As a writer, I have the privilege of meeting many ordinary folks doing wonderful things in the valley and enjoy sharing a bit of their stories with the community. I am inspired by people who have a passion for helping others and particularly those who have overcome challenges.
When the Women’s Resource Center sent out its latest newsletter, I found myself drawn to the story of Katrina Adkins, who was honored as a “Bruce Angel” for her contributions to the well-being and support of homeless families at Bruce Transitional Housing.
Katrina is a passionate advocate of treating with kindness those who are at the margins in our community rather than judging and shunning them, as so many of us do. A genuine smile and a kind word to a homeless person can give a sense of hope and belonging that might give them a reason to seek help.
“When you are in the midst of that darkness (addiction), there is no seeing any other options,” Katrina told me. There is a total loss of hope that drags fellow human beings further into addiction and despair.
Katrina knows the addiction landscape intimately. She described growing up in a sheltered environment but went through a series of surgeries that led to an addiction to pain pills that led to her downfall of addiction to hard drugs, homelessness and felony arrests.
In the process, she lost her marriage and home, was estranged from three of her kids, and had a son born with addiction. Thanks to the work at Swedish Hospital in Seattle and Katrina’s sobriety, the youngest is a precocious and energetic normal 3-year-old toddler. Katrina has a deep and caring relationship with the family who were foster parents to her son. “I can’t imagine life without them,” she said.
She has also been reunited with her oldest, a 21-year-old daughter. “She tells me that I have gone from a person she dreaded to the kind of woman she hopes to become. Only God has power for that kind of healing,” said Katrina. She is still estranged from her other two children and prays for an opportunity to reconnect with them.
Talking to Karina, you would never suspect she had such a difficult past: She’s a warm, compassionate, caring, giving and thoroughly delightful human being who has earned a position of responsibility (overseeing the accounting) at the Town Auto Group. She credits the company and the people there with giving her a chance to prove herself and they have rewarded her with increasing responsibility and trust.
Today, she spends her spare time helping women and children at Bruce Transitional Housing, encouraging women to stay strong and not give up hope. She sponsors one of the Bruce families and is a regular presence at the facility, bringing food and organizing barbecues.
She stays in touch with women who have transitioned from the Bruce into the community because support is frequently needed as challenges arise.
It’s these small acts of kindness that can make all the difference. She knows what they are going through and they respond to her genuine sense of caring and belief in them.
“That’s what I long to see — that flicker of hope when they are so close to throwing up their arms (in despair) and reach out for help instead,” she added.
Parents who are navigating the dependency and criminal systems can find themselves so overwhelmed with requirements that it’s easy to give up. All of us, every single person, has endured trauma in our lives, Katrina pointed out. Mental health issues affect so many people — from anxiety and depression to a host of other conditions. Some of us have the capacity to cope with the psychological wounds of our past, but many others are unable to do so.
“Addiction is not a moral deficiency,” Katrina said. Rather than stigmatizing people with addiction for criminal histories, we should put more resources into treatment and support, she told me.
Her faith in God has been instrumental in achieving sobriety and facing life as a recovering addict with courage, grace and humility. “If we all tried to look through God’s eyes, the world would definitely be different,” Katrina said.
Katrina Adkins is a wonderful inspiration and a great community contributor. Her courage and resolve in acknowledging her difficult past and her devotion to helping others find a way through addiction and live more fulfilled lives is truly admirable. She reminds us that any one of us or our family members could end up in a similar place.
If you would like to join her in supporting those on the margins, contact the Women’s Resource Center by visiting wrc-ncw.org.
The Art of Community Project is dedicated to fostering and celebrating community building in North Central Washington. See all of the stories at artofcommunityncw.com.