In honor of Mother's Day, we're sharing a heart-warming Q&A with Jackie, a young mother, budding professional and a Thrive! Leader.
Describe your life at the current moment:
I'm in a good spot right now. Good job. My kids are good kids. They are doing well in school. Bills are paid. Next step is owning a home some day. Then I'll feel complete.
Did you ever think this was possible?
Yes! I don't give up very easily and I know what I want. My life had room for improvement, not specifically what I have now, but better than it was.
You grew up quickly as a child. Tell me about that.
I grew up with a single mom who wasn't around. I literally was the mom to my two younger brothers. I'd cook dinner, clean-up, make sure they got to school even if that meant I was late to school. It was a lot of responsibility.
Why did you leave your home in Florida?
Things weren't so good in our neighborhood. We had a roof, although sometimes we were without lights or water. I was a waitress. I didn't have the resources or people to help me out. My mother moved to Manhattan; so, I thought it was a greater risk to stay where we were than move.
Arriving in Manhattan, you were homeless. Home for a significant time was the Caroline Peine Transitional Shelter. What was it like living as a family in a shelter?
The kids were 2-, 4- and 5-years old. There were a lot of different people with different personalities living under one roof. Many people were older and single and likely a bit annoyed by three children, so we made it a point to find plenty of things to do in the area. The shelter staff were so helpful and considerate. I hadn't experienced that level of support in my life.
How did you realize it was time to move from the shelter?
I noticed that everyone who came before and after us had left. We were the only ones still there. I was working at Ray's Apple Market. All my wages were going to daycare. I didn't have enough for housing. So, I spoke to the shelter director and she told me about the shelter's Transition in Place Program for homeless families.
Was it over-whelming to suddenly have your own living space?
We lived in that apartment for one year. The shelter provided furniture, dishes, even Christmas presents. It was so unexpected and thoughtful. Shelter staff checked in on us regularly to see how we were doing. They wanted us to succeed.
Having achieved some stability, you stumbled upon Thrive! by accident, correct?
I was a 1st Grade Room Parent at Theodore Roosevelt, Jayme (Thrive! Executive Director) was the coordinator. One day she was wearing a Thrive! shirt with an "ask me about it" line. So, I asked her. I didn't know what I was expecting (of our first Thrive! meeting). People were welcoming and interested in us. They weren't at all judgmental and the kids really liked it.
At Thrive! each Leader sets goals based on what's happening in his/her life. How has Thrive! helped you?
I needed a stable job. When Ray's closed I worked at Little Apple Toyota for a while. Thrive! contacts helped me secure a receptionist position at Katie's Way. Jayme and I talked about going back to school. It just proved too much with family and work. She introduced me to Dee Johnson (a local accountant and co-founder of ASPIRE an educational support and mentoring program for young woman). Dee started teaching me about bookkeeping. I worked at Katie's Way from 8-5 and went to Dee's office from 12-1 to do data entry. On the weekends, I did some bookkeeping for her.
That's an ambitious schedule. Has it paid off?
Yes. Each job I've learned new skills and met different people. I'm now working at Florence Manufacturing as an order analyst. The contacts I made through Thrive! helped secure an interview. I've been working there since February. It's rewarding to have a stable job, something that I own, dealers that I'm supporting.
As your employment has improved so have your wages. From the outside, one may think you have made it. Yet, you're experiencing different challenges now.
I no longer qualify for food stamps and pay a higher rent. There is room to save some money. My car always has gas. And, I'm able to pay for minor car repairs. That's not to say we don't have to make choices. Jayme and I are working on meal planning and a grocery budget. Snacking on cereal during the week isn't allowed, a jar of peanut butter and bread is cheaper and lasts longer. The kids still qualify for school meal programs, but as I come off more support things will get tighter. The kids know that we can't spend everything I make.
As we come to the end of your story, tell me about life with your kids.
We do everything together. It's so fun to be involved in their activities. As an adult I get to do the things I didn't do as a child. I went as far as to help coach a soccer team! I feel great when people compliment my kids. I try to show them that we teach people how to treat us. It's important to be respectful, presentable and knowledgeable in public. At home things get a bit crazy. We keep it real!
Our last question was posed to those who know her best. What one word best describes your mom?
Jackie's personal choice: Passionate!
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