The Dalai Lama once said: “As a human being I acknowledge that my well-being depends on others and caring for others' well-being is a moral responsibility I take seriously. It's unrealistic to think that the future of humanity can be achieved on the basis of prayer or good wishes alone; what we need is to take action. Therefore, my first commitment is to contribute to human happiness as best I can.”
Happiness is a quality every human deserves. Those people who have placed themselves in this dark place are waiting for a helping hand. Toni Mandeville, a woman who spends all of her free time volunteering at the Worthy Women Recovery Home, is the person who reaches into those dark places in order to let the beauty shine through the people that need help. She has been giving all of her time since October of 2013 to the Recovery Home.
“I’ve met some absolutely incredible people, and most of them are in very dark places in their lives,” Mandeville explained, “They are beautiful people, and that beauty is waiting to get back out and take over.”
Mandeville also volunteers at Sandcastle Shelter in Michigan City. Sandcastle is a homeless shelter that she feels rewarded by whenever she helps out there. When she volunteers at places like this, seeing families walking through the door, needing a place to live and be welcomed, she wanted to help. The day she played a part in giving a lost family a home, is the day when she feels the most reward, that reward of being a piece of the puzzle that brought someone's life back together.
At the same time that she helps put a puzzle back together, a bit of her puzzle is pieced back together as well.
“As much as I've helped all, those people, they have also helped me,” Manderville stated, “They give my life value, they give me purpose. I get more from these people than I could ever give back to them.”
Mandeville is a mother of two children and nine grandchildren with a tenth on the way. She attends college so she can major in human services with a focus on addiction studies. Although this is something she loves doing, Mandeville does not want their love of helping people to become a profession. She is afraid that if she makes it a paying job, it would lose the love and passion, and the reward that volunteering gives her.
“Volunteering with the people I help, it makes an impact on them when telling them that I am not getting paid for this, that I am doing this on my own time, and that I have faith in them, that this is where my heart belongs.” Mandeville told.
Manderville has had a past of addiction, and is proudly twenty-three years clean. Learning from her past, and seeing others struggle like she once had, she has a drive to make sure that those people get the second chance she had. She has learned a lot from her parents, and from her own past during her dangerous dance with addiction.
“My mom and my dad and my step-parents, are incredible. They have been my biggest cheerleaders, but my worst critics,” Mandeville accounted, “I owe them everything, they are the ones that made me who I am today.”
In 2007, Manderville was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal disease, meaning at some point she will become paralyzed. Having this disability is not stopping her from doing the things that she loves to do, if anything it keeps her going, it keeps the fire burning so she can help the most people she can.
Mandeville has devoted much of her life to helping and serving the people of the community, so that one day it might be the close-knit community La Porte and Michigan City once had. She moved away when she was eighteen, so she could move away from the world and experience it for a while. But she later returned to the place that mattered the most, the place where her roots were ground and her family branched about.
“Inside each and every one of us, is the ability to make a change in someone's life if we choose to use it,” Mandeville informed, “ I would like to encourage everybody that it takes a village, get out in the community and take back La Porte and get that sense of community back just like it once was.”
Mandeville's passion for helping people is not just on the personal level, but on the community level. She wants to help people, but she wants to bring them together at the same time. She wants to create a community where everybody is family, where there is always someone to fall back on.
“Our area has a lot of amazing people, we just need to brush the weeds away and let them shine.”