Faces of Saint Leonard’s: Latrice

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Saint Leonard’s is rich with stories of resilience, renewal and reward from residents, staff, volunteers and service providers making a difference at Saint Leonard’s daily. As we prepare to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Grace House this year, we share Latrice’s story. From her arrival at Grace House to being a Grace House alumna employee leader – all while discovering theater skills she didn’t know she had.

Latrice, from Grace House

Ask Latrice Johnson how Saint Leonard’s Ministries successfully serves people, and she looks inward to talk about her colleagues.

“The reason why it works is because the people who are doing what they do, it’s in their heart,” she said.

Latrice understands the experience from two angles – as a former resident of Grace House and, today, as Resident Coordinator of the women’s residence on Adams street.

She views her role as one of service.

“My job is to work for them, provide for them. If they need conversation. If they are in need of things, a shoulder to lean on, a big-sister atmosphere,” she said. “Coming here gives you structure. And we help and try to guide them – first recognizing what it is they want to do. Sometimes it’s just recognizing who you are.”

That’s an awakening Latrice experienced when she engaged with the on-campus programs for theater and poetry.

Latrice was part of the Grace House players who wrote and produced “Coming Home,” a play they performed last year for Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker.

Latrice with Illinois First Lady MK Pritzker

In addition to theater, poetry has provided an outlet for Latrice to explore her past and explore the drug addiction she experienced in her 30s. In “Mental and Emotional” she writes:

Mentally and emotionally I’m in the past

How fast the past can have me crash, because it has taken me from the present

Being in the here and now

Wow just how far I go sometimes fast and other times slow

I have to stop and say wow don’t go

Today you’re okay

I stop and pray and can honestly say that it helps takes the anxiety away

I want to stay away from the past

Drugs haven’t been part of her life for the last two decades, as Latrice embraced sobriety when she arrived at Grace House in 2004. She started working here part-time in 2007 and full-time in 2009.

“I remember when I first got clean,” she said. “I, in my heart and soul, wanted everyone else that came through the door to get clean too. It took me years to think about, for years people wanted me clean and sober. It’s not going to happen for everybody. But it doesn’t change my view, and I still want it. I still put my all into to help them. And I love to see when a person first comes and how it goes on, how they change.”

Sometimes, that big change starts with a collection of small things – such as when residents make the habit to say “good morning” to others to start the day.

“The biggest thing is just to give yourself a chance. Nothing happens overnight. The same way that for years we did things to ourselves, now it’s just ‘Love you.’ Give you a fair chance, and let us try to help you.”

Words we should all remember, “Give you a fair chance.” Thank you for being a terrific leader and Face of Saint Leonard’s, Latrice.

If you would like a campus tour or to join us for lunch, you are more than welcome. Just call or email me and we would be delighted to have you join us on campus anytime.

Please consider becoming a part of the Faces of Saint Leonard’s with an one time or reoccurring monthly gift. If you have questions about Saint Leonard’s, our work, how you can get involved, or making a donation, we want to hear from you!

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