Malynnda Harwood: Finding her way back

Malynnda Harwood is proof that it does get better. You can find yourself again.

“It’s scary.” she explained, “because I had all the support, I had a good life and still…” —And still she lost her way.

Malynnda’s story begins in Bend. That’s where she was born, but her family soon after moved to Oregon City. Summers she swam in the Clackamas River and camped in the woods nearby. She had a loving, supportive family. She volunteered at the local parks and recreation department.

But Malynnda’s life began to unravel when her grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had lived most of her life with her grandfather- he had helped raise her.

“I went everywhere with him. I was his sidekick,” she said.

Then, as her mother cared for him through his illness, she had to watch her grandfather die.

To escape the unbearable sadness and pain, Malynnda turned to drugs and found herself homeless and living under a bridge for years. She believed that was how her life would ultimately play out.

        --My family was so supportive. Oh, my God, I love them so much.

        --They saw a different future for you?

        --Yes, especially my mom. She knows who I am. She knows the mission trips I took as a kid. I have a good heart, but when you get addicted to drugs, that’s not you.

 Through p:ear, a local  non-profit that offers mentoring and support to homeless and transitional youth, Malynnda began to get a foothold to recovery.

The SE Works internship paid Malynnda to work part time at The ReStore for a total of 240 hours.

“You guys liked me, but you weren’t sure because of my record,” she added. “So you made me do the second one with Jobs Plus [a State of Oregon subsidized work program]. But you guys saw that I wasn’t, you know, you saw that I wasn’t that person…You guys are the ones that actually gave me the chance.”

Malynnda’s first internship at The ReStore began in August 2017. She joined our staff in early 2017, and was promoted to floor supervisor three months ago. She says it was the family feel, the sense of security that made her feel so at home at The ReStore. She enjoyed the physical hard work, the people, the interactions.

Now her workday starts off by ensuring that the sales floor is safe, beautiful and inviting for shoppers. That’s no easy task considering donated items aren’t often a uniform size perfectly suited for artful displays.

“It’s crazy the stuff that ends up here,” Malynnda said.

One of Malynnda’s favorite ReStore finds was a set of vintage ship lanterns.

“They were so old, so you knew there was history. They’ve traveled everywhere, I’m sure,” she said.

How she sees it

When Malynnda is not helping customers, clearing store aisles, organizing displays or reconfiguring furniture arrangements, she’s at home with her young family, or together they may be out exploring OMSI’s latest exhibit. (They are renewing OMSI members.) She and her partner are expecting their second child in April, and Malynnda is reconsidering Oregon City.

“I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and now I want to go back,” she laughs. “I like the small town, I mean where I live I hear gunshots almost every weekend. I’d like to get away from that.”

Malynnda used to volunteer at p:ear, and she hopes to do that again soon.

“If it wasn’t for places like p:ear, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “I would still be out there running amok. I give back to p:ear because they help people like how I was.”

When asked what she would tell others who have lost their way, she says, “I always tell them it does get better. It does. It takes hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it to have a genuine happy feeling in your heart again and not have to put something in you to feel happy. You can find yourself again, and you can have a family and a home…and a meaningful job, and have just everything that you need that’s important. And you know it’s important now because you had nothing.”


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