Recipes for Hope and Strength

Tajuana Cerutti, Communications Manager

When you meet Michele Parks, you can feel that she cares for the people around her. As a peer recovery coach for Hope Connections (a program under the Capacity Building umbrella), her job is to be a solid support system for Journeyers as they walk down the road to recovery.

One can tell that when Michele is for you, there isn’t much she won’t do to help you get wherever you are trying to go. As someone who overcame her own 24-year battle with an addiction, Michele understands what it takes to see a breakthrough. In her current role, she meets each Journeyer where they are and practices the golden rule to remind each client of all that they can achieve.

Michele lost her job in late 2019 and then something inside of her changed. The ongoing struggle mixed with financial insecurity brought her to a place of renewed determination. With her safety net gone, Michele decided to take a leap of faith and enroll in a program at Onondaga Community College. After years and years of wanting to pursue higher education, shifting circumstances had finally propelled her to fulfill a long-time desire.

Right before the pandemic hit, Michele was able to begin her studies, adding the clinical knowledge to her personal experiences. In the midst of an unprecedented time for students at every level, Michele was able to navigate new education models to complete her associate’s degree in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling. She started off as an intern for Hope Connections in September 2021, then joined the team full-time in May 2022 soon after graduating. 

Although her story isn’t finished, the chapters are filled with a number of significant victories. Michele currently works with several Journeyers in various stages in their own book, chronicling the ups and downs of life. The clients set goals and Michele uses her skills and different community resources to help accomplish them. Even though the progress can often times seem slow, it’s there.

When one Journeyer wanted to learn how to cook, Michele made it happen. She organized a monthly series where cooking lessons are provided using food items from the Fresh Food Distribution event held at the House of Providence. Open to Journeyers interested in learning this new skill, the class has used recipes to make baked goods, desserts, appetizers, and main dishes. The hope is to equip each Journeyer with the tools they need to make efficient meals that will nourish their bodies as they seek to enrich their souls.

The process that leads to hope is one that comes with many challenges. The moment hope is received, though, is the moment that makes all the difference. Michele and the staff on the Hope Connections team provide that encouragement and inspiration every day. They set each Journeyer up with the tools necessary to make a strong comeback, and the recipes for hope and strength to be better than the day before.



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