My name is Tenisha Sanders. I am a mother of three and a grandmother of three.
In my early years, I was a social butterfly. I spent a lot of time mixed up with the wrong people, places and things. The things those people were involved in, I thought would never affect me. But I was wrong.
On May 28th, 2010, I was walking to the cardiologist with my youngest daughter, when I was surrounded by six vehicles. The police jumped out and they said my name. They told me to put my hands behind my back and that I was under arrest.
I will never forget the look on my 11-month old daughter’s face. She just didn’t know what was going on. Her first birthday party was planned for the next day. It never happened. Those decisions cost me five years and six days of my life. From May 28th, 2010 until June 3rd, 2015 I was incarcerated.
“I will never forget the look on my 11-month old daughter’s face.”
During the time I was away, I worked every day from 8:45 A.M. to 12:45 P.M. for 16 cents an hour. My only support was my family. My mother at this time was battling brain cancer, but she still remembered what was important to me, my birthday, special things I like to eat.
I lost so much. Material things you can get back 10 fold, but while I was incarcerated, I lost my mother to brain cancer. I lost my grandmother to liver disease. I wasn’t able to tell them I’m sorry and say my goodbyes. During this time, I also had to endure the foster care battle for my baby daughter.
After my release, I entered the city shelter system, and my case manager told me about ACE. I came to ACE in October 2015, five months after my release. At ACE, you receive educational classes, certifications, job search assistance, and hands-on work experience to get you used to being back in the workforce.
“I worked everyday from 8:45 A.M. to 12:45 P.M. for 16 cents an hour.”
I started out and learned the ACE sanitation routes. It wasn’t really that hard, it was just a matter of motivating yourself. I got my work routine in order. People around the neighborhood started telling me ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ and I felt appreciated, it motivated me more. My supervisor, Steve, had me train people on the routes. It just felt good that he trusted me to show people what to do. Between my peers and the staff, it was like family.
ACE set up an opportunity for me to be part of a 13-week internship program with a company called UNIFORM, where I had the experience of steaming, packing and shipping orders.
At the end of the internship, my boss at UNIFORM gave me a special t-shirt, which represented women dealing with domestic violence. The t-shirt says, “Today I am brave” and that spoke to me.
Today, I am brave.
During and after the internship, I continued classes and job searching at ACE, and I’m proud to say, On June 28th, 2016, I found employment at a hostel in New York City.
“Let me tell you something, as long as I have the strength in me to do it, and I am able to do it, I am going to do it.”
I started as a housekeeper and, in February 2017, I was promoted to Supervisor of Maintenance. I do everything at my job. I fix showers, I fix sinks, I fix doors and I clean. It’s not for everybody. My co-workers call me “the go-to girl”. Let me tell you something, as long as I have the strength in me to do it, and I am able to do it, I am going to do it.
Recently, I was talking to my oldest son. He told me, “Big baby”—he calls me Big Baby—he said, “I’m proud of you. You came home and in less than ten months, you got your own place and a job, and you are getting your baby girl back.”
Today, I’ve got my own one bedroom apartment, a full-time job, and a wonderful relationship with my children. I love it. I love my life.
It takes hard-work, dedication and courage to overcome the extreme circumstances that Tenisha faced. Partners like you make the entire journey to independence possible. As our city faces a crisis of homelessness, please help these men and women achieve their goals of economic self-sufficiency by making a tax-deductible contribution today.