Takeyia S. “Precious” Fraling, peer counselor at Glenwood Life Counseling Center and community activist, dies – Baltimore Sun
Takeyia S. “Precious” Fraling, who overcame her own addiction and used it to help others with similar needs as President of the Client Advocacy Team and later Peer Recovery Coach at Glenwood Life Counseling Center in Govans, was also a well-known community activist , eco-activist and master gardener, died of respiratory failure on April 28 at the University of Maryland’s St. Joseph Medical Center.
The resident of Northeast Baltimore was 44 years old.
“It is no exaggeration to say that in my 40 years in the substance abuse field, she was the most remarkable, selfless, kind, generous, and motivated person I have ever worked with,” wrote Lillian M. Donnard, Executive Director of Glenwood Life Counseling Centre.
“Precious has a modest resume. Nothing written can even begin to capture how profoundly she touched and improved the lives of thousands of people; Recovering addicts, the professionals who have worked with them, local community leaders and ministers, and the Loyola faculty. And I could go on,” Ms Donnard wrote.
“She was the heartbeat of Glenwood and believed that people could change their lives,” Lia Purpura said in a phone interview. A Radnor-Winston resident and English Professor and Writer-in-Residence at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she first met Mrs. Fraling as a volunteer in Glenwood.
“Her addiction has completely changed her life and she has made it her life’s work to help others change their lives. She led with love and had an ability for other people. She was both fierce and loving,” Ms. Purpura said. “If she didn’t know how to do something, she learned it. She had a tremendous gift for creating community wherever she went. She supported recovering addicts working at The Recovery Garden, which she founded in Glenwood. She gave them a reason to believe in themselves.”
Christian Hall, a community activist, program manager for Rebuilding Together Baltimore and Glenwood board member, had been friends with Ms. Fraling since 2015.
“Precious was a passionate advocate for recovery, access to food and the recreational garden,” said Mr. Hall. “She cared deeply about people from all walks of life. People came to the garden room as volunteers because she was so inspiring. It was her dream and she pushed it forward.
The former Takeyia Simone Billups – known as “Precious” to family, friends and colleagues – was the daughter of Sidney Hightower, a laborer, and Arlene Hightower, a drug, chemical and alcohol addiction counselor, and was born in Trenton, New Born in Jersey, she moved with her family to East Baltimore in 1981, where she attended the city’s public schools.
She later returned to Trenton and graduated from Trenton Central High School. After her death, she planned to return to college at Baltimore City Community College and was a former student at Baltimore County Essex Community College, her mother said.
From 2008 to 2010 Ms Fraling worked at Timonium where she oversaw three staff caring for teenage girls with disabilities, assisting with home visits and recording daily behaviour. She worked at Greater Baltimore Medical Center from 2010-2011 in customer service and sanitation of hospital facilities and patient rooms.
Ms Fraling’s descent into addiction began two years after gallbladder surgery when she became addicted to painkillers as a result of the surgery, her mother said.
At her mother’s urging, Ms. Fraling came to Glenwood in 2012, “at perhaps the lowest point in her life. Although she had a family and held responsible jobs, her addiction overshadowed much of that,” Ms Donnard wrote.
“Although initially (like so many people) were reluctant to believe that life could be happier, healthier and better, it took her very little time (compared to other clients and those with a chronic illness) to find the precious where she was hidden.”
“As of this March, Precious celebrated 10 years of sobriety,” her mother said.
Ms. Fraling responded so successfully to the work of Glenwood staff in helping her overcome her own addiction that within a year she began working there as a member of the Client Advocacy Team, “which are people in sustained recovery who are role models and Support is from others,” Ms Donnard wrote, “and by 2015 she was President of the Client Advocacy Team and completely reinvigorated it.”
As team president, Ms. Fraling drew many clients and community members to her and led them to “volunteer into tens of millions of recovery projects,” Ms. Donnard said.
She organized Glenwood’s first recovery ball, which was held in a “beautiful hall with formal dress, music and dancing for people who could never attend their own balls,” Ms. Donnard said.
In addition to prom, she started a pantry, game day, movie day, and crochet club. She reintroduced the center’s token economy, which received donations from local church groups and others, so that “clients who attended treatment received ‘tokens’ to purchase goods in the ‘store,'” Ms Donnard wrote.
Ms. Fraling reached out and developed partnerships with Toys for Tots, Cares-Gedco, Second Presbyterian Church, Govans Presbyterian Church, Front Porch Church, York Road Partnership, Loyola University Maryland, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together Baltimore, and the local City of Center the councilor’s office.
She organized bus trips for clients to enjoy a day of bird watching, picnics, toys, food, crafts and poetry groups. She also put together a warrior dance group and even a marching band to honor a retired doctor.
As the holidays rolled around, Ms. Fraling decorated the center to cheer up customers, staff and visitors. Ms Donnard said the tree mosaic on the facade of the center’s Glenwood Avenue building was her inspiration.
In about 2018, Ms. Fraling became a full-time employee at Glenwood and has served as peer recovery project lead since last year.
“We do difficult work, have so many frustrations and failures, but Precious came to work every day smiling even when she was very, very sick, grateful for every day, optimistic about every customer, supportive to her colleagues, kind and generous only It can be people who have little to give,” Ms. Donnard wrote.
Ms. Fraling, a certified master gardener, used her horticultural skills and abilities as a grantee, working with Ms. Purpura to secure grants from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Audubon Society and other places to create a municipal garden across the street from the center before five years, which presented local plants and vegetables.
“As a community organizer, she has led countless groups of garden volunteers — from high school and college students to people who have long-term recoveries from opioid addiction — always with spirit, grace, and humor,” Ms. Purpura wrote in an email .
“As a peer counselor, she worked tirelessly for others, holding school supply drives and winter clothing drives, leading various forms of recovery groups and making sure people were fed,” she wrote. “Precious had an absolute adoration for all things green and growing and was protective of her native plants as well as her vast network of family and friends. Everyone knew and loved Precious and wanted to work with Precious.”
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Ms. Purpura said Ms. Fraling approached every project, plan and goal with a “powerful combination of ferocity, humor, determination, superhuman energy and optimism.”
She added: “She had a deep understanding of the complexities of others and treated everyone with dignity and respect. Precious loved learning and was curious about everything. She was an absolutely gifted public speaker, a natural teacher and a mentor to so many. She led with love.”
Mr Hall said: “She was still working from her hospital bed and was holding Zoom meetings the weekend before her death. She never stopped fighting.”
“We often say, ‘You are irreplaceable’ … this is the first time I’ve truly believed that about a person I know,” Ms. Donnard wrote.
Ms Fraling’s husband of 10 years, Kenneth Fraling, a handyman, died in 2021.
Mrs Fraling’s funeral will be held at 11am on 20 May at Govans Presbyterian Church, 5828 York Road, Govans.
In addition to her Baltimore parents, Mrs. Fraling is survived by a son, Rahjeem Graves of Baltimore; three daughters, Zahmasia Graves, Zimiah Graves and Distinne Graves, all from Baltimore; a sister, Natasha Hightower of Trenton; and a grandson.