Angel Clark often awakes from her dreams and jumps into action to make new creations for her at-home business, Minesntheirs, which operates from the two-bedroom Edgewater neighborhood apartment she shares with her 19-year-old daughter.
But it wasn’t always like this, Clark said on a frigid Sunday afternoon in February. With no residue of bitterness in her cheery voice, Clark explained how, years before, she was homeless.
“No one would take me and my kids in,” said Clark, 48. “Even friends I had helped. No one. But the refusal ended up being one of the best things I had to go through.”
The story of Clark’s life can bring confidence to a broken spirit, and shows how perseverance can help turn things around.
As a young girl, Clark grew up in a neighborhood plagued with homelessness and rival gangs. Despite that, she never imagined life would lead her to a Salvation Army shelter near Lawrence Avenue and Marine Drive after no one would take her and her four children in, she said.
Clark’s turbulent road began after giving birth to her eldest son at age 17. By the time she was 21, she would have three sons. Even though some thought her life was quickly headed for a dead end of young single-motherhood, Clark’s mother remained the flicker of light at the end of a tunnel full of uncertainty.
“My mother always talked to me about going to college and not giving up on myself,” Clark said. “But I liked bad boys and didn’t listen.”
Clark managed to graduate from Senn High School in the Edgewater neighborhood, but bad luck would visit her years later, all at once it seemed. Her mother experienced an onslaught of illnesses, and was placed in nursing home care in 2006. In March 2007, Clark remembers being on the Clark Street bus and getting a phone call that her mother had died.
Her nephew was later killed in Chicago street violence, and eventually she lost her mother’s apartment, where at one time she slept on the floor with her baby daughter. It was around that same time that Clark suffered her first transient ischemic attack, most commonly known as a mild stroke, and lost her job — all while faced with trying to secure a place for her and her children to live.
“I remember feeling so defeated entering the (Salvation Army) shelter,” Clark said. “But something on the inside told me, ‘Whatever they offer you, do it.’”
She accepted the guidance of Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW), an agency that works to put an end to poverty and homelessness by helping people rebuild their lives. Clark received counseling to address life issues through the program, leading her to continue her education, and within two months was placed in permanent housing.
“Eventually, I was speaking in front of people about homelessness and the need for more affordable housing in more neighborhoods in Chicago,” said Clark, who became an ambassador for the agency.
Later, she did exactly what her mother had hoped, and went back to school to earn an associate’s degree from the University of Phoenix.
“I told myself, why stop there?” she said. Later she earned a bachelor’s degree in human service management, also from University of Phoenix.
After years of working to help other young women escape homelessness, Clark decided to take a back seat from her ambassador position to give another woman the same experience. But throughout the years, Clark kept experiencing bouts of TIA, and in 2016 she had a big one.
“I was cleaning and the next thing I knew I was on the floor,” Clark said.
She was immediately taken to the hospital, where she received an injection of TPA, a recombinant tissue plasminogen activator. This treatment, if given within three hours of an attack, greatly increases at patient’s chances of recovery.
At first, Clark’s right arm and leg were limp, and she was bedridden in the hospital, getting ready to be sent to a nursing home. But as her doctor was doing rounds on a Saturday, as a caregiver attended to her, her right toes moved.
“I was sent to rehab for a month. The first week was horrible,” Clark said. “But I knew it was something I had to do. I had survived everything else thrown at me, so I knew I could get through this as well.”
Her sisters, Allean Clark, 58, and Amelia Clark, 56, stayed by Angel’s side, encouraging her to keep going. The trio of sisters agree their supporting each other was instilled in them by their late mother, Rosemary Clark.
“My sisters and I leaned on one another for strength through our Heavenly Father,” Clark said.
Her sons Eric, 32, Andre, 29, and Adrian, 27, are working; and her 19-year-old daughter, Ahleeyah, is a sophomore at Malcolm X College on Chicago’s Near West Side. Clark enjoys the love of her fiance’s granddaughter, who calls her GiGi.
Clark still has motor issues with one hand and she limps but creating items for her at-home business is her therapy, she said.
Clark recently shared a photo of her new collection of “tarts” on Facebook inspired by a group of streets in the Uptown neighborhood where she grew up. Minesntheirs is also showcasing the Uptown Boogie Seat collection, a box of tarts that includes 12 of her scented glitter chair wax melts.
“Lately everyone is making candles, soaps and creams,” Clark said. “The difference with mine is I research ingredients to make sure my creations aren’t harmful.”
Her research was the reason she prefers to make “tarts” over candles, which increase the chance of fires if pets or small children are around, she said. Her offerings also include goats milk soaps and creams.
“I really appreciate the guidance of HOW, and the road I am on now,” Clark said. “I enjoy creating tarts, soaps and creams for my business. I am so thankful for all these blessings. I am thankful to be an example to never give up.”
On its website, HOW says, “In 2019 we worked with over 1,300 individuals to harness their potential and rebuild their lives.”
Angel’s potential is still flourishing.
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