Every gift made to Homeboy Industries assists and helps to
provide hope for an individual seeking a second chance.
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Your gift will make a positive impact in the lives of many
formerly gang involved.
“I’m continually under construction,” says Dorene Macias of her journey at Homeboy Industries. “I even have a T-shirt that says that—but I don’t wear it to work.”
At her job as Homeboy’s Mental Health Administrator, Dorene is usually dressed stylishly and professionally in vintage wrap dresses or fitted slacks. Compliment her look and she’ll excitedly confide that she found a couple of the pieces at Homeboy’s “Clothing Closet” of donated items. She takes a similar full-disclosure approach to her work with clients.
She asks people who approach the mental health cubicle which agency referred them. If it’s the Department of Children and Family Services, she asks to see their “safety plan,” which outlines the courses and treatments parents must pursue in order to regain custody of their children.
“I say, ‘That looks just like mine,’” Dorene says. “I see that look in their eyes—of desperation.”
Dorene, whose face was shown in close-up in the opening credits of Orange is the New Black, can read the faces of others quickly. When clients learn that the woman on the other side of the counter once struggled like they did, she invites them to sit down with her, and she shares her story. Several years ago, she fell into a spiral of addiction, partially in response to the domestic violence she experienced in her relationship. She thought she was holding it together, but then DCFS showed up.
“I’ll never forget seeing the look on Daniel’s face when they took him from me,” she says.
But she’s clear about one thing: “So many people badmouth DCFS, but they’re not the enemy…. I tell people, ‘If you do what you need to, you can get your kid back. But you have to be accountable.’”
Dorene got clean, took anger management classes, participated in domestic violence and substance abuse groups, and saw a therapist at Homeboy.
“I learned I had a voice, and I learned to use it in a healthy way. I learned to ask for help,” she says.
When Homeboy had an opening for an executive assistant to the CEO, she let Homeboy leadership know she was interested in improving her computer and administrative skills. She got the job and joined Homeboy’s full-time professional staff. Nine months later, she applied for her current position in the Mental Health department.
Today she takes classes at East Los Angeles College with the goal of becoming a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist.
“My classmates [in criminal justice and psychology classes] ask, ‘How does a person get to that point?’ I say, ‘I can tell you.’”
As anyone who has experienced trauma knows, transformation cannot be summarized by tidy before-and-after snapshots. Fr. Greg says: “Healing is messy and human and gut-wrenching and hilarious, and it is not a precise science.”
“I still hear the voices of fear and isolation,” Dorene says. “It’s an ongoing struggle, but I don’t allow it to hinder me. I’ve learned to call someone—a friend or my sponsor—and they’ll bring me back to reality.”
Dorene’s reality is looking bright these days: She hopes to transfer to a university, purchase a home, write her life story, and work as a parent mentor with DCFS, using her own experience to help other families. Her grandson graduated from eighth grade and already has multiple scholarships to a prominent private high school.
“He’s very intelligent,” Dorene says proudly. “Not just school-wise, but life-wise.”
Dorene knows a thing or two about the wisdom that transformation brings. She observes: “The cubicle I work in now is the same one I walked up to when I first came to Homeboy with that paper from DCFS.”