“I’m not good enough to wash a dog.” An odd thing to say during a job interview, but Jenny McDaniel, a former Community Lodgings affordable housing resident, said and felt that, when she applied as a dog washer at Your Dog’s Best Friends in Alexandria 10 years ago.
Look at Jenny’s history and her statement makes sense. She was pulled out of school in third grade to avoid embarrassing her teacher, a married father of two, who molested her. Unable to read or write, she dreamed of sipping coffee and reading newspapers like people at outdoor cafes.
Another molester in his early 30s gave her heroin when she was 13 years old, and Jenny was addicted immediately. Finally, she had respite from her short life of abuse, pain, neglect and molestation. For the next 27 years she stole and lied — anything for a heroin fix and its numbing escape.
She was 18 when she was first sent to jail for stealing a box of crayons for her young son, and spent the next 22 years in and out of jail, unsuccessfully trying to stay clean. Finally, she kicked her addiction at age 40, earned her GED, trained as a dog groomer, and left Baltimore and her 27-year heroin habit for good.
Paul Haire, the owner of Your Dog’s Best Friends, hired her after she called to thank him for the interview. When Jenny’s first client, a Community Lodgings staff member, tipped her $40, she gained the confidence to know she could succeed in a life without drugs.
But, Jenny’s prison background made it hard for her to find housing. Haire recommended Community Lodgings, and Jenny was ecstatic when the nonprofit accepted her. She moved into a one-bedroom unit, saved her money, and in 2011 she bought a three-bedroom brick home in Alexandria. Today her home has gleaming new floors, new appliances, and a new kitchen.
Today Jenny is a manager at Your Dog’s Best Friends and speaks about ex-offender rights. She credits Community Lodgings with helping her live independently, and will receive their Chris McMurray Award, an honor given to outstanding former clients, during their 30 Year Anniversary Pearl Gala on Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Belle Haven Country Club.
For more information about Community Lodgings and their upcoming gala, visit http://communitylodgings.org