For 26 years, Leslie Marthone passionately worked as a licensed practical nurse in a bustling city. One of her greatest joys was helping to shepherd new lives into the world and ensuring the health and safety of expectant mothers.
After a rewarding and challenging career, Leslie retired her stethoscope. She and her family decided to forego the hustle of city life in exchange for a quieter, slower, and easier pace in the country. Little did she know that just one year later, right around Thanksgiving no less, she and her kids would be homeless.
“I had never been in a position that vulnerable before,” Leslie says. “We were being evicted from our home and had nowhere to go. Every agency in town turned me away—except The Salvation Army.
“Being homeless humbled me more than I ever thought possible,” Leslie says, choking up. “At The [Salvation] Army, I was welcomed with big, warm, open arms. I was impressed with how the knowledgeable staff found available services in [my area]. This is a very needed and useful program.”
Today, you can find Leslie volunteering five days a week as an administrative assistant at The Salvation Army’s shelter. She does whatever is needed. She answers phones and uses her 26 years of nursing experience to educate and empower the shelter’s residents.
“First and foremost, I have to give back to show my appreciation to The Salvation Army,” Leslie says, smiling. “They not only helped me get back on my feet, but treated me with dignity, respect, and compassion. They’re all very special. Just lovely.
“I also like to feel needed. It makes me feel good to help people. Plus, (she continues with a wink) it gives me something to do.”
Shelter Program Director Cymanda Robinson said, “I will always remember the day Leslie came through that front door. I could tell she was tired, overwhelmed, and just feeling hopeless. I told her ‘to just breathe.’”
Leslie entered the shelter program just after Thanksgiving and was placed into permanent housing the next March.
“We helped give Leslie guidance and made those connections for her,” a beaming Cymanda said. “She did the rest. She just hit the ground running. Nothing was going to stop her.”
Leslie said she would like to change people’s preconceived notions about the homeless.
“Everyone has a picture in their head of a homeless person,” Leslie says. “We see the pictures and videos that the media shows of the homeless. But I want everyone to look at me. Do I look homeless? No, but I am the face of homelessness. This is the face people need to see.
“It’s the same for mental illness. We see pictures of people’s behavior, screaming, and yelling. Not everyone who struggles with mental illness displays those characteristics. Our society needs to stop putting people in a box. We are all in the same place, just one step away from homelessness. Everyone has a story and most importantly, one should not be judged.”
by Cari Friend