few weeks after hearing Rob’s story. She is lodged in my mind. Miss Ola was just one of Rob’s foster mom’s, but she’s the one who got him back on track. Rob says ‘She saved me!’ She is lodged in Rob’s mind as the person who saved him.

Coordinator of Emergency Dorm

Bill oversees the Emergency Dorm for those who are new to the shelter or want nothing to do with getting connected to services. It’s fair to say that, out of all the residents in the shelter, these are the individuals who have the least trust in any other human being, let alone those in authority. But, Bill has this way of starting a conversation.

Inclement Weather Alert: Men's Shelter at 2100 Lakeside is open. Please seek shelter!