By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. You may find Ilana teaching a dance class from time to time too. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.
Healthy minds and healthy bodies are key to recovery and empowerment for the women in our community. No one knows that better than Terri Wade, an N Street Village resident and our newest Wellness Center volunteer instructor.
It was only a few months ago that Terri became a regular of N Street Village’s “Strong and Fit” class led by volunteer Wellness Center instructor and personal trainer, Jean Simons. Terri started attending the weekly class after noticing that she had gained weight. Soon after beginning to work out with Jean, Terri started seeing weight loss results and felt motivated to keep moving. After a while, Jean noticed that every week someone in her class kept calling out the correct exercise count to help her. That person was Terri.
Jean quickly became a mentor to Terri. The two met for an hour once a week before Jean’s class. Jean taught Terri more about human anatomy and exercises that work different muscle groups, and they shared ideas about how to improve “Strong and Fit.” Jean then asked Terri to lead the cardio warm-up for class each week. As Terri’s knowledge grew, she and Jean realized that if Terri taught her own class, more women at N Street Village could work out regularly.
At first, Terri was uncertain whether she should teach a class for her peers. But Terri recognized that it is because she is in the same boat as other clients at N Street Village that she was uniquely qualified to lead a health class. She understands that women experiencing homelessness often carry the biggest loads — physically and emotionally – and that regular exercise can help ease their burdens. Jean agrees, adding that “Terri brings her understanding of the difficulties the women of N Street Village face when trying to improve their fitness.”
I had the pleasure of attending Terri’s first class, “Village Workout with Terri.” Terri timed her class to follow lunch so that the women could healthily digest their food and overcome the afternoon energy slump. Terri describes this as “cleansing with a purpose.” We started with slow stretches and bends, feeling out various muscles from head to toe. Terri calmly transitioned from move to move, telling us what to do at each step. As the playful music picked up, we moved more quickly, getting the benefits of a cardio workout. Terri even made time for each woman to come up with her own stretch for everyone else to follow. We all broke a sweat and felt great. I left the class singing the tunes of her workout track, and feeling ready to take on the rest of the day. Many of the women left telling Terri they would recruit others to join the class.
Leadership can come from anywhere and from anyone. Many volunteers at N Street Village do wonderful work in helping our women grow into personal and professional leaders. Jean selflessly gave her time to encourage and empower Terri. And clients like Terri have the drive to take on new challenges and give back to their community. As Terri told me, “no day is promised to you, so it matters how you spend it.” Terri is an inspiration to herself and to everyone else at N Street Village.