When we were brand new, we felt pretty overwhelmed by “nonprofit world”. SO MANY THINGS TO DO, so many people to connect with, so many options – it was just really overwhelming, in a good way, but still a challenge on top of all of the other life and work things I had to do simultaneously.

Jordie DiFernando of Compassion Cards reached out to me so warmly and introduced her nonprofit to me and I felt instantly welcome in this world. What she does and who she is speaks volumes and undoubtedly changes lives. You may have seen her on the local news in Hampton Roads or read about her Facebook already, but if you haven’t let us introduce you to her and her organization in this blog interview today!


Organization Name: Compassion Cards

Where is your company located? We call Norfolk, VA, home, but we work with people all over Hampton Roads, the East Coast, and the U.S. at large!

How long has your nonprofit been around? Since February 2014 – we are celebrating five years in 2019!!

What is the mission of your company/nonprofit? We’re a diverse group of people who exist to embrace and empower humanity through the art of written words. We believe that people matter, and that they need to know. We want people to know that it’s gonna be okay, that they are loved, and also that it’s okay to not be okay. We do this by sending thousands of handwritten cards to people in all walks of life.

Who do you serve/who can you help? We serve lots of different people! Our cards go/have gone to school students, teachers, orphans, widows, the homeless community, human-trafficking victims, youth mentor programs, the LGBTQ+ community, first responders, immigrant and refugee children, and program staff and volunteers at various organizations. We partner with several different organizations to ensure that as many as possible can receive a kind word!

Anyone can help! We want our tables to be full of the diversity that makes up humanity, and we invite anyone to be a part of what we do! Volunteering with Compassion Cards can look like many different things! We can set up shop anywhere, and love to go where we’re needed. Throughout the year, we take on lots of different bookings! We do hands-on workshops with schools, churches, workplaces, social clubs, etc., school programming, house parties, and more! We also host community events, which are open to the public!

We’re booking fast! Summer is pretty much filled up, and we’re booking October 2019-February 2020 now! All public event info can be found on our website/Facebook!


What is your favorite story/experience from running your company/nonprofit you’d like to share? Picking one favorite is HARD! Over the last five years, there have been many moments that have taken my breath away! It isn’t hard to get me crying, and I spend a lot of time in happy tears, truly humbled by all that we’re able to do through Compassion Cards. I think one of my favorite experiences has been seeing the community we’ve formed out of Compassion Cards. Our organization has been run by people with different stories, like diseased/dying parents, sexual identity, spiritual crises, college drop-outs, care-giving, depression, thoughts of suicide, anxiety, body-image, and so much more. In each of our respective struggles, we’ve so often felt alone, but Compassion Cards changed that. In a space where many of us have felt isolation and loneliness in our different journeys, we’ve found a family. Compassion Cards united me with so many beautiful people; all of us just looking for a place to call home.

What is the biggest challenge you face or the hardest part about what you do? One of the biggest challenges for me has been creating boundaries for myself. I am a dreamer and a visionary, and I want to say yes to EVERYTHING Compassion Cards, but sometimes that’s not good for me, or for my team. I’ve worked with intention this year to make sure I’m not taking on too much for myself, and also that I’m not taking away from what my team gets to do. Delegating hasn’t always been my greatest strength, but I’ve worked very hard to do this in the best way for everyone involved in our work!

What do you want people to know? So much of work is just letting people know they matter. We want people to know that we need them to stay, and to share their stories with the world. If you’re reading this, and you’re feeling like what you bring to the table doesn’t matter, I want you to know that’s a big lie! Your life is important. Who you are matters. You belong. We want people to find the space they need to process whatever they’re walking through, knowing that we’re here to cheer them on! Compassion Cards feels like home, and you’re welcome to come inside.


Twitter: @compassioncards
Instagram: @compassioncards

If you have any questions, you can contact us at!


What Destiny’s Story Looks Like | Interview


This angel you guys, THIS ANGEL! What a DOLL! Her story is a full circle one. Some of you will agree with me on that once you hear all about what Destiny’s been through, and what that baby on way means to her.

Name: Destiny
Nickname: Pumpkin 🙂

I asked her how she got that nickname and we laughed after she told us it was because her mama said her face was just as round as a pumpkin when she was born, LOL!

Destiny is born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia and is 24 years old.

How is your relationship with your family and siblings? Kind of off and distant…since her grandma has been gone, there has been tension. Some family didn’t want her cremated and when she was, it drove distance between some of the family members.

Destiny’s mother was her support system. Her father has never been in her life. He knew who she was and was there at the birth, but that’s it.

Then we found out that her biggest support system, her mother, passed away in 2016 from cancer.

She’s been on her own ever since.

We told her how sorry we were for her loss and she replied “it’s okay, she’s in a better place and doesn’t have to suffer anymore”.

One thing she immediately recalled was how she kept telling her mom to have another baby so she wouldn’t be alone, and her mother told her she’d have her own baby one day to keep her company. And Destiny was sitting with us cradling a beautiful baby bump in her arms. Her mama was right.

A baby girl is on the way for Destiny.

In school, what was your favorite subject? Math.

We asked Destiny if she had a favorite teacher in school and we were cracking up when she responded by telling us that ALL of her teachers loved her!

WE GET IT – SHE IS ADORABLE Her smile never lets down and she is walking sunshine.

There was one Health teacher, Mrs. Bell, that came to mind that was like an aunt to her. Like a close family member. She remembers that connection well.

“Her spirit was so glowy and uplifting.”

Destiny told us “for some reason, teachers always wanted to cling to me”.

In college, her professor once asked Destiny “Miss Lee why are you sitting in the back, you know I need you up front!” LOL!!!

She was a teacher’s pet by default 🙂

What was the LEAST favorite job you’ve had? McDonald’s. It was her first and least favorite job. She was advancing so fast there, knowing how to do EVERYTHING on the job, even managing positions… but she wasn’t receiving a promotion.

She then went to Food Lion, then convenience stores.

Eventually she went to work at a group home for those with disabilities, which is where she is now. She loves this work.

Everyone clings to her there now, not surprisingly.

We asked her what her best job skill is and she replied: “Pretty much nursing”.

What’s something that you would want people to know about you? “I have a very big heart, I’m very intelligent. I am a mama’s girl. I love my mom to death. I’m very family oriented, it makes me sad that my family isn’t together as much.”

She loves sports, she ran track and tried volleyball but feels like she was a little too small, LOL!

What there one main event or a series of small events that led you to becoming homeless? Just one event, losing my mom’s place.

They were at a place that offered a program for those who were rehabilitated from drug abuse to be able to stay there, and when her mom passed, because Destiny didn’t have a drug problem…she had to leave, and lost her home.

Destiny went on to say “I don’t hold grudges. I let it go.”

She is by far one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She also goes on to say that she doesn’t blame anyone for her situation.

“I live and learn and go on about my life.”

What’s the hardest part about being homeless physically? She goes on to say that she knows God is always there, but not having her mom physically there to be there for her has been difficult.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you recently? “This baby!” She knew her mama was going to send her a little girl. Her mama TOTALLY called this!

Did you ever think that you would end up homeless? “Nope. I would have never thought it in a million years.” She stayed so optimistic that she would be able to keep her mom’s housing after she passed away. She wasn’t about to make herself go through a program and lie to keep the place, her integrity is too high for that.

What truth would you want people to know about homelessness? Just pray. Don’t stay down. You gotta take it day-by-day.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to approach a homeless person? I believe just being honest and if you open up to people a little truth about yourself, it always helps them to open up to you.

“Make them feel where you’re coming from” Destiny says.

What do you want your life to look like a year from now? So much better, so much brighter. I would like for me to have my own place, my own career, hopefully my career would be on the path of nursing and making a better life for my daughter.

WE LOVED DESTINY! Seriously, she is all smiles, she is JOYFUL, she is grateful and she is brave. We know she’s going to make one incredible mother and her mama is so proud looking down on her!

Look at the answers below to see Destiny’s answers to our shallow questions and see what YOU have in common with her! 🙂

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow Destiny

What Leanna’s Story Looks Like | Interview


Name: Leanna
Nicknames? “You can call me Lea!”

Leanna was born and raised in Portsmouth but also lived in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, the Eastern Shore and Tappahannock.

Leanna is off-and-on when it comes to the relationship with her mom, and she occasionally keeps contact with her brother, too… who she’s 14 years younger than.

What was your favorite subject in school? “I was a little wild child, so…science was my favorite but I also liked gym and health.”

Was there a teacher that stood out to you in school? “Yes, but she wasn’t my teacher. Her name was Miss Barnes, she was a Kindergarten teacher and I was in 4th or 5th grade and I used to go to her classroom every day.”

Least favorite job you ever worked: A call center. “I went to sleep in orientation” It was FAR too boring for her. (I can see that because Leanna is SO MUCH FUN!)

Leanna’s favorite job was the bakery at Kroger… she loved talking to the elderly customers there and starting conversations with them. Sometimes they would want to just keep her there and go on and on 🙂

There’s a warmth to Leanna that is apparent right when you meet her. I can literally picture these customers coming up to her and doing this.

We asked Leanna what job would she love to have right now if she can have any job and she mentioned that she wants to go to school for phlebotomy (WHICH I HAD TO GOOGLE TO SPELL CHECK FYI LOL) – drawing blood. I told her she was a bad ass and I cringed with a smile, hahaha!

She wants to be in the medical field.

What is something you would want people to know about you if they didn’t know you at all? “I’m a very kind, funny, goofy, jittery person. I love to laugh, I love to have fun ALL the time.”

Was there a specific event that led you to becoming homeless or a series of events? I got pregnant. There were twins, and one of them didn’t make it… so my doctor put me on bedrest for two months, I ended up losing my job. It left me two months behind. Then four months. And before she knew it, she was too far past to catch up on life expenses. 

Do you friends and family know you’ve been going through this? My mother knows I’m going through this. She kind of helped this situation, not in a good way.

Things weren’t working out living with her mom, who lives in the country where things are far apart and there’s no public transportation.

She was hired at three places but had NO way to get there, and no one to watch her baby. 


It was hard being homeless (the first time) for her because it was during her pregnancy after her complications. The second time was after the baby was born and her older child, a son, kept asking… “when are we going home, mom?”

Leanna then exclaimed, “you gotta keep pushing” and I told her I loved her positive attitude about this subject. This subject can often feel hopeless, and like a dead-end…so when I hear someone with her motivated tone regarding the subject of homelessness, I always make sure to compliment it.

You can’t let it tear you down because once you’re down, you’re down. 

“Emotionally, it hurts. It’s very aggravating.”

What is the best thing that’s happened to you recently? A [romantic] connection with a friend from school that has started to develop after finding each other on social media again. He makes her feel like a kid again, like she has no worries.

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? Leanna told us “NEVER” and then went on to say she always assumed that the homeless put themselves in that predicament.

The question that follows is “what truth would you want people to know about homelessness” and she debunks her OWN previous assumptions with this answer: homelessness is not always something you put yourself in, you can’t control it sometimes. Homelessness is HARD to deal with, even if you don’t have kids. It can take on mental issues.

What advice would you give someone that’s homeless or wants to approach them? Just do it, if it’s in your heart to help them. But if you feel like they need the help, then do it. And talk to them – maybe they just need someone to talk to.

What do you want your life to look like a year from now? “Oh, just a year? A year from now, I want to be in school or have accomplished what I wanted to go to school for, something in the medical field, and I don’t even want much, I just want a house, and a car…it doesn’t even have to be a house, just an apartment.”

KEEP READING BELOW to see what YOU have in common with Leanna!!!:)


THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like.

If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow Leanna




What Lynette’s Story Looks Like | Interview

WARNING: This interview contains mentions of things that may be disturbing or triggering for some including sexual violence and suicide.

This interview was hard. But it was a gift. I feel so honored that Lynette felt she could confide in us and get it all off of her chest. If I need to sit and cry while transcribing because of how emotional it is…that is the LEAST I can do and it’s worth it to tell her brave story. Lynette suffers from PTSD (understandably, and you’ll read why) and was the primary caretaker for a family member with a terminal diagnosis. Lynette put others first and ended up homeless. I deeply hope this will awaken the hearts of so many who things it’s always a choice and see some instances of homelessness for what they are, like Lynette mentions: a bad thing happening to a good person.



Name: Lynette
Born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia. 
Lived in Fort Bragg for a while while married to military husband, but moved back in 1999.

Are you close with your family? Yes.
Are they all local? Yes.

In school what was your favorite subject: Spanish

Then we laughed at her next comment…
I can’t speak a lick of it but I had a good teacher and she was also a cheerleader coach.”

Mrs. Lee was her favorite teacher. “She was just fun, and we had a lot of poor children so she would bring stuff in. Like a thrift shop. She used to cook and bring food in every day. You could run to her for anything. She would also advocate on student’s a behalf when they were in trouble.”

Any jobs you’ve had that you didn’t like? I never got a job I didn’t like.

She loved her most recent job at the Naval Hospital.

What would you say your best job skills are? That job. I was in environmental services in NICU, Labor and Delivery and ER.

“You see some interesting stuff” – I loved it she said repeatedly.

What you would want people who don’t know you to know about you?

I’m a good mother.
I’m a good friend.
A good sister.
I’m a people person.
I am a good person.

“Bad things happen to good people.” Lynette mentioned.

Was there a specific event that led to your homelessness or a series of events? “Yes, oh God.”

We immediately could tell we needed to bring her a pack of tissues. The mood shifted instantly to heavy. It felt like a dam that couldn’t take the pressure anymore and was just waiting to break open. We held on tight and braced ourselves for what was to come. That’s what we’re here for. 

In February, Lynette was diagnosed with PTSD. She lost her job because of this. They tried to help her out and give her short-term disability.

She was given medication..but it wasn’t right for her. It wasn’t helping, and it actually caused her to feel MORE emotional. Nightmares also occurred.

Lynette had a bad upbringing, and then married bad people.

Then Lynette let it all out.

“First, my sister died of cancer at 41.” Lynette was her sister’s caretaker. She had to watch her until the end.

Everything truly started going downhill from there.

“I just never got it together” Lynette said.

I had five kids, she [her sister] left two kids behind and I just never got it together after she died. She suffered terribly. I washed her up the last day. Til the end she told me what she wanted…she was exhausted, she was being beat down. She was ready.

Lynette also mentions other things that contributed to her PTSD.

When she was young, she was molested. Lynette’s molester CONTINUED to contact her throughout the years. He kept bothering her online and on social media.

She was put into the mental ward because of her severe nightmares (due to PTSD) and she also had an ex-husband that kept breaking into her home.

You guys – these are just direct violations of body, space and emotional health. NO ONE ASKS FOR THIS OR DESERVES THIS. This is not someone who is homeless on their own accord. I hope you can continue to see the pattern here with us that homelessness can happen to good people just trying to get through life and trauma. 

After her last hospitalization she financially lost everything. She lost her home. She ended up staying with her sister. Her older kids ruined that opportunity with her because of their perpetual arguing.

Then, Lynette moves to her mom’s house.

They judged Lynette’s hospitalizations as a sign of weakness and she said “they were ON me and horrible to me, I had to leave.”

I told her how BRAVE SHE IS.

She was suicidal at this point. The only thing keeping her from committing suicide was knowing her youngest kids would have to find her that way.

Her voice was breaking a lot at this point.

She mentioned her two daughters were there at the shelter with her. She said “they don’t care that they’re here, as long as they got me”. She is very close with these two young daughters.

Her relationship with her other children is troubled. It breaks her heart.

She called the HER Shelter and told them that if she doesn’t come in soon, she doesn’t think she’ll make it.

They came to the shelter with NOTHING.

I am so grateful to the HER Shelter for taking her and her girls in.

Her daughters have been so good and not complained ONE time. They are such good girls.

“That’s the only thing that keeps me hanging on…but everything is gone.”

Regarding the HER Shelter, Lynette said: “Everyone in here is SO nice and they make it easy on you.”

“Everything was slipping away.
Everything was leaving so quickly.
My job, my finances, my two old kids acting up.
Then I lost my home.
Everything was CRASHING DOWN.”

We asked Lynette what the hardest part was about being homeless physically and she replied: The elements, it was FREEZING. It was winter. She slept in a car and it was so cold.

She reiterates that if it weren’t for her two young daughters, she wouldn’t be here. She said when she is feeling REALLY low, her daughters know and they come right to her.

Although their room at the shelter has a bunk bed and single bed, her daughters will get in her bed with her.

I can’t even deal. I am crying so much by this part of the interview because I can picture this. Having little girls that care so much for her and love her despite mental illness and know she’s doing her best – what a GIFT. Lynette deserves that gift.


Lynette’s rent was $1000 and she couldn’t make it happen anymore. $1000 for a single mom? It’s too much. I can’t believe how much the cost of living is in lower income areas STILL. This is something I research and Mike and I actually discovered that if our family depended on his salary alone, we would be JUST BARELY above the poverty line. How’s that for perspective?

We asked, “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you recently?” and Lynette replied: “I guess just being here and having a room over my head. Everyone that lives here, we are like a family. We all get along, we look out for each other. My kids love it here…they love the babies and the other kids.”

“This is the most stress free I’ve been in about a year.”

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? “Yeah, I knew it was coming.”

She knew it was coming after the hospitalization and job losses.

Every month she was losing something.

No insurance. No job. No disability.

Everything started leaving. She doesn’t have anything now.

What truth would you want people to know about homelessness? People always think you choose to be that way, NOBODY chooses to be this way. Nobody. It’s a hard life and you feel ashamed that you have come to that, especially when you have children.

If someone wanted to help someone who is homeless – what advice would you give them? A place to stay.

She then goes on to say there are no programs for mentally ill people with children to aid them. She wishes there were.

Lynette makes an EXCELLENT point when she mentions how serious of a problem mental illness is in our world. “It’s an epidemic”

“Depression and mental illness is on the rise.”

Lynette is passionate about wishing there was a program that helped her situation because in her heart, she knows it’s an extremely common problem. She states they have plenty of programs for post-incarceration and post-addiction – but nothing for mental illness. Schooling, funding, halfway house, etc. Nothing like the other programs offer.

Thankfully Lynette has Medicaid that is covering her medications for her PTSD.

What do you want your life to look like a year from now? “MONTHS from now, I wanna be in my own house… with my children, with some kind of financial situation that I don’t have to worry about.”


“I’m glad to get it out” she said after the interview.

She used to make plans for her death. Her final wishes. Now she sees her daughters as her main purpose to keep going on.

We loved meeting Lynette. She was wearing colorful clothes and just made us so happy to be around. She is a doll and I’m SO thankful despite her hardships, she is still on this Earth with us pushing through and seeing her purpose. Read more below for her shallow questions answers and see what you have in common with Lynette! XOXO

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like. If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂 

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow Lynette


What Chandra’s Story Looks Like | Interview


When we headed to Portsmouth, Virginia and met with the incredible staff of the H.E.R. Shelter – we were not prepared for how heartwarming this experience was going to be.

Many of you have heard of the H.E.R. shelter as a haven for domestic abuse victims, and they have recently renovated and reopened a shelter to also serve those experiencing homelessness! This is AMAZING because sometimes it’s just life circumstances that lead people to needed a temporary roof over their heads and H.E.R. is working so incredibly hard to provide just that. Visit *THIS BLOG POST* to find out what H.E.R. shelter needs right now! I am willing to bet there is SOME way you can help! From donating your skills/services to food to items to monetary donations, there are so many ways to give back.

The first interview we had with was Chandra, a mom of three who has a SUPER healthy and uplifting attitude when it comes to the adversity she’s been handled. She is very clear about knowing that hard times are just a pit stop you have to visit to get where you’re going and we LOVED that about her!

Name: Chandra
Nickname(s): Lil Mama (she is the second oldest of 11 children, which totally makes sense she would be lil mama:))
Born & raised in Portsmouth, Virginia.

When we asked about her family life, Chandra said it was great. She is actually very close with her family! She loves having a bigger family.

Favorite subject in school? Math and writing.

Favorite teacher that stood out to you? Mrs. D. Jenkins and Mrs. Ripley.

She was an honor roll student and one of her teachers couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go on field trips…and when she figured out that it was because Chandra wasn’t able to pay for them… her teacher started to pay for those so she could go on them.

This is SUPER heartwarming when it comes to how far a teacher will go sometimes… and I have a lot of teacher friends who have told me how difficult it is emotionally to see students in need so often: Mrs. Ripley would wash her and her siblings clothes for her. She would ask Chandra to bring a backpack full of their clothes so she could take care of her in that way. Amazing.


First job – NEWSPAPER delivery.

Least favorite job…working in the kitchen. Something she LOVED to do but hated the tedious nature of it. She found out she was really good at it while serving time in jail and working in the kitchen there.

If you could have any job what would it be? Promoting and marketing.

This next question highlights Chandra’s confidence and self-awareness well. I LOVED HER ANSWER:

What is something you would want people to know about you? Whatever they feel. I’m not big on “you should know this about me” because I am who I am and I trust people to be who they are and I just try to be a good person across the board.

What is one big event that led you to become homeless or a combination of events that led you to homelessness? A combination of events. After serving time, I went to stay with family and ended up having to take on taking care of my niece.

From there – things got harder.

She worked at a fast food place for a while, was promoted to manager and then stopped working when she had a miscarriage. By the time she got her next job in telemarketing/customer service – she was so behind on bills and ended up staying with her grandmother. She ended up pregnant with her son and couldn’t work after five months because of severe pain associated with pregnancy.

With her criminal record, getting a job is difficult.

The jobs that ARE available are very difficult schedule wise taking care of her two kids and her brother’s son.

Something that was emotional for Chandra was that her niece didn’t want anyone see her coming out of the shelter and didn’t want people to know she was there. She felt bad about that.

Chandra says “I’m an adult and don’t care what others think about that, I know you have to make a pit stop to get where you’re going sometimes.”

Faced with challenges in providing the income she needs to survive and support her children, our entrepreneurial friend Chandra started her OWN business – housecleaning!!! She knows this is the best way for her to make the amount of money she needs to make ends meet.

Did you ever think you would end up homeless? No. To me it’s not the end of the world, just a pit stop.

I told her she’s got a great healthy vision about moving forward and that it’s so impressive.


She had one hopeless moment in prison – 18 years old – and then she realized that no one is going to care about her life the way she can so she wanted better, and decided to do better.

What truth would you want people to know about homelessness? Anyone can find themselves there, and if you DO find yourself there – that’s not IT. It’s just a stepping stone. Just a pit stop.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to approach a homeless person? JUST DO IT. Just talk to them. Make sure it’s someone who wants to help themselves. Not someone who is just okay with it and doesn’t want to change.

What do you want your life to look like from a year from now? My life is going to look totally different because I’m taking all the steps I need to get there!

WE ARE SO PROUD OF CHANDRA! We absolutely loved her interview. Her little boy was the SWEETEST thing, and I took a couple of breaks to go rinse off the pacifiers because he kept joyfully throwing them on the ground 🙂 We always ask a round of shallow questions – they are listed below! What do YOU have in common with Chandra? 🙂

THANK YOU for showing up for Homeless Looks Like. If you want help support the H.E.R. Shelter – click HERE 🙂 

Warmly, Amanda, Amanda, Mike + Joe


HLL Shallow ChandraHER-shelter-december-2019-11