The graduation ceremony held at the women’s transitional living facility, Sojourner House, 1702 Highland Ave., in Portsmouth Tuesday brought joy, excitement and purpose.
There was one graduate, Karen McCall, who is from Dayton, Ohio, that was recognized at the ceremony held at Sojourner House. Carmen Josey, founder and executive director of Sojourner House, said the ceremonies are conducted to make the women feel special who move through the program at the facility.
“We have had numerous graduation ceremonies like this one,” Josey said. “Some have been informal, but we are trying to do it as formal as we can now, just to make it a little more special for the women.”
Josey attributes the lasting transformation that McCall is experiencing at Sojourner House to God.
“It is not us. It is not this house, it is simply what God has done in Karen’s life,” Josey said. “Karen was ready and willing to change her life, and God was the biggest part of that. She (McCall) just hit the ground running, and ran with everything that she has learned from counseling, and finding employment. She has actually been employee of the month twice at her job in the short time that she has been there. She is now also living in her own apartment. She has done marvelously with her recovery, and I believe that if she continues on this way in her journey that more success awaits her.”
McCall said graduating from Sojourner House ignites excitement but she’s also felt a bit overwhelmed.
“I am feeling really, really excited,” McCall said. “I do have to be honest, I am also feeling a little overwhelmed because it is going to be a whole new journey for me, but I do have the support of my church, and family which has been instrumental in my life, and I am just thankful. I am really elated, just filled with joy.”
Guests at the graduation ceremony all took candles, lighting each as they went around the room and shared how they were connected to McCall, and how proud and happy they are to see her moving forward in her life.
“The purpose of the candle-lighting is to symbolize the light of Christ in our lives,” Josey said. “Because Christ brings us out of the darkness, and into the light so we use the candlelight to send our graduates off into the light of Christ.”
Brenda Hayes, one of McCall’s sisters, said she is extremely excited for McCall.
“I am just ecstatic. I just had faith. I knew that she was going to do it,” Hayes said. “I never doubted her. I never dwelt on anything from the past, I just wanted her to move forward, and that was my approach. It was just something about this time that was so positive, and it just felt different. I am just very excited for her. I just love her to death and I am so glad that she is moving forward.”
In taking one day at a time, the next phase for McCall will be to get more involved with her church, which is Pleasant Green Baptist Church in Portsmouth.
“My next step from here is stay focused, and take it one day at a time, and get more involved in my church functions now that I will have some free time, as I will no longer have the obligations that I have had here,” McCall said.
McCall said humility has been her biggest lesson learned.
“My biggest lesson has been in humbleness,” McCall said. “To be accepting of what God has in store for me, without whining. Just let it be, and know that all things work together.”
One word of advice McCall gives to current and future residents of Sojourner House is to have an open mind.
“When you come in here to the Sojourner House, come in here with an open mind and an open heart, and everything will be just fine,” McCall said. “Just be ready and willing to work on yourself, and just mind your own business. I thank God for all things, and today I am truly grateful.”
For more information regarding Sojourner House, contact Carmen Josey at 740-821-1188.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.