Portland honors woman with Wings Award

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Annual award presented to a woman who has risen from tragedy to hope.

Each year, The Salvation Army’s West Women’s and Children’s Shelter in Portland, Ore., presents the Wings Award to a woman who has displayed the strength to overcome hardships, realized her self-worth and demonstrated a desire for further growth.

The founder and presenter of the award—a $500 grant—is a man who wished to honor his wife—a woman who had the strength and courage to leave an abusive first marriage. Women submit essays telling their story, including how the West Women’s Shelter has made a difference for them, the benefit of competing for the award, and their plans to use the grant money to continue their education.

This year’s honoree is a woman who—at age 31—became a widow and a single mother of three when her husband committed suicide. His abuse from the beginning of their marriage took a heavy toll on her self-esteem, making her feel helpless and useless. After his death, she started to use drugs and neglected her responsibilities as a mother. After two years of ineffective counseling and treatment, she gave guardianship of her children to her sister.

Starting to piece her life back together, she met “Mr. Right,” and they began building a life together. For financial reasons he suggested moving from Oregon to Washington, saying that when they settled in her children would join them. Once there, however, their communication actually decreased.

When he asked her to marry him, she felt like her life was complete. Unfortunately, this did not last. He started drinking and abusing her. She began to blame and question herself. Four years later, she found the courage to walk out.

Again, she felt lost and was barely able to seek help. Returning to Oregon, she was referred to the West Women’s and Children’s Shelter. There she found courage, realized her own potential, discovered how to overcome her past, and began to look to her future.

In her push to complete her GED, she has passed four of the five tests. Having something she has earned and can call her own excites her.

In her essay she writes, “I want to help other women who have been through or are still in abusive relationships and can’t seem to get out. It is hard, it is scary, but here at the West I learned that it can be done! I believe that this award will allow me to further my education, have a good job and support myself. I want to help others who don’t have the knowledge or the courage to do things they could if just given the chance.”

Patricia Mohr, West’s director, says, “Like every winner, she is a strong, capable, valuable woman, with something to contribute to her world. Our goal here is to help her and other women to further develop these qualities, giving them tools to establish healthy relationships.”

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