A story of friendship and resiliency from the women at St. Margaret's House
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- “She is my hugger and my fighter and my conscious, she is just all around awesome to me and I love her for loving me,” says Connalita Stewart. “This is my conscious. I can be getting mad about something, and I can just hear in the back of my mind, you know you failed that test righ.t”
“Strong, loving, sense of humor, just beautiful inside and out, but they don’t see the beauty you see,” says Kimberly Clark. “The joy, the laughing and crying to verbalize anything. I do not judge her I love her unconditionally. And she is the best thing with sliced bread.”
“You can do lots of things with sliced bread,” says Stewart.
When Connalita Stewart and Kimberly Clark first walk into a room together one thing shines bright. Their bond.
“You cannot say anything about her because that is my friend, keep it to yourself because I get defensive, and I know she is my friends and I know it is vice versa, do not say anything about me,” says Clark.
But their friendship runs deeper than what meets the eye. The two friends first grew their friendship supporting one another through past traumas of domestic violence, sexual assault, and even, battling cancer. Both of them, proving to be walking miracles.
“They said I would be a vegetable, and it was a struggle,” says Clark. “They said I would have to relearn how to walk, talk and see again, it took me 2 years to bounce back, and when I say I lost everything, and I lost everything, including part of myself. She has been in my shoes. She has lost everything before, so she knows exactly how I felt.”
This friendship that feels like a lifetime first started 7 years ago at St. Margaret’s House. The day center located in Downtown South Bend welcomes women and children who live in poverty. The center provides free meals, showers, clothes, and a safe space to come to, but even more so, a community to join.
“For us as women we need to know that someone is there, and they know how we feel,” says Clark.
St. Margaret's offers several resources such as classes to help women face past traumas and move forward, or even access to hobbies like art and yoga. Women walk through the doors to find a judgment free zone -- a place to come to and connect.
“We understand that the question to ask is not what is wrong with you but what has happened to you and when you approach it in that light it removes all judgement, and when you ask it you actually find awe in this women’s resiliency, and what she has overcome in life,” says Katie Eliiot, Executive Director of St. Margaret’s House.
“If you hungry you going to get fed, if you need a shower you get clean, if you need a hug you going to get that,” says Stewart. “If you are a person that really wants to better yourself, they want to do that for you, they want to see you better,” says Clark.
“They helped me to realize I am still worth it,” says Stewart.
“Just the unconditional love I have received here, this is my second home, I do not get judged when I walk through the door, I do not get ridiculed when I walk through the door, they just welcome me,”says Clark.
Stewart and Clark continue to be a testament to the community at St. Margaret’s house. Now, the two have yet another battle to take on together. 13 years later, and Stewart’s cancer has returned, but this time, she has her best friend by her side through it all.
“Connalita are you going to make it through this?”
“Yes, ma’am as long as I have King Jesus and my best friend. I am going to fight, like the 7-day spider, I am going to fight”
No matter the trials, no matter the tribulations, the two will walk…together.
“Well, I look at it this way, if we have been down the only place to go is up, if you can look up, you can get up,” says Clark.
“This bond keeps us remembering we made it, let’s see who else we can help,” says Stewart. “God did not make a mistake when he put us together.”
The St. Margaret’s House Winter Walk is this Sunday, February 20th at 2:30 p.m. Walk alongside the women in solidarity. Find out how to participate and other ways to support St. Margaret’s here.