By: Amy Cavalier, Communications/Development Coordinator
Andrelece came to live at DePaul’s Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA) Treatment Apartment program three years ago. Soon after, she made the acquaintance of her neighbor Richard V. A kind, good natured, soft-spoken, humble man, Richard moved to NOTA in 2006.
About two years ago, they began dating, and ever since, they’ve been living in a dream. The couple was married on June 8, 2013.
“And we’re not awake yet,” said Richard.
It all began two summers ago when both of them were stood up for a double date they had planned at Village Gate in Rochester, so the two wound up going with one another instead.
“It was a really bad concert, but we enjoyed one another’s company,” said Andrelece.
When they were walking home, Richard grabbed her hand.
“What does this mean?” Andrelece recalls asking Richard.
He responded not with words…instead he just continued holding her hand. For their next date, he asked Andrelece to go to the Greek Festival with him.
“I was so nervous to ask her out, because I was so scared she would say no,” Richard said. “I was afraid to pursue a relationship with her because what if we found out we had nothing in common besides our mental illness?”
Finding Prince Charming
Richard is living with schizophrenia while Andrelece has been diagnosed with schizoaffective bipolar disorder. Over coffee and meals, they got to know one another beyond their diagnosis.
Both were born in Brooklyn and in the month of November. They both liked cats. Neither attended their high school prom. Faith is important to both of them, and neither had ever been married before.
Andrelece, 45, always dreamed of finding ‘Prince Charming’, but it seemed she would never find the right match.
“I ended up with a lot of bums before I realized I was rushing it,” she said. “I wasn’t letting God do what He needed to do.”
With her eyes on a career in social work, Andrelece was attending the College of New Rochelle when she was diagnosed with schizoaffective bipolar disorder. She served as a family assistant for the New York City Board of Education and also as a Counselor at St. Christopher’s Group Home before coming to Rochester.
Richard graduated with his art history degree from the University of Buffalo in 2000. He’s currently trying to work on his dream of landing a job in the curator’s office at the Memorial Art Gallery. He’s now employed as a dietary aide at Halstead Square, a DePaul Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Program.
Andrelece looks on lovingly as Richard talks about his accomplishments and goals. She said sharing Richard’s dreams has reminded her of her own goals in life.
“I saw his potential and his ability to get up and go and how he was strong and moving forward in his life,” she said. “Those were the things I’d lost sight of with the illness.”
Overcome with joy
When Richard, 42, decided to propose to Andrelece, he followed tradition and called her mother to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage. By this time, the couple had moved into an apartment at NOTA together.
Holding hands, they recall the night he got down on one knee.
“I asked her if she’d do me the honor of being my wife and marry me,” he said, admitting to being nervous, even though he knew Andrelece would say yes.
“I was excited, honored and blessed,” she said. “I didn’t think it would happen that soon. I was overcome with joy.”
The dream wedding
The fairy tale love story met with some obstacles. The couple is grappling with the impact that getting married will have on their benefits and health insurance.
“We wanted to do what was right in God’s eyes,” she said.
And they worried about how they would afford to pay for a wedding. Thanks to the generosity of friends, family, strangers and the employees at NOTA, they were able to pull it off without breaking the bank.
They received help with everything from the paperwork to selecting a dress, which Andrelece found at a second-hand shop with the help of NOTA Counselor Cynthia Middleton. The dress was originally $1,500 but she got it for $103! Her best friend bought and had the table center pieces and bouquets shipped from Brooklyn.
“People chipped in,” she said. “Whatever we couldn’t afford, they did for us. It was like a Cinderella dream.”
The couple was married on June 8 at Asbury First Methodist Church by Reverend Lawrence Hargrave.
Andrelece’s father walked her down the aisle.
With both parents deceased, Richard’s brother Michael served as his best man and his brother Pete was one of the groomsmen. Richard’s brother-in-law Tom also stood at the groom’s side.
Andrelece selected her best friend Emilena Rosa to be her matron of honor. Also standing up for her were Residential Counselor Lonnesha Johnson and Middleton.
“They are my counselors,” she said. They’ve helped me to grow, to progress, to be successful in my endeavors, and have let me on the right path so that I can have a mentally stable life.”
They invited anyone at NOTA to attend the wedding and reception. About 50 people were in attendance at the reception, held at NOTA.
The list of thank you’s for Andrelece and Richard is long.
“All these people played a major part in our development, well-being and recovery and helped us in the process of getting married,” said Andrelece.
Among them are:
- Program Director Deb White
- Assistant Director Chris Nutting
- Krista Hatfield, Manager of Elmgrove, a DePaul Community Residence. Krista provided photography services along with her assistant April Yankowy
- NOTA Medication Coordinator Daniel Kandris
- Residential Counselors Leslie Bradford, Linda Boggs and Candice Patey
- DePaul Recreation Supervisor Dan Charcholla
- Financial Case Manager Joseph D’Ambrosia
- Residential Counselor II Lisa Schrader
The couple will be moving into Supported Housing in September and are very excited about it!