What was the biggest decision you made at 9 years old?
Maybe it was deciding who to invite to your slumber party or whether to do your homework before or after practice. Who would you be for Halloween – Batman or Superman?
For Karen Ahedo it was deciding to dial 9-1-1.
“Making the phone call was the best thing I ever did,” said Karen, now 25. “Honestly, it changed my entire life.”
Karen vividly remembers the night she finally made the decision to call for help; her baby sister agitated and crying; the yelling coming from downstairs.
“We were upstairs, and my mom and my dad were fighting. Though I never actually witnessed my dad lay a hand on her, I would just hear the repercussions, or I would hear my mom sobbing.”
Karen was sick of the fighting and worried about what could come next. They didn’t leave home that night, but she believes it was the catalyst to a move that changed everything.
“I believe that’s what made my mom make that decision, to find somewhere for a safe haven,” she said.
Not too long after, Karen’s mother picked her up after school, all their belongings in a bag. She recalls the words that changed her life’s course: “We’re not going home anymore.”
They went to Gateway.
“At Gateway everything fit,” Karen said. “You want to have a peaceful home to go to… Gateway was some place where we could be at peace and be ourselves.”
After a stay in the emergency shelter, Karen, her sister and mother were one of the first families to move into Gateway’s original transitional housing. To this day, Karen remembers Christmas morning there “as one of the best memories of my life.”
She and her sister woke up to a room full of presents. “I knew that those presents were from people who donated them and that means so much,” she said.
The experiences at Gateway changed her, but she also watched them change her mother. “Mom was more relaxed, more present,” Karen recalled, adding that her mother gained financial stability and learned parenting skills.
Karen believes those skills molded her into the young women she is today – a full-time college student studying occupational therapy so she can make a difference, the same way Gateway’s therapists and staff did for her family all those years ago.
She’s even interning at Gateway, the place that changed her life, and, now, a place that will define her future.
“I feel like this is home,” Karen said. “The women here have so much potential, but they need someone to help bring it out in them.”
“I believe Gateway is crucial. It represents hope and new life.”