Caroline Contreras

(CHANGING LIVES)

In December of 2006 I was at the VA Hospital; at the time I was suffering from PTSD and after my treatment I was homeless; the VA referred me to go stay at Beth El. During that time it gave me an opportunity to get a job, save some money and get an apartment. I was so grateful for what they did for me I started going back and donating hygiene items, toiletries, toothpaste and about 6 months later I was talking to the director (Toni Dolan) and she had mentioned that they had an opening as a residential counselor, so jokingly I said “so what, are you offering me a job?” And she thought about it for a minute and said “as a matter of fact, I am.”

When I arrived at Beth El all I had was my GED, so I could get minimum wage jobs. I worked at Beth El for about six months. After that, I got a job as a night monitor at an inpatient rehab program in Bridgeport for people with mental health and substance abuse issues. I received further education and went through the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to get 6 months of training.

Since then I was able to become a CIT (counselor in training). I got my bachelors degree and last month, I graduated with my masters degree in social work, so now I am an LADC, which is Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and I am a supervisor and admissions coordinator.

The Beth El Center is hope and change. I felt quite hopeless when I arrived there; I did not believe my life had meaning or purpose. While at Beth El, not only did I find people who treated me with respect, I wasn’t judged. I was encouraged to be more than I could be. They actually offered me a job and said “we see something in you”.

When I first heard about the United Way of Milford, I saw all of the places that United Way supports and I asked people at Beth El “so the United Way is a part of what goes on at the Beth El Center?” and I remember them saying “We probably wouldn’t exist without the United Way.”

I had no idea until I was at Beth El what the United Way does locally; I had no idea that the United Way cared about citizens, about people that are having a hard time here in Milford. When I left the VA I had a change of clothing and 36 cents to my name. And now today, its a whole different life; I never would have imagined I would have been here. So the role that the United Way of Milford played makes me want to do my part so that more people know what they do.