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Real Story: She Invented A Coat To Help The Homeless And Did Even More

Real Story: She Invented A Coat To Help The Homeless And Did Even More

Veronika Scott possesses wisdom far beyond her years. Although she is only 26, Scott has already crafted her career path. She’s found her purpose and projects her sense of self-worth on to those in need of a gentle reminder. The Empowerment Plan is the brainchild of Veronika Scott. As founder and CEO, she empowers others to make a difference; a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

College Assignment Turned Career Path

It all began while she attended college in Detroit. Scott was assigned a project that would soon change her life forever. The assignment was part of a product design class and the purpose was to create something that solved a real world problem. The point was to focus on something that was applicable to society.

It was at this time that a visionary idea came to light. Scott came up with a unique jacket design that would be given to homeless people during the harsh winter months. The idea was for the coats to be made of highly insulated yet lightweight material. The back section of the coat is double layered. This double layer folds down after being pulled down and extends into a fully functional sleeping bag.

jacket

    Jacket design by The Empowerment Plan

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    The success of her unique coat design was a real accomplishment. Scott was often times referred to as the ‘Coat Lady’ by complete strangers. It became evident that this class project was becoming something that was legitimately helpful to a multitude of people. As Scott moved forward in life and graduated, she never forgot this class project or any of the vividly lit up faces to which she had helped provide a ‘security blanket’ for.

    Scott asked homeless people in Detroit what they thought about her jacket design, firsthand. The majority were supportive and excited. It was during one of these accounts that a homeless woman yelled: “We don’t need coats, we need jobs.” This person who spoke up on the issue was completely right. And thus the real second wave of the Empowerment Plan was born!

    Phase Two of The Empowerment Plan

    This request was not ignored by Scott. She was on a mission to help however she could and the most ideal means were to help provide a place for homeless people to work. Upon graduating, Veronika decided to further her efforts and expand The Empowerment Plan. In an interview with The Great Disconnect, Veronika was asked:

    “What was the transition like from graduating to actually creating this business?”

    Her response:

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    “It was a gradual transition that started with a meeting with Mark Valade, the CEO of Carhartt. I showed him my first, very well-designed business plan, which didn’t have much content to it, but it was very pretty. He funded it and invested in the materials and machinery that I would need to get started.

    Because of that, I had to do a lot of things quickly. Stage one was finding a place to put everything that Mark had just donated to me. What was interesting is that we found a space in the NSO shelter building: it was a closet that we painted green and put up a wall of cork in. It was so small that we couldn’t even build a full coat in it! It was a great start, though.

    The next stage was realizing that I was never going to be a seamstress. It didn’t make sense for me to make one coat each week; it wasn’t a sustainable idea, and it sounded like torture. I found a sewing teacher, but then had to find people for her to teach so we could start making coats. When we started looking for people to hire, the head of the NSO shelter said, “You know, we have hundreds of people who would come to volunteer with you if they just had the opportunity to do something every day.” I interviewed five people the first day, which was a surreal experience because I had never been on the other side of the interview table! A few people showed up; one woman came two hours early. I hired two people: Sig Sig and Elisha. They are both amazing individuals, and the work they did in the first six months pushed the company to become what it is now.

    Aside from financial support from Carhartt, we had only been funded by a tiny PayPal donation button on the site—that helped pay for both of the ladies’ salaries for nine months. I never had to ask for money; people contributed, and it was amazing. I didn’t get paid, but those two ladies did, and I had enough gas money to get to the shelter.

    It was astounding to see what Sig Sig and Elisha did with each of their salaries. They both worked the same hours and got paid the same, but Sig Sig didn’t have any children or family; Elisha did. Within three months, Elisha had moved out of the shelter permanently, found her own apartment, got it furnished, had her three kids enrolled in a charter school, and started her youngest on learning Japanese. During that same three-month period, Sig Sig was kicked out of the shelter, sleeping in her car, and had stopped showing up to work. I’m not saying anything bad about Sig Sig’s character; I had hired her right after she had gotten out of a decade in prison, and she was having a hard time adjusting.

    That experience made me think about who I needed to hire. I had to hire somebody who was going to show up to work not just because they needed money, but because they needed to put food on the table for their kids; someone who needed to know where they were going to sleep that night so that they could take care of their family. People told me, “You’re never going to get a homeless person to show up to work,” but I did. I did it by hiring parents who wanted a better life for their kids and, at the end of the day, that was the motivator for them. We now employ 15 women who were all previously or are currently homeless.”

    Scott proves that people in unfortunate situations can turn their lives around. She decided that simply creating a jacket that helps the homeless brave inclimate weather was not enough. At that time she decided to give these people what they truly desired: a chance at rejoining the workforce. A chance at regaining the comforts many take for granted; a fresh start.

    Nonprofits can lower crime and homelessness rates through the help of communities and the creation of jobs. This was the forefront of an expansion of The Empowerment Plan.

    Ideas like The Empowerment Plan are excellent ways to help those that are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. These types of nonprofits are great alternatives to the circulatory nature of homeless shelters and may even segue into effective alternatives to incarceration. Those individuals don’t need to be criminalized that’s simply hurting not helping. They need consistency and a realistic job that pays a livable wage.

    Veronika Scott is not any ordinary entrepreneur, she’s a social entrepreneur who’s main focus has remained constant since that motivational college project. Her kind heart and unique ideas have created a useful item that has since gained much reach across the United States and Canada. The Empowerment Project has produced over 6000 coats this year and have made over 9000 since 2011.

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    Upon reflecting on the incredible achievements of Veronika Scott, I was highly motivated to make a difference in my own community. The following are some ways that anyone can help through volunteer efforts.

    1. Volunteer Your Skills

    Everyone has some type of hobby or special skill that they enjoy. Do you shred the guitar? Consider giving free guitar lessons to youth in need. Do you love reading poetry? Project that to the world and organize poetry workshops in your free time. It doesn’t matter what the skill or hobby is; the special knowledge you possess is something that can fuel desires of those who are unfamiliar with what you love to do. Who knows, maybe people will be so motivated by you that they will one day love your favorite hobby as much as you do?

    2. Volunteer Your Time

    Sometimes people don’t want to focus as much on their unique skills for volunteering. In some cases simply volunteering your time is the most helpful approach. Tasks like directing traffic/parking at nonprofit events, serving food at soup kitchens, or spending time with animals in need at animal shelters are all ways to delegate your extra time. Sometimes these tasks may seem monotonous. Just know that when you volunteer your time, you’re helping complete tasks that usually are in deficits. A little bit of your spare time really goes a long ways.

    3. Random Acts of Kindness

    When was the last time you did something completely random and unselfish? Some ideas of random acts of kindness include: putting change in a strangers expired parking meter, buying the person behind you in line at a coffee shop their drink, or leaving a friendly note to a coworker on a whim. It can also be as simple as giving someone the type of day that they deserve. Random compliments are also great, when delivered in a tasteful and appropriate manner.

    4. Open Your Doors To Those In Need

    This is not the easiest thing to do, as most people really need their own space in order to stay mentally healthy. However in times of genuine need, opening your doors for someone to live with you temporarily and get back on their feet is extremely helpful and kind. Keep in mind there is a big difference between helping someone and being taken advantage of. It’s also important to make sure that you’re not getting yourself in an unwanted or unsafe situation. Keep couch surfers reserved to close friends and relatives in need.

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    Robert Parmer

    Freelance Writer

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    Last Updated on November 11, 2019

    Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

    Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

    A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

    You know how this looks:

    • Parents constantly comparing children.
    • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
    • Domestic violence.
    • Adultery…
    • And many others.

    For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

    Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

    Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

    This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

    In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

    If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

    How to fix a dysfunctional family

    In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

    And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

    Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

    It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

    Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

    Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

    There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

    Dysfunctional… Or just average?

    Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

    The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

    You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

    A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

    Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

    Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

    • Unrealistic expectations
    • Lack of interest and time spent together
    • Sexism
    • Utilitarianism
    • Lack of empathy
    • Unequal or unfair treatment
    • Disrespect towards boundaries
    • Control Issues
    • Jealousy
    • Verbal and physical abuse
    • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

    You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

    If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

    Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

    How to turn it around

    When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

    But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

    One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

    We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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    As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

    What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

    Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

    Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

    Correction is possible

    In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

    Verbalize it.

    All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

    Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

    This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

    But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

    So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

    Putting it to work in real life

    In real life it would be something like this:

    “OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

    Or:

    “Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

    Or:

    “Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

    As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

    This is what you have to remember:

    1-Stop.

    2-Why it’s wrong?

    3-What you need.

    And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

    It’s a family thing

    A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

    Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

    In other words, you will need cooperation…

    So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

    Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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    We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

    You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

    It’s not a free-for-all battle

    In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

    No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

    Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

    And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

    The method

    1. Drop the ego

    Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

    You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

    Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

    What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

    It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

    After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

    Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

    Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

    Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

    And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

    You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

    2. Not blame, but responsibility

    When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

    But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

    When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

    What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

    Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

    As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

    You will do something like this:

    “Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

    I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

    You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

    I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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    It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

    What happened here?

    We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

    We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

    We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

    And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

    You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

    This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

    3. Doing the work

    What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

    This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

    Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

    If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

    It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

    “When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

    I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

    But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

    You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

    Love is all you need

    You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

    That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

    And what happens if it simply is not there?

    What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

    What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

    There is only one thing you can do:

    To break away.

    Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

    There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

    “We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

    If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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    Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

    You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

    Putting distance

    So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

    What do I mean?

    Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

    Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

    Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

    Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

    They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

    Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

    I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

    I choose my peace of mind.

    And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

    Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

    Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

    How to prevent it

    There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

    • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
    • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

    Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

    You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

    Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

    Priorities and clear thought

    You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

    You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

    You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

    Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

    If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

    And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

    Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

    But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

    Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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