Getting Ahead Offers Chance to Open Up

posted 12/31/20 -- Getting Ahead taught Gary how to open up and communicate with others while giving him a chance to believe in his own value.

Gary had been sleeping in portable toilets and abandoned trailers after he had to leave the apartment he had shared with his sister. He arrived at the Haven Center, operated by Lorain’s Neighborhood Alliance, and quickly became a key part of a new Getting Ahead class, held by Zoom due to COVID-19.

“Getting Ahead makes you think a lot about how your life could be better,” he said. “It brings back a lot of bad memories but it brings up a lot of good memories.”

Getting Ahead is a judgment free zone where participants can share as much or as little as they choose. Gary appreciated that aspect and still found himself sharing more than he expected to.

“It helps me open up,” he said. “I shared my ups and I shared my downs.”

Haven Center Director of Shelter and Emergency Services Outreach Gloria Olivencia said Gary was an enthusiastic participant in Getting Ahead. The group was cut short by two sessions when COVID arrived at Haven Center and shut it down. Gary is now staying at a hotel in Amherst.

“He is the most helpful person you can ever meet,” added GA Facilitator Nancy Ann Smith. “He has self taught computer skills and he’s always so quick to share them.”

The Haven Center class had been using laptops loaned by LCCAA and Gary was always helping with set up and questions, Olivencia and Smith both said.

“I was never late for class. I was always early,” Gary said. “I want to prove that I belong in a class like that. I jumped in with both feet and loved it ever since.”

In addition to completing his GA meetings, Gary is also anxiously awaiting a new Social Security card which he needs to make job applications. He hopes to reclaim the property his sister is storing and regain his job at Tyson Foods in addition to finding a permanent home. He said GA has made him feel listened to and help him put his best foot forward.

“Try it,” he urged others. “Don’t be scared. Take it in stride.”

New groups are forming for 2021. Contact Amy Steele at or 440-204-3121.