Christ for Kids Ministries raises up the down-and-out

Christ for Kids Ministries raises up the down-and-out

Tiana Goodwine fell through the cracks.

Kicked out of her house at the age of 13, Goodwine was sent to live with her godfather’s mother in what she calls “the ‘hood.” The woman caring for her did the best she could but it wasn’t enough for a child who needed decent clothing, nutritional food, school supplies and parental guidance. Three years later she found herself on the streets, choosing what she thought at the time would be a better life.

It wasn’t.

Tianna Goodwine is trying to find an apartment and applying for jobs working with animals. (Velvet Spicer)
Tianna Goodwine is trying to find an apartment and applying for jobs working with animals. (Velvet Spicer)

“I left this lady’s house when I was 16 because it was horrible for me,” Goodwine, now 26, said through tears. “I was doing a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do. I even trafficked myself just to make a living for myself.”

Homeless and alone, Goodwine at 16 was raped, an experience that prepared her for years of abuse and exploitation on the street, she said.

“When it happened it opened up a whole new world to me,” she said. “I was able to sleep with people for money to be able to eat and have a place to stay.”

Goodwine fell in with the wrong crowd, and at 17 went to Pennsylvania, where she lived with others under Heinz Stadium, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I was in the cold. I remember being in this tent community underneath Steelers’ stadium,” Goodwine recalled. “We would build little tent houses with crates and we would put a whole bunch of blankets over them to keep the rats out. Because at night, they wanted to be warm too.”

The individual who took Goodwine to Pennsylvania left her there but eventually she made her way back to Rochester, where she joined the many other young boys and girls who were being subjected to sex trafficking and other abuses.

“You get used to being in a tent community where we stick together because all we have is one another,” Goodwine said of the various locations around the city where the homeless set up makeshift sleeping arrangements using tents and other items to shield themselves from the weather and prying eyes. “And if we didn’t stick together there was nothing for us.”

In 2011, Goodwine was diagnosed with a rare condition that causes muscle inflammation and loss of mobility. She was hospitalized with paralysis from the neck down, but eventually recovered and has regained most of her mobility.

Despite years of living on the streets, not knowing when her next meal would be or who she’d have to please for a warm place to sleep at night, Goodwine does not wallow in self-pity.

“I used to feel bad for myself,” she explained. “I don’t feel bad for myself anymore because if I hadn’t gone through the things I went through I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been through so many miracles.”

Goodwine is holding her own now, off the streets, trying to find an apartment and applying for jobs working with animals. Help came for her in the form of a classmate at beauty school.

“I was really in a bad place and this lady came up to me and she was like, ‘Hi. I just want to tell you I love you, Jesus loves you,’” Goodwine recalled. “She didn’t even know me and she gave me a hug and it was like everything that I needed.”

When Goodwine tells the story of how she met Julie Chapus in September 2016, and what that chance meeting has done for her, she chokes up.

“It’s been an amazing journey—very emotional,” Goodwine said. “I was really broken.”

Julie Chapus, right, works on Tianna Goodwine during Goodwine’s Model Day makeover in Janaury. (Velvet Spicer)
Julie Chapus, right, works on Tianna Goodwine during Goodwine’s Model Day makeover in Janaury. (Velvet Spicer)

Chapus, 41, is the director of Christ for Kids Ministries, a nonprofit organization she founded shortly after writing her first book, “Your Feelings and What God Says about Them,” in 2012. She said she was called on to help youngsters better understand the word of God in a fun, creative way.

Chapus wrote two more books: “The Blame Game” and “Thankful.” Each of the books helps kids understand emotions, overcome problems and be thankful for what they have. In 2015, Chapus again was called on to make a difference, this time by going to beauty school in order to open a school of her own for young women who have been victims of human trafficking.

Chapus’ excitement over the project is contagious.

“When you’re in the beauty industry you’re making other people feel good, and that’s going to make you feel great about yourself,” Chapus said with enthusiasm. “It’s going to be a cycle, in a good way.”

Until Miss Julie’s School of Beauty is fully up and running, however, Chapus has thrown herself into another project, an endeavor that has helped Goodwine come out of her shell. Miss Julie’s Hair Studio LLC was born of an idea Chapus had after practicing her new hair and makeup talents on her daughter and her daughter’s friends, as well as her prayer partner, Amasharay McDonald.

Model Days are designed to help young women—some of whom are victims of trafficking, others just heading down the wrong path in life—feel beautiful and confident. Chapus does hair and makeup for the women and a professional photographer takes photos of the girls.

“It just kind of organically happened. We never expected it to grow into its own program, but it definitely has,” Chapus said of the Model Days. “When I started to realize this is helping girls who are going down the wrong path, that’s when me and my ministry partner got together with our photographer, and we’re like, this is really some serious work and I think we should contact some programs around the area (to find clients), especially ones that deal with the human trafficked victims. Because who needs a makeover more than them, just coming off the street?”

Held monthly, Model Days are free to the women who participate. While in the studio, girls are served a variety of refreshments, and the photos, taken by volunteer Mary Winseman, have scripture or encouraging words attached to them. A mix of encouraging and uplifting music plays softly in the background as the women are transformed.

Goodwine first participated in Model Days in October 2017 and again in January. Because of her dire circumstances, Chapus also arranged a fundraiser for her through Christ for Kids to help with a security deposit, and has helped her with her resume and apartment hunting. And she has taken Goodwine on field trips, including to see the monks at the Abbey of the Genesee.

Prior to her most recent Model Day, Goodwine and Chapus visited Angels of Mercy Inc., a nonprofit organization run by Mary Jo Colligan, whose mission and focus is to help women and girls achieve freedom, dignity and restoration through coordinated efforts and faith in God.

The Christ-centered organization offers a number of programs, but of special interest to Goodwine was its Butterfly Boutique, which provides free clothing to women survivors who are attempting to re-enter the work force and need professional clothing.

“It’s like a metamorphosis. From a little caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly,” Colligan said of the transformation that occurs when women choose their clothing. “It not only changes your outside, but your inside.”

At the end of the Model Days, girls are encouraged to listen to Christ for Kids’ podcasts and read Chapus’ books for encouragement and continued success.

“Afterward we don’t like to just leave the girls on their own, feeling good for one day,” Chapus said. “We feel like we really want the girls to know you’re beautiful, God made you, God loves you continuously.”

Chapus is working with a nonprofit lawyer to put the salon under the umbrella of Christ for Kids. She is hoping that will help with donations and volunteers because, she noted, the organization currently is operating on her husband’s salary. At that point she also can begin work on the school she has planned, which will be designed to help women who are high school graduates or have their general equivalency diploma to find a career.

“The thing that I noticed with some of the programs that we have out there is there are shelters that will take the girls in, they’ll help them get their G.E.D., they’ll help them try to do job placement. However, if they’ve been on the street for any length of time and have been arrested, those background checks kill their jobs,” Chapus said. “I give them a model day, work with them the way I do, help them know that they’re loved, feeling good about themselves and be like, listen, that place had you get your G.E.D., let us take it one step further and train you. Let’s get you that cosmetology license so you never have to go back to the street again.”

Through Chapus’ help and the Model Days, Goodwine has learned to love everything, she said, including herself.

“I used to hate, when I was young, birds chirping in the morning. It used to irritate me so bad— ‘could y’all just be quiet,’” Goodwine joked. “I happened to be in the bathroom this morning and it had been a while since I heard the birds chirping. I heard one chirping and I was like, ‘Well, good morning to you too.’ It’s amazing.”

Adds Chapus: “I think what’s changed the most is she wakes up every morning knowing she’s loved. And I think that’s the whole world of difference right there. When you truly know that you’re loved, things just don’t affect you the way they would.”

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