I am ME
Elisa Etienne, a family support specialist helping end homelessness for Veteran families in South Florida, says her work has helped her “learn to remember that everyone has a story and no one person always makes the right choices; sometimes individuals need a helping hand to regain their footing and remind themselves that they are inherently good and blessed beyond measure.”
Shantel Sims, a Family Support Specialist for Operation Sacred Trust, says her work with the homeless community has taught her much about the strength of the human spirit. “I have seen people lose everything and never give up hope,” she says.
“More than one Veteran has talked about having it all one day and then finding himself living on the streets, a car, storage unit, bus stop, train station or abandoned building the next, having lost everything,” says Miguel Marquez, Outreach Specialist for Operation Sacred Trust.
For years, Ralph Lynn, a former Marine sniper in Iraq, suffered from undiagnosed PTSD. “My own relationship with my wife suffered to the point of divorce. After I got help, I am happy to say I am re-married to my best friend.” Ralph and his wife Michelle today help other Veterans through marriage and relationship education retreats offered by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.
Dianna Nash was raised in a single-parent household. “Because of that lifestyle,” she says, “I always wanted to be apart of a two-parent family.” But as an adult, Ms. Nash says her relationships failed. “Because of my failures, I sought love in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons.” Today, through Talk It Out Relationship Services in Roseville, California, Ms. Nash is helping couples and singles learn to build healthy, vibrant relationships by “talking it out.”
As a chaplain at Naval Station Norfolk, the worlds largest Naval Station, Lt. Sharon Wheaton helps military families find the strength and skills needed to navigate stressful lives. Chaplain Wheaton completed PAIRS Professional Training at the Hampton VA Medical Center in September to bring evidence-based, relationship skills classes to the Sailors, Marines and Coasties she serves.
“Relationships are everything,” says Charlotte Michie, a Cary, North Carolina marriage and family therapist. “If you have a good relationship with your spouse, you have it all even if you are sick and without money.” Next month, with assistance from her husband of 34 years, Charlotte will begin offering evidence-based, skills building weekends to help couples learn to create and sustain happy, successful marriages.
“Marriage and Relationship Education builds a resiliency in a couple that means they are more able to face the inevitable crises that come their way,” says Navy Chaplain Len Driskell, who serves more than 2,000 active duty and reserve Coast Guardsmen, their families, and the civilians who work alongside them as the Sector Charleston and Sector Jacksonville Chaplain.
Hampton VA Chief of Chaplains Sue Cross encourages her staff to have dreams and works to give them resources to be successful. She says PAIRS training helped her communicate when she needs support and encouragement.
Seth Eisenberg had a front row seat to the birth of marriage and relationship education. In an “I am ME” feature, he talks about early inspirations, challenges facing couples, and qualities for which he’d most like to be admired.
Susan Smith, founder of Muslim Family Matters, says relationship skills training helped her become more open, accepting and appreciative. As a marriage and relationship educator, she’s today helping other Muslim families learn skills to strengthen their relationships with each other.
Dr. Shirley Johnson began working for civil rights at the age of 10, inspired by the example of her father and leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks. As a marriage education instructor, Dr. Johnson today helps teens and young adults embrace what she calls “one of the greatest blessings human beings have been given.”
Cecil and Mary Robinson eat and breathe football and a passion for empowering couples to win at marriage.
For Kirk Johnson, skills training is the foundation for understanding and navigating matters of the heart. Widely known as “Mr. Matters,” Kirk teaches relationship skills daily to a worldwide audience through “Matters of the Heart” radio broadcasts from The Bahamas.
When couples began approaching Pastors Steffon and Audrey Josey about relationship issues, they realized they needed concrete, practical, proven solutions. Since training in PAIRS, they’ve touched the lives of hundreds of couples, singles and youth in the U.S. and internationally.
Fabiola Ana Torrez teaches relationship building skills to parents of special needs children in South Florida to help them face life together and give youngsters the greatest opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Lauren DelGandio came to a marriage education class in 2007 for skills to strengthen her marriage of 14 years. Four years later, she’s helped more than a 1,000 others discover greater love, happiness and pleasure in their closest relationships.
Rachel Rubel, a Licensed Clinical Psychiatric Social Worker in Highland Park, Florida, said using the Daily Temperature Reading regularly created the foundation for her happy marriage.
Through the Fatherhood Program at the Shelby County Correction Center, Bree Kuykindall helps couples separated by incarceration discover that communication is key to healthy relationships and a building block to prevent recidivism.
Chaplain Ed Waldrop is changing lives for military and veteran families through his service at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. He delivers retreats as part of the partnership that was recognized as “Best Practice in Marriage Enrichment” by the Veterans Administration.