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hapwise on HAP
LiveWell: Advice
Embarking on a
New Journey
When HAP member Lois Brown-Nelson lost her clerical job
in 2006 after working 20 years at St. John Riverview Hospital
in Detroit, the news was devastating.
“The hospital gave us 30 days’ notice that it was closing,”
says Lois, 63. “I thought I was going to retire from that job.
I had co-workers who had been there 45 years.”
With no other means of support, Lois set out to find
employment. For a full year, she filled out dozens of
applications, only to be told that she had too little
experience or wasn’t qualified. She felt frustrated, but
she didn’t quit looking.
“I want to be a positive role model for my grandchildren,
who are in high school,” Lois says. “You have to keep moving
Just after receiving her final unemployment check, Lois’
search paid off. A friend told her of an opening for a life skills
coordinator at Positive Images Inc. in Detroit, which provides
services for women with substance abuse disorders.
“I didn’t know what the job entailed, but I’ve always had a
desire to help others,” she says. “I stepped out on faith and
applied. During the interview, I mentioned my associate
degrees in teaching and science. I got hired on the spot.”
The job marks the beginning of an exciting second career for
Lois, who helps young women overcome their obstacles and
find employment and housing. She says she now has a
greater appreciation for the struggles these women face.
“These women are very determined to get off alcohol and
drugs and do something positive with their lives,” Lois says.
“One of our clients initially had no job and was living on
disability income. She ended up becoming a certified
nursing assistant. We helped her find employment, a car
and an apartment. Seeing her completely turn her life
around in 18 months was very gratifying.”
Now, Lois is preparing to become a certified addiction
counselor so she can help create treatment plans for her
“I love the fact that I can see the long-term effect of my
work,” she says. “I’m very fortunate – this job has changed
my life. Changing careers can be challenging, but also
rewarding. Don’t be afraid to explore career options in
different fields. You’re never too old to start a new journey.”
“You have to keep moving forward.”
– Lois Brown-Nelson