For Charlotte Arnold, St. Charles Parish represents a new beginning, as well as a major transition in her life. She’s found her new community, known for rallying around its own in times of need, is living up to that reputation – with one kind-hearted resident in particular providing a push to her fresh start.
Arnold recently moved to St. Charles Parish from Anchorage, Alaska as part of A Safe Space of St. Charles’ Domestic Violence Advocacy and Support Program. Part of the sheltering program sees clients meet with staff for coaching as they create goals and savings plans. Arnold, on the heels of a major move and getting situated with her work and finances locally, was progressing toward the goal of saving enough to purchase a car for transportation, but it was a high hurdle to clear.
That hurdle was knocked clean over when she learned someone had donated a car to her, allowing her to shift her focus on saving for housing — and be able to move about freely on the road, as previously A Safe Space had supplied her transportation when needed.
“It’s such a blessing … an unexpected blessing that I received,” Arnold said. “You’re so grateful to have those kind of kind, graceful people in the world. I came here not knowing anyone, I have no family here. I was focused on saving for my own transportation, and out of the blue, I’m blessed with a car.”
The donor, who asked to remain anonymous for this story, was moved to make the gesture after hearing Safe Space Executive Director Shirley Sims speak about the program and its clients.
Sims’ fellow Executive Director, Ivy Williams, said the donor made a real difference for Arnold.
“We’re so grateful for this,” Williams said. “Charlotte had been saving for a car, and it was hard for her. This is a blessing and a big help for her in this process.”
Arnold relocated two months ago, and initially had been utilizing transportation provided by Safe Space to get her to and from work, which was across the river from where she was staying. Charlotte, according to program directors, is an example of a success story: she had secured a job within a few days of arriving at the shelter and has been steadily proving herself and climbing the employment ladder, and is working diligently at reaching her goals.
“I just got the oil changed,” Arnold said. “You never expect anything like this, and I can’t thank (the donor) enough. (The car) is nice, but honestly it could have been anything … could have been an old Pinto, and it would have been beautiful to me all the same.”
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Arnold found herself in Alaska by way of her program transition. It seems about as far a contrast from Louisiana as one could envision by how the two states are typically thought of, especially in terms of weather. She said that part hasn’t fazed her.
“It’s not so bad up there, not like people think. It’s such a dry cold,” Arnold said. “Sometimes, it feels colder here when the temperature drops because of the marsh. But I’m loving it.”
Perhaps more predictably, she’s enjoying the change in local cuisine.
“I’m stuffing myself with seafood gumbo and fried catfish, it’s all so good,” she said with a laugh. “Up there, it’s moose, deer meat and salmon.”
While she said she still has plenty to sort out and plan going forward, the one thing she feels rather sure of is that St. Charles Parish will be her home for a long time.
“It’s my fresh start. This is where I want to be,” Arnold said. “I’m focused on what I need to do and what I need to strive for. I’m just grateful. Doors have been opening for me left and right since I’ve been here. I’m doing a lot of prayer and meditation … I know I’m here to stay. I’m going to see now how God is going to use me going forward.”