2011 Stuart G. Moldaw Step-Up Award – Vanessa

Just a couple years ago, Vanessa was living on the street. Now she works in one of the tallest building west of the Mississippi and lives in her own apartment. As a security professional for Universal Protection Services, she is assigned to an iconic tower in Los Angeles. “The security business is all about protecting people, which is easy for me because I’m a mother,” she says. “It’s also about being friendly.”

Vanessa’s journey to get where she is today has not been easy. It began when she and her daughter moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles to get a fresh start in a new life. Things took a wrong turn when friends they were staying with lost their home. Before long Vanessa was not only jobless but homeless. She went to Weingart Center Association hoping to find shelter and a job. What she found was a new life and a group of friends and supporters she views as her family.

In addition to taking courses in job readiness, Vanessa entered Weingart’s Women’s Renaissance program, which provides housing and support for up to two years. “I found that there were a lot of things that Weingart offered to get you back on a path to success and so far it’s been working out to my advantage,” she says. “I don’t think I could ever thank a company as much as Weingart. I tell other people that they will get everything they want only if they put forth the effort. Nothing is going to be given to you just because you think you deserve it.”

The Stuart G. Moldaw Step-Up Award is an annual honor, named in memory of one of REDF’s founding board members. The award is given to employees of REDF-supported social enterprises for their tenacity and courage in overcoming significant barriers to employment – like people who have been homeless or in prison, young people who’ve dropped out of school or people with mental health disabilities.