Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. Maybe’s it’s luck. Maybe it’s fate. Maybe it’s just meant to be. On September 14th 2017, just a little over two months after our launch, it was divine intervention when we met Teri Black at the Access Services Twining Life program. Teri had come to teach about the Sleeping Mat Project. Hannah and I stopped by to pick up Jenny and John for our Leadership team meeting. And that was beginning of something that would grow bigger than all of us.
Teri patiently taught us, as she’s done with so many other people of all ages, how to upcycle plastic grocery bags into plarn, which is then used to weave sleeping mats for people experiencing homelessness in our community. Because of Teri’s inspiration, Integrate for Good now has diverse sleeping mat groups meeting all over Montgomery County on a weekly basis, providing opportunities for people of all abilities to come together to build relationships and give back through a partnership with Angels in Motion.
Teri’s kindness, generous spirit and commitment to building community is beyond compare. Although many know Teri as the “Bag Lady,” she is an accomplished Human Resources Consultant with an impressive resume full of prestigious clients and experience across multiple industries, including the biotech and pharmaceutical fields. She excels in organizational development, policy and program design and implementation, employee recruitment, compensation and training. Teri has a special affinity for start-up companies and we have personally benefitted from her expertise and incredible generosity in sharing resources and knowledge. She is an incredible source of support and guidance.
You never know where you’ll find Teri! In December, she was dressed as Santa, entertaining a group of elementary students who were making blessing bags filled with non-perishable snacks and notes of encouragement to be distributed along with the sleeping mats to people in our community living with substance use disorder.
The power of what Teri does is only trumped by the “why” behind her volunteer work. Teri and her family experienced the most devastating and unimaginable loss, the loss of their son, David. Before Teri’s son David died, he inspired her to get involved with Angels in Motion, a nonprofit organization which works to bring an end to the stigma attached to the disease of addiction and provide those in need with care and support on their road to recovery.
Teri shared, “It would have been easy to just stop everything when we lost him and I did think about that for a quick minute but staying involved was my way of keeping his memory alive and out there – of making him count.”
David will always count. His legacy is woven into every stitch of every mat we make. If it wasn’t for David and Teri’s incredible strength and commitment to making his life matter day after day, we would have missed the opportunity to share the Sleeping Mat Project with hundreds of volunteers. We celebrate Teri’s strength and embrace David’s legacy. Together, we care about creating a stronger community where everyone counts and no one is left behind or alone.
In the midst of tremendous loss, Teri finds the strength to bring such positivity and hopefulness to those around her. Where other people would be paralyzed by what she endured, Teri transformed her grief into hope and a movement that truly changes lives. Like us, she sees and embraces ability. She celebrates neurodiversity. Teri Black is truly gifted at capturing the talent and strength in every person she meets.
Champions are not just found on an Olympic podium or on a Super Bowl football field. They are also found in Collegeville!
It is a tremendous blessing to call Teri a neighbor and a friend, a tremendous source of inspiration and a game changer. It is truly our honor to present Teri Black with our inaugural 2019 Integrate for Good Community Champion award!