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!
On Tuesday, April 2, three Leaders graduated from the Thrive! 18-month program. Each of these women demonstrated growth in the areas of financial stability, healthy relationships, and social support, and all plan to remain involved with Thrive! as volunteers.
Congratulations to Marcia Brock, Chloe Dukes, and Elizabeth Fewell. We are proud of you!
Watch Marcia thank her Thrive! team in a short video.
We at Thrive! are focused on building relationships and community, and we take a long-term approach to reducing poverty. We recognize, however, that individuals living at or near the poverty line often have immediate needs. Food is one of those. Milo Kelley, Thrive! board president, recently published the following as a letter to the editor of the Manhattan Mercury. Milo works hard to connect those in need with resources through Thrive! and other organizations.
We invite you to share this letter with your friends and neighbors and to get them involved in efforts to help those in need.
The letter as published in the March 21 edition of the Manhattan Mercury:
People in poverty experience a range of difficulties. This is true anywhere in the world, including here in the U.S. and Manhattan. Those in or near poverty in Manhattan struggle with stable and affordable housing, transportation, health care, and even food. The Safe and Affordable Housing Action (S.A.H.A.) group is working on housing along with several other agencies and groups. Others, including ATA Bus, are working to address transportation concerns. A number of health care agencies and providers are giving great care to many. A substantial network is also working to provide food to those with insufficient resources.
Those in the business of providing meals to families are not often recognized. The network is quite varied and broad and includes caring individuals and families, nonprofits, local businesses, national chains, and local, state, and federal government agencies.
National corporations provide food to some in Manhattan via the Harvesters program, which distributes food at different locations each week in Manhattan, with one specifically targeted at K-State students. Volunteer groups help by sorting and loading the items. The Breadbasket is probably the most well-known provider of food to those needing assistance. They require proof of need but have multiple food pantry locations. Volunteers work at the main site and satellite pantries. Local businesses donate a substantial amount of food to the Breadbasket daily. A number of churches and the Riley County Senior Center (RCSC) work together through the Common Table to provide a daily evening dinner for those able to travel to their location. Breakfast is also provided several mornings per week. Volunteers prepare and serve the meals.
Other groups routinely provide a meal to community members. USD 383 provides free and reduced lunches and breakfasts for many students. Thrive! provides a dinner meal, hosted by community groups, to those involved in their poverty reduction program. Other small groups do the same. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), sponsored by the RCSC, is a government program providing monthly food boxes to qualified individuals and families. Others provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Thank you to each and every volunteer, donor, and group doing this excellent work! Despite the kindness and generosity in Manhattan, some still struggle with food insecurity. Please consider joining our network either as a donor or volunteer to ensure every person can meet their dietary needs. To donate or volunteer you can contact any local church, the Flinthills Volunteer Center 785-776-7787, the Breadbasket 785-537-0730, or Harvesters 785-861-7700.
Manhattan can do more to provide stable and adequate housing, transportation, and health care. A unity of effort can ensure that everyone has adequate and stable housing, easily accessible and affordable transportation, sufficient heath care, and adequate and stable food sources. My vision is for everyone in Manhattan to feel safe and cared for, to feel that they belong, and to have sufficient resources.
Milo E. Kelley
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