Rarely in life do you get the opportunity to experience something that comes full circle. You never expect it to happen, but when it does, it’s an unforgettable moment.
In 2005, I helped lead a multi-million dollar capital campaign on behalf of Child and Family Charities to build a house in Mason for abused and neglected children. It became known as Angel House.
This summer, I visited Angel House to thank all the volunteers and sponsors who were building a new playground for the young women and their toddles who live there.
While I was there, the CEO of Child and Family introduced me to a young woman who was volunteering on the project. I thanked her for giving of her time and she said no, THANK YOU! Thank you, for building this house.
And then she went on to tell me a story that I will never forget.
Cristina Mireles and her two sisters came to Angel House in the middle of the night afraid and hurting. It was 2008 and she was 17 years old. But she remembers that time in her life– like it was yesterday.
“It’s very overwhelming. I haven’t been here in quite some time. It’s very emotional and very rewarding at the same time,” she said.
Before arriving at Angel House, the girls were in foster care for about a month but it didn’t work out. They were sent back home to live with their mom and step-father and their nightmare continued.
Cristina said, “We just lived it for another year.”
Cristina shared with me that her step-father had been sexually abusing her since she was 5 years old.
That’s when Rhonda Earley, a mental health therapist got involved and after two sessions with Cristina, Earley contacted the police. It was a detective who knew about Angel House who suggested the girls should go there.
Angel House provided her with a place where she didn’t have to be afraid anymore and knew she would be protected.
“Home was not a good place for us. We weren’t safe. It was not a good place to be. It wasn’t a home and Angel House brought that to us,” Cristina said.
Angel House and the caring staff were there for them. Night after night, day after day, providing them a sense of security, helping them heal and allowing the three girls to stay together in one room.
Cristina said, “Which was very special because I know how hard it is with 3 children, especially with foster care. So for us to stay together, it was really special.”
Cristina remembers celebrating her 18th Birthday while living at Angel House and her older sister did something very special for her.
“She asked me what I had wanted. I told her, I want to go back to when I was 5. I wanna go back to when we were little, so I can start over. I don’t wanna be 18. I don’t know what my life was. I don’t know how to be an 18 year old yet. So she made me a card and it said, “I know you want to be 5 but I know you’re 18. You’re gonna be strong and ohooo she did that for me!”
But that wish to be 5 again and re-creating a safe and secure childhood is playing out now right in front of her eyes. As she and her sister both married are raising their daughters together.
Rhonda Earley, a mental health therapist for the girls says, “I have watched them, her particularly, become very well educated. Well adjusted. Fabulous mothers. Hard workers. They’re just beautiful wonderful young women. “
As a reminder of how she’s made it through those dark times, Cristina shared with me an essay she wrote in college called “Rebirth” …
She reads it, “We were taken to a beautiful shelter that day. I was reborn. We were actually safe and sound and in a real home. I did make a wish that day. I wished that my sisters and I would never again be in an abusive situation. I wished that we would be happy from here on out. ”’
“So now I can sit here today and I can talk about those things that happened and I know I’ve grown a whole lot. And I am a completely different person.”
Recently, the four of them attended the ribbon cutting for the playground that Cristina helped build. At the house where the people inside were her angels.
Cristina says, “It’s so special. So special. I never knew the reason why I went through everything I went through. I just didn’t understand WHY. I mean, who has to go through something like that.”
In fact, she credits Angel House with saving her life.
“It gave me a place where I knew that I could be somebody. I could figure out who I was. I didn’t have to be afraid anymore. I could speak up. I could use my voice. I needed Angel House.”
The girls’ step father, Brian Keith Edwards, 54, was convicted of two criminal sexual conduct charges and served more than 8 years in prison.
Next month he will complete his two-year probation sentence.