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Emily's Gift: How Hope and Trust Birthed the Hidden Talent of a Homeless Mother

The fascinating and inspirational story of a homeless mother who found her way out of a dark place and go on to do great things.

 
PRLog - July 19, 2011 - DALLAS -- HANOVER, NH, : No one expects to find themselves living in a homeless shelter—let alone having to take care of a small child under such circumstances. Many would perhaps resign themselves to self-pity and a dark future—but not Emily Cheek. When she found herself in that predicament, she kept putting one foot in front of another. Even when the months grew long and later arrivals to the shelter were able to move out and find employment before her—she held on to hope.

Nearly seven years ago, her hope took her down a wonderful new road—when she joined the staff at Wheelock Terrace, an Assisted Living community in Hanover, New Hampshire. Today, she has become a highly valued healthcare worker and a key member of the team that provides a warm home for many seniors. It presented the ideal intersection of hope and trust, allowing her latent abilities to awake from dormancy.

“When Emily first came to us, she couldn’t even look me in the eye, she was so demoralized by her long ordeal,” said Nan Abbot, Executive Director at Wheelock Terrace. “She was very down but also equally determined to get back up. That spark inspired us to give her a chance. Over the next few months, we began to see that she had a special passion and talent for serving our residents that we’d never seen before.”
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Throughout the next seven years, that spark of determination in Cheek would burst into a radiant flame warming all of the lives she touches at Wheelock Terrace, including both staff and residents.  She has moved steadily forward—and upwards—in her role as a healthcare specialist.  

In fact, she recently earned certification as a Licensed Medication Nursing Assistant, having completed the 80 hours of training required. She is well on her way to realizing her childhood dream of becoming a registered nurse. But her impact outweighs her job title.

“Emily is wise in such a way that the entire staff, including myself, seek out her opinion on a broad range of issues,” said Abbot. “We have all found that—more often than not—Emily’s advice and feedback on community operations is right on the mark.  Her secret is her amazing empathy—she can feel in herself how others will feel about something.”  

Abbot has a theory that Cheek’s gift of empathy didn’t just happen—like being born with blue eyes or brown—but is rooted in the adversity she faced so bravely.  Having felt alone and vulnerable, she feels compelled to befriend and encourage seniors, especially those dealing with health issues. In fact, after working several different positions at Wheelock Terrace—such as concierge—she asked Abbot if she could go “back to the floor” where she could more personally serve the residents.

Cheek knew in her heart that building close, personal relationships with the residents was what resonated with her heart more than anything else. The residents sensed her special desire to know them all deeply—not only for who they are but also for who they were in their younger years. She always seeks to make them laugh during every conversation, and goes the extra mile to connect with them on a peer level.

“I like to ask residents what they did in their lives—to take them back to their memories,” said Cheek.  “It’s the best way to really get to know them—to see who they were 20 years ago. I just talk to them as people and learn from them. I love that quote about the best place to learn is at the feet of any elderly person. It’s so true.”

Cheek’s love and respect for serving others must run in the genes to some degree. Her nine year-old daughter, Anastasia, helps with volunteer work at the community. Anastasia regards the residents as a kind of extended family—an affection they share.  Cheek’s mother also volunteers at the community and is a favorite with several residents. Sometimes there are three generations of the Cheek family on duty at once.

Whether an inborn gift or an empathy born of adversity, Abbot believes that Cheek has only begun to unfold her true potential and regards her as having a phenomenal  talent that will take her to the very top—referring to her as a “Bill Gates”.

Regardless of where—and how far—Cheek’s golden heart and seemingly boundless talent takes her beyond Wheelock Terrace, one thing is for sure:  The day she walked into a community full of seniors, this homeless girl had finally found a home.

ABOUT WHEELOCK TERRACE
Wheelock Terrace is a beautiful Assisted Living community located in Hanover, New Hampshire – home of the Ivy League Dartmouth College. Wheelock Terrace is just minutes away from downtown Hanover's many attractive shops and restaurants, a host of services, and all the cultural and educational offerings at Dartmouth. The community is also located just one mile from the world-class medical care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
The dedicated, professional staff of Wheelock Terrace is committed to assessing each resident's individual needs and providing the highest quality of care and service. The amenities offered at Wheelock Terrace ensure that residents and their families are freed from the daily chores and responsibilities that may otherwise be unmanageable, leaving time to concentrate on the things that matter most. For more information, please see Wheelock Terraces web pages located at www.terracecommunities.com.
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