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Volume 60
Number 8
October 2009



Shercese’s Story
Your United Way donation gives hope to those in need.

blank Sherese
Shercese Jennings, holding her 2-month-old son, meets regularly with her case worker at Dayspring, a United Way beneficiary.

After abusing drugs and alcohol for years, Shercese Jennings hit a new low. In 2003, hours after she gave birth to her daughter at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Social Services took custody of the infant when it was determined she had cocaine in her system.

Hopkins nurses asked Jennings if she wanted help. Desperate to get her baby back, Jennings, the only child of parents who struggled with addiction and mental illness, accepted a referral to a six-month drug treatment program that began her road to recovery and regained custody of her now 6-year-old daughter. Then she entered the longer-term Dayspring Program, an East Baltimore facility that offers a safety net of resources—including counseling, substance abuse treatment, day-care services and housing—to about 300 women and their children a year.

"It’s so important to have these programs," says Jennings, 33, now a geriatric nursing assistant with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. "And we have to make sure they’re funded."

When the Johns Hopkins Medicine United Way campaign begins Oct. 26, Jennings plans to support Dayspring. Employees may make a pledge online or by paper form to the United Way of Central Maryland or a health and human service organization of their choice.

School of medicine, hospital and health system ambassadors and coordinators are rallying faculty and staff to help the institution achieve this year’s $1.5 million goal, says JHM campaign chair Stephanie Reel, vice president of information services.

"You never know the impact your donation is making on our community or a person in need—even your colleagues," says Reel. "We just encourage people to open their hearts and give. Whatever you can give, gives hope."

Along with a positive support system of family and friends, Jennings credits Dayspring with keeping her sober and drug-free and securing the subsidized two-bedroom apartment where she lives with her daughter and 2-month old son. Today, she’s engaged to be married, saving to buy her own car and planning to become a nurse. Raised by her grandmother, Jennings says she’s also been able to establish a relationship with her parents—her mother, whom she met for the first time in her 20s, and her father, who had written to her from jail.

Reflecting on her social, financial and emotional hardships, Jennings says, "I don’t want my issues to go from one generation to the next."


– Janet Anderson



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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