'I feel like I'm worth something'

Jane was happy all the time.

Newly married to her dream husband — handsome, hardworking and wonderful — she lived in her dream house in Cypress with her three children and was having success as a real estate agent.

It was in this bubble that she was met with a social worker one day after work who told her her husband was molesting her daughter.

"I think I died that day," she said.

From that day in September 2007 to today, the family has struggled to get back some sense of normalcy and searched in vain for someone to give them a hand to get out of their situation.

It wasn't until recently, when Jane found Project Self-Sufficiency in Huntington Beach, that she found someone willing to help and feels like her life is finally getting back on track. Jane asked that her real name not be used because of an ongoing criminal trial with her now-estranged husband.

After that day in September, the family never went back to their home and lost all of their possessions, Jane said.

She and the kids stayed with her parents in Los Alamitos.

Jane said she had a nervous breakdown and was never able to go back to her real estate job, instead turning the part-time job she had on the side into her full-time career.

"I felt like I had changed," she said. "I could no longer be around people."

Six months afterward, her youngest son was diagnosed with severe pediatric bipolar disorder and a disease that causes the back of his brain to grow into his spine.

"You want the world to stop after you're dealing with a tragedy, but it doesn't," she said of the diagnosis.

As the family struggled, Jane pushed for criminal charges, but her family pushed back. They just wanted to forget about it and move on, but she couldn't.

As Jane moved her family to an apartment in Huntington Beach, she struggled and continues to struggle to work full-time between her son's medical appointments and violent outbursts at school, her daughter's therapy appointments and her own.

She applied for services and assistance but was turned down for earning slightly more than the limit.

"How do I make too much money when I have no food in my house?" she asked.

It wasn't until she discovered Project Self-Sufficiency that she found someone who was finally willing to help her, she said.

Project Self-Sufficiency helps low-income, single parents work toward becoming economically independent through educational goals.

The program is coordinated by the Community Services Department to assist participants with scholarships, housing subsidies, child care, transportation assistance and job training.

Participants come from all walks of life, and it hasn't always been easy for some, Program Coordinator Brigette Beisner has said.

"Clients from all walks of life," she has said. "We have some folks that have really had a tough road."

The program started in October 1985, when the city decided to participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's national program.

With 25 years under its belt, the program is celebrating with events to highlight its programs, thank donors for their support and bring in new donors, Beisner said.

"It's the Huntington Beach [community] that has helped this program survive especially now when times are so tough for so many people," she said.

The program has seen an increase in people who need assistance and administrators hope to expand, Beisner said.

"I'd like to see us serve more people," she said.

For Jane, the assistance has made a difference for which she is grateful, but the real service the program has provided her with is compassion and concern for her welfare.

"I have not mattered in three years," Jane said. "I died three years ago."

Caring about Jane and her other clients is natural for Beisner, who said she shares their stories.

A single mother with an injured back and no job, Beisner said she needed assistance to get retrained at school. She had the support she needed to get back on her feet, and now she is paying it forward.

"It really feels like a full-circle moment for me," she said.

With the help of the organization, Jane said she has done a complete 180. She is back in school, going full-time online at night to Kaplan University, where she is working on part one of her educational goals. Her ultimate dream is a career as a sexual assault investigator.

"I have hope now. I feel like I'm worth something," she said.

If You Go

Project Self-Sufficiency is kicking off its 25th anniversary celebration with a "Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Please" event from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Newland Barn, 19822 Beach Blvd. Residents must make reservations by Wednesday by calling (714) 536-5263. A $25 donation is suggested.

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