This year Stewart and Linda Dowell are celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary, another stop on a long and memorable journey together. Stewart came from a family of ten in West Virginia. He’s worked lots of jobs, from newspaper delivery to a brewery, and in construction and plumbing. He served in the National Guard for six years and learned how to defuse landmines at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Together, the Dowells have raised five children.
In 2000, a workplace accident and back injury put Stewart on medical disability. His doctors at the Veterans Administration (VA) also diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the result of Stewart witnessing soldiers being injured and dying in mine explosions. He and Linda began struggling financially and moved to be near family in Maryland. The VA was helping with Stewart’s medical needs, but their adult children were struggling too. “Everybody at the VA kept telling me to go see the people at Friendship Place,” Stewart remembers. “They said these people care and know what they are doing.”
When the Dowells met Friendship Place caseworker, Emily Carpenter, she took the lead in coordinating their care and housing under Veterans First, a program which makes housing the number one priority for former service members. Friendship Place helped them with the security deposit to get a subsidized apartment in District Heights and paid a few of the couple’ outstanding bills, enough to get the Dowells restarted. “It made so much difference,” says Linda, “to have someone who understood what we were experiencing. It was such a struggle. I don’t know how we would have made it without Friendship Place.”
Friendship Place provided the Dowells with the mutual support and friendship they needed as they faced life’s challenges. Today, the Dowells still keep in touch with Emily and Friendship Place. There are Christmas gifts and Thanksgiving dinner with staff and other people Friendship Place has assisted. The Dowells are grateful to still have Friendship Place in their lives.