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The Beginning

A Story of Unconditional Love

While a few young women have a caring, loving home to go back to, there are some young, single moms who need more than weekly parenting classes. As the first coordinator for the Heart-to-Heart Program at our local pregnancy resource center Debbi was working weekly with expectant moms in the parenting classes. After a time it became apparent that there was a need for safe housing for some of these young women. Many of them did not have parents willing to help them through this challenging time. They had chosen life for their child but had few of the life skills needed to follow through on that choice, and fewer of the skills needed to nurture their child and care for themselves. Many of them have endured parents with alcohol or drug problems. Some had been abandoned by one or both of their parents. They would come to class to learn how to care for their child, only to return home to an abusive boyfriend or an angry parent. These young women had no choice but to stay in this situation because they lacked the resources to venture out on their own. A glimpse of “what could be” was often presented in the classes, but the reality was far different for them.

The following is a true story, and the one that started it all.

bonita_and_debbiOn one particular occasion a young woman came to the classes late in her pregnancy with her teenage sister. When ready to deliver she called to have Debbi present at the birth because their mom had gone out of state. After her stay in the hospital they had no place to go and no way to get there so a room was reserved for them at an affordable motel. Debbi picked the three of them up at the hospital and took them to the motel. This turned out to be a disaster. There was a bag of trash by the door, inside the room smelled musty, the floor was dirty, and the bedspreads and bedding were badly stained. The young mom stood holding her newborn in her arms, tears streaming down her face. This is not how it is supposed to be! This should be a time of joy, a time to establish a loving bond between mother and child.

At that point Debbi decided to bring them home with her. The mother of this young mom and her sister came by the house a few days later with a promise of an apartment in Oak Ridge for her daughter. Weeks went by with no word from the mother. The promise had been an empty one, one of many in the weeks to come. She then went to court to get legal custody of her teen sister. For the next three weeks Debbi took the young mom to Knoxville every morning for training on a new job. During this time in living with Debbi and her family Debbi’s eyes were opened. The teen sister took the sheets and comforter off the bed because she was used to sleeping on a bare mattress. She often crawled into bed with her older sister because they were also used to having only one bed. They had never experienced sitting down at the dinner table as a family and did not know how to separate laundry to wash their clothes. They were used to stuffing the washer to save quarters and kept their clean clothes in garbage bags because so often times they had to pick up and leave whenever they were evicted. They lived with Debbi and her family for six months and it was during this time that not only was Debbi affirmed of the need for some type of housing for young women such as these but for life skills as well.

Just before the six months were over it became apparent that another young woman attending Debbi’s classes had decided that as soon as the first group left Debbi’s home she and her baby would move in. On that same day Cora was talking with the director of the resource center on another matter that pertained to her volunteering there when it came up that they needed a place for a short time for a mom, her baby, and teenage sister. She opened her mouth and out came, “I have room, they can stay with me”. And so begins the rest of the story.

After leaving Debbi’s home they went to live with Cora for the next four months while waiting for an opening in a HUD housing project. It was easier for Cora to do the cooking since neither of the girls could. Cora later gave the mom a ‘Step by Step’ cookbook to take with her when she moved in hopes it would encourage them to try a little and they did. And as at Debbi’s they found it hard to sit down and enjoy a dinner together.

bonita_and_coraUnfortunately, since they were being ‘taken care of’ so to speak, it was very difficult for them to settle in and for the mom to put her newly learned mothering skills to use. Some evenings after dinner it became a time to go visiting and they would not return until 10:00 or 11:00, and then, of course, trying to get up to go to school and work was very difficult. Since Cora took the baby to daycare at a local church she found that he was so tired that letting him sleep a little longer was more important than getting her day started.

It was during this time (actually it was while sorting their laundry) that the Lord touched Cora’s heart and sent her to the facility that He had picked out to be established as the transitional housing facility for single moms and their babies. Cora had also realized the need for housing and a place to be safe and learn. So, when she came back from visiting the old ‘Oak Ridge Motel’ in which to create the transitional housing she told the mom about the idea and asked her what she thought about it. Much to her surprise the mom’s reaction was overwhelming. She began to tear up, got chill bumps and said, “That would have made it so much easier for us if we had had a place like that to go to.” This is not to say she did not appreciate what Debbi and Cora did for them but, although they did know Debbi from the parenting classes for a short time, Cora was a complete stranger and this is what made it hard for them and this is the kind of situation Crossroads Ministry hopes to prevent from happening again. Bonita’s story is far from over. The beginning of her successes can be found under the Success Stories tab.

bonita_and_gabriel_2001 bonita_and_gabriel_2005

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