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She was pregnant in a homeless shelter. Then this job saved her life.

You've got to learn about The Empowerment Plan.

She was pregnant in a homeless shelter. Then this job saved her life.

Jessica West never imagined she could be homeless.

But then she had an unexpected pregnancy. Then she lost her job.

And suddenly, her family was out of options.


West's story isn't all that unique, Veronika Scott, founder of The Empowerment Plan, points out. All it can take is a few setbacks for a person to find themselves in dire circumstances.

“We are not as far away from homelessness as we'd like to think we are. One or two things can happen, and anybody can tip.”

That's where The Empowerment Plan comes in. The nonprofit is helping women who, like West, need a hand-up.

The Empowerment Plan, which is based in Detroit, initially got off the ground when Scott wanted to create coats that could double as sleeping bags for people in her city who were homeless.

Her idea quickly snowballed into something much bigger than that.

"A coat is just a Band-Aid for a systemic issue," she explained in a video produced by Gap. "And what really would have the impact is hiring the population that would need [the coats] in the first place."

Today, The Empowerment Plan employs more than 30 formerly homeless women, including West, who make coats for others in need.

In Detroit, a city grappling with staggering rates of poverty, The Empowerment Plan is helping to change, and save, lives.

To West, working alongside others who've been in her shoes has made a world of difference.

“It was empowering, very empowering, to be around a group of women that knew my struggle," she says. "And to just connect with people on that type of level.”

The Empowerment Plan focuses on helping women find economic stability on their own terms.

"I think women have a really difficult time understanding how valuable they are," Scott explains, noting she, too, has had to overcome challenges being from a family that struggled with addiction."The idea of self-worth is very important to me."

Scott hires women exclusively from local shelters and trains them in areas like sewing, manufacturing, and tech — "whatever [skills] they need to become more independent, and to be proud of their accomplishments, and to be proud of themselves.”

The key, though, is allowing each employee to make the best decisions for herself, Scott says — not by Scott pretending to know what's best for her workers.


“This is not about us saying, ‘Oh, we know better than you,’ or, ‘We’re in a better situation than you, so we know what you need,’" she says. "No, you need to tell us or start figuring out what it is that you want to get to.”

With a job and support system, West can finally look ahead again. And she feels like now she has the world at her fingertips.

Her goal is to go back to school and possibly pursue work that can help The Empowerment Plan — which is aiming to expand into retail soon, thus creating more jobs — continue to grow.

“I know I want to help people and change the world,” she says.

“For me, being one of those people, basically out on the street, it’s like I’m giving back to another me.”

Watch Upworthy's Original Video about The Empowerment Plan below and learn more about the organization here:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

As Canada's women's soccer team prepares for its gold medal match against Sweden this week in Tokyo, it also prepares to make history as the first Olympic team to have an openly transgender, non-binary athlete win a medal at the games.

Quinn, the 25-year-old midfielder, announced their non-binary identity on social media last September, adopting they/them pronouns and a singular name. Quinn said they'd been living openly as a transgender person with their loved ones, but this was their first time coming out publicly.

"I want to be visible to queer folks who don't see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago," they wrote. "I want to challenge cis folks ( if you don't know what cis means, that's probably you!!!) to be better allies."

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