Dawn Olderr Montalvo has been caring for other people’s children most of her life. You helped find her a place to stay when she needed someone to take care of her for a change.
Montalvo, 59, jokes that she’s the “baby of the group” at Pat Crowley House, our intergenerational community in Edgewater. She turns serious, though, when she describes how important it was for her to find H.O.M.E. in February 2019.
“Without H.O.M.E., I probably would have ended up homeless,” Montalvo says, “because my children wanted to be on their own and I didn’t want to burden them.”
Montalvo grew up on the West Side, attending the former Notre Dame High School for Girls, and has lived all over the city: Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Lakeview, Jefferson Park, and Rogers Park to name a few.
She began her career in customer service. But she found her calling when she and her now ex-husband participated in a program to provide intensive services to at-risk young women in foster care.
She spent more than 17 years working in schools, including 10 as a special education aide at Von Steuben High School, a Chicago Public School on the Northwest Side.
She loved helping to teach children on the autism spectrum, working with them to help them take tests, and supporting the teachers. But then she got sick.
“I started having some mental illness issues and it was affecting my job,” Montalvo recalls. “At that point I... was in denial about being sick.” She left her position but couldn’t find other work. Eventually, she was hospitalized and received a mental-illness diagnosis.
Over a period of several years, Montalvo has come to manage her illness. Just prior to moving to Pat Crowley House, she lived with her son Richard in Washington Park, while he studied for a master’s degree at University of Chicago to start his own career teaching in CPS. After Richard completed his program, she started calling around in search of subsidized housing for herself.
H.O.M.E. was the first place to call her back - in fact, she never did hear back from many other places she contacted, she says. For Montalvo, Pat Crowley House has insured she will not have to rely on her sons to care for her.
Her parents are deceased and a sister lives out of town. While Richard or one of her two other sons would have helped her out, she says, “I wouldn’t have wanted to ask. I probably would have cut off contact with them until I could find someplace [of my own].”
In addition to remaining independent, Montalvo says she appreciates that Pat Crowley House is “homey. It’s a really nice mix of having what you need to take care of yourself and yet having a nice atmosphere with people who care about you and still having people to interact with.”
This blog post is part of our Voices from H.O.M.E. impact series. The series focuses on the stories of those you have helped to live independently, how your support helped, and their memories of the place we call home, Chicago. Watch for the stories all month long as we prepare for Giving Tuesday 2019.
We hope you will like and share them! The idea behind #GivingTuesday is to kickoff the holiday-giving season, in the same way that Black Friday and Cyber Monday kickoff the holiday-shopping season. H.O.M.E. has also joined the #ILGive movement to celebrate Giving Tuesday on December 3, 2019.
Giving Tuesday is less than 24 hours away but you can double your impact starting now! Our friends at The Retirement Research Foundation have offered to match, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000, any donation leading up to Giving Tuesday. That means your donation TODAY will be eligible for the match!
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