JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

Telling A Good Story


Cards created by the women of Burckle Place

It’s News Squib Saturday. Time to share the best, most interesting (or most entertaining, or most outrageous) tidbit of information I’ve gleaned from all the stuff I’ve read –or done. This week: There’s More Than One Way to Tell Your Story

About a year ago, I purchased a box of all-purpose cards during a fundraiser for The Lords Place, a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that provides housing and other services for the homeless of Palm Beach County.

Director of Women’s Services, Val Stanley (left) with Pam McIver

The cards were handmade, each one unique. I learned that they were created by the women of Burckle Place, a home in Lake Worth for eleven, single homeless women. On the back of each card was a little note which read: “The ladies take great pride in their designs, often sharing a story about why they decorated them as they did.

Sharing Stories

I immediately wanted to meet the ladies of Burckle Place, and hear the stories that had prompted the creation of the bright, colorful cards. It wasn’t till this week, though, that I finally got the opportunity thanks to my friend (and tennis partner), Pamela McIver who is on the Board of Directors of The Lord’s Place, and its former chairman.

Marcie with a selection of cards she has created in recent months

Each year, The Lord’s Place helps approximately 1,500 individuals to rebuild their lives, and provides safe homes for about 300 men and women and children at any one time. Residents are introduced to new opportunities including public speaking workshops, meetings with financial coaches, and cooking classes with gourmet chefs. They engage in therapeutic activities like sewing and creating cards which are sold to help raise money.

Losing A Home to a Hurricane

Nikki lost her home 12 years ago

Nikki’s card

At a get-together at the kitchen table at Burckle Place, I met Lisa, Felicia, Marianne, Marsha, Marcie, Latrice, Paulette, Pam, and Nikki who arrived at Burckle Place less than a month ago. Nikki worked fast, first to produce a baby shower card, and then a card (right) which she said could be used as a birthday card for a man. ” A Utah man,” she laughed, explaining why the card showed a man’s jacket with a pair of cutoffs, “That’s the way Utah men dress because the weather changes so fast from hot to cold. So they wear heavy jackets with shorts and flip-flops.”

She knew about Utah, she said, because she had lived there once — with a woman “who had 12 kids of her own.”  The woman took in Nikki and four other members of her family when she was moved from New Orleans by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency.) That was almost 12 years ago — after she lost her home in Hurricane Katrina.

“FEMA wanted to send me to Hawaii, ” she added, “but I said, no. I didn’t want to be anywhere near water!”

“Almost Killed”

Visitors at Burckle Place

Nikki’s long journey from New Orleans to Burckle Place  took her from Utah to Atlanta where she lived for seven years, and where she eventually met a man whose family lived in West Palm Beach. She then moved to Palm Beach County with him and stayed with him till “he shot and almost killed me.” After she landed in an AVDA (Assistance for Victims of Domestic Abuse) shelter, she applied for the housing program at Burckle Place.  She smiled occasionally as she told her story, and said it was okay to take her photo — something she had not permitted before because she was afraid of her abuser. “But, I’m not scared any more.  This place gives you a chance to catch your breath, and to move on.”

Stories For The Future

Marsha’s card: “The borders remind me to stay in line and focussed.”

Not all the ladies gathered round the kitchen table felt comfortable enough to have their photos taken. Lisa who had also escaped an abusive relationship was still reluctant to pose for a photo. She had arrived at Burckle Place almost three months before, and explained during a tour of the house that when the women are newly arrived,  “you share a room — and a closet.” She said she had left her home  with just three pairs of pants and two shirts. “So, when you arrive you really don’t need any closet space.”

From Homeless to Homeowner

Lisa’s vision board

Now, she shares a larger room, has a closet to herself and is studying for her Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources. Lisa has posted a vision board on her wall.  It’s a board with magazine photos of houses, and a car and a couple of cats and a watch, and photos of groups of people who could be families or friends.   She said: “I had all those things once. I did everything right. I got good grades; I was a teacher, I taught high school; I was a good daughter, a good friend. I saved money. Then, I married the wrong man.” The vision board however is not the story of her past; it’s the story of her future. That’s  why there are so many pictures of houses on the board, she explained.  “My mantra now is from homeless to homeowner. I want a home again.”














  1. Thank you, Joanna, for reminding me I have no problems.


    • It certainly could be that way, Don — especially when you see organizations like The Lord’s Place, and meet the people who work tirelessly in helping the less fortunate.

  3. The Lord’s Place took in a Mr Jackson on his eviction from 1801 N Fagler brought
    in by Liesel. Unfortunately they could only provide shelter and food for 2 or3 days.

    we ,Liesel, drove him up to his home in Arkansas where Liesel took a one yr lease
    on an apt as well as procuring a used car for Mr Jackson, attorney of note.

    One lie after another was Mr Jackson’s mo. He knew how to work the system.
    Liesel filed a complaint with the attorneys legal oversight dept which culminated in
    Suspension of his lic to practice law. A phone call to me defaming Liesel for destroying his life. My final utterence to Jackson telling him to take a close look at
    yourself in the mirror, gentley putting the phone receiver back on its cradle.

    liesel just told me that Jackson had passed. And not to be forgotte is HUCK
    BEE MR JACKSON’S cat who is now a permanent member of our family
    JACKSON’S CAT who we took care of until his dad got back on his feet.

  4. I worked in the inner city of Milwaukee for many years and I was in awe of the tireless work of people involved in helping those trapped by crushing poverty. These are the stories that rarely get told.

    • For sure, it’s truly inspiring and inspirational. Palm Beach County is no inner city, but as incredible as it may seem to some people, poverty and homelessness exist here, too.

  5. Pingback: Meeting James Patterson at The Palm Beach Book Festival - JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

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