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Moving Into Success: Antoinette

Updated: Apr 11

Antoinette Gillis has a big smile and an easy laugh despite it all: Despite finding herself unhoused in 2019, despite having mental health challenges, and despite being diagnosed with breast cancer last year when she was a client at NEW.

“I show love because I don't like strife and mess and all that,” she said from her apartment where she now lives with her son. “As tough as it is, the least we can do is make our time around people as pleasant as we would want the time to be for us.”

Born and raised in DC, Antoinette started doing hair when she was 16-years-old. After high school, she graduated from college on the Dean’s list with a degree in Pharmacy Tech. She had a son in 2007. But then she said, “things went downhill. Different things started to happen and I had to get my mental health in check.” When she first came to NEW she was “apprehensive,” she said. “I still wasn’t the most compliant. I was still trying to get myself together and pay attention to the rules. We are grown women and we don’t want anyone telling us what to do. But we were at NEW to get help so I had to realize that and look at the help that was in front of me and take advantage of it. I had to get myself together.”

And she did. She got focused, meeting with her case manager, creating goals. And then, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“After the cancer diagnosis, I almost flew the coop and messed up with NEW,” she said. “But by the grace of God I stuck it out. I knew I wanted to live. So I got it together. I started praying and meditating and doing the right things. I was able to focus on trying to figure out which way I wanted to go and start working toward that as a goal. ”

One year into her treatment now, Antoinette said she feels good. She has her own place. She’s very happy to have her son living with her and she’s looking forward to life after treatment when she can get a job and maybe do some traveling. “I’m probably happier than I’ve been in a long time,” she said.

And she is grateful for NEW.

“”NEW gave me the time, space, and the resources to do what I needed to do. It was a blessing for me. It was a blessing when I got there but I had to realize how much of a blessing it was.”

The clients at NEW always seemed to appreciate when Antoinette and her big smile were in the room. The women felt the positive energy she would bring to karaoke nights.

“The world’s not set up for everyone to get along,” Antoinette said. “But it was a blessing for me to meet the people at New Endeavors. A lot of good came from being there but you got to want good, you got to do good. NEW is a place where you can find almost anything you need. New Endeavors saved my life.”

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