“I was a drug user. Lost my apartment and everything in it,” Vicki Wilson told me.
I ended up losing everything. On the streets, in and out of jail,” said Katherine Merrick.
“I lost my oldest son,” said Sandi Larson. “I lost my husband, I lost my other son.”
These three Everett women lost everything to addiction. They all felt hopeless and couldn’t figure out how to get their lives back on track. Then they met Judy Hoff.
“Looking at women that had beat up and beat down for many years due to loss of job, due to addiction. I have done a tremendous amount of work as a pastor and as a counselor with women. I saw over and over again that women would leave the jailhouse to the street to rehab to the jailhouse to the shelter to the street.”
So 14 years ago Judy created Queen, It’s a New Day. It’s an annual two day event in Snohomish County, where 100 women are chosen to come together and change their lives. On day one, Judy focuses on self esteem.
“Sixty hairstylists, nail artists, manicures, pedicures, chair massage plus the ladies get three new back-to-work outfits and a gala dress and shoes and purses and gifts and books. Fabulous speakers, like the ladies I’m here with today, who have changed lives.”
Each woman is assigned a mentor, who guides them through the day’s activities.
“Then the ladies go to a hotel that evening and they wake up in the morning and the whole mood has changed. They put on their back-to-work clothes, they have a job fair, a college fair. They have classes, goal setting. It’s about, let’s move on with your life and let’s find out who you really are, who God created you to be.”
The women are either nominated by a shelter, or the transitional housing they’re living in, or they nominate themselves. They need to tell Judy they are ready for a change.
Former Queen Katherine Merrick, was addicted to heroin.
“I was a professional at a major university, I had worked for the state of Washington for about 15 years. Little by little, gradually, my life was taken over by addiction. I ended up losing everything, on the streets, in and out of jail. When I first met Pastor Judy I had come directly from the hospital, shrunken up, hopeless, just a shadow of who I once was.”
Katherine says Queen, It’s a New Day instilled some very important messages in her.
“There is always hope no matter how far down the scale you have gone. You’re not what happened to you, you are who you choose to become. With all the love and support we got from Judy and other women like her, there is hope.”
And she has made major changes in her life.
“I am now a drug and alcohol counselor. I have been able to give back to the Queen program for four years now.”
Sandi Larson had been in out and out of treatment for years.
“I lost my oldest son. When he died, you’re not prepared for that. I couldn’t take it. So I went back to drinking that night and I hated hangovers so I latched on to the cocaine. I left my husband, I left my other son, I let me barber shop go. That addiction lasted 18 years.”
She says being around 99 other women at the Queen, It’s A New Day event is inspiring.
“Your story helped someone else. It may be similar, maybe it wasn’t the same drug or maybe they were beat up by two out of three husbands too. So you’re very instrumental in helping someone else know that you came through, they can to. That was the same for me, when I was in Queen, there were other women there. Especially the leader, Judy, she had been through her own addiction.”
If you want to nominate someone, or yourself, go to queenitsanewday.org.