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Finding Healing In Cakes

Christine knew chaos and uncertainty well. Growing up surrounded by trauma, it was common to be uprooted suddenly, moving from one place to another, never knowing how long they would stay before leaving once again.  With no real guidance or support system, she dropped out of school in 6th grade. She continued her transient lifestyle, lacking self-confidence and feeling like her life was going nowhere.   

Until the day she found out she was pregnant at 19.   

With no home and a baby on the way, Christine was scared and unsure of what she could do.

However, with the knowledge of soon being responsible for a newborn, she was determined to break free of what her life had been like and be able to provide a more meaningful future for her and her soon to be son.    

“When I got pregnant while homeless, I decided that I wouldn’t let my upbringing determine my life, moving forward. So, I put everything I had into creating a better future for my son and me.”   

Christine was able to connect with Adopt-A-Family (AAF) and soon after her son was born, she moved into the agency’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program, Project SAFE, which provides a safe, consistent, and nurturing environment for families experiencing homelessness.  

An AAF Family Advocate helped to ensure Christine stayed on task with her finances, offering well-rounded support as she aimed to gain independence and stability. She attended the many different classes offered by AAF and was able to earn her GED as a result of one of those courses. During her time at Project SAFE, Christine was a waitress at a local restaurant and took online classes, working towards earning her Associate’s degree, all while being a new, full-time mom.  

After spending five years in the program, Christine and her son moved to Washington State to be closer to family. It was there that Christine discovered her passion for baking. She began honing her skills, and upon moving back to Florida a few years later, enrolled in the Lincoln Culinary Institute school to start pursuing her career in baking.   

Not long after graduating from Lincoln, she found out she was pregnant with her second child. It was extremely high-risk, and Christine was put on bedrest for most of her pregnancy. When her son was born, there were health complications which

Cake designed by Christinessweetcheeks

required him to remain in the hospital for three months. Even when he was able to come home, he still needed to see specialists frequently, which took a toll on Christine.   

“It took a while for me to pick myself up and heal. However, I became stronger and healthier every day, in part thanks to skills I learned during my time at Adopt-A-Family, and decided to start my own, home-based business so that I could do what I’m passionate about but also still take care of my kids.”    

Christine is now fully pursuing her own baking business, Christinessweetcheeks, specializing in molding and big celebration cakes. She can stay home and raise her two sons and assist with her youngest’s remaining health complications while earning a living by utilizing her skills and passions.    

From a traumatic childhood and homelessness to a thriving independent business owner and loving, stay-at-home mom, Christine beat every odd that was stacked against her. She didn’t let the circumstances she was born into determine the outcome of her story. She utilized the resources and support offered to her, to ensure that she found self-reliance and stability for her family.

 

“Adopt-A-Family is such a great resource to have. For a long time, I didn’t think I was worth the help that people offered and that I could do it all by myself. However, I learned that if someone is offering you a helping hand, like Adopt-A-Family did for me, you should take it. If you do that, keep focused on the task at hand, and keep going. Eventually, you will get to the other side and see all the challenges you stepped over to get where you are now.”

 

Show your support, this #GivingTuesday and donate to Adopt-A-Family so we can continue serving people just like Christine as they work towards hope and stability.

 

 

 

When Erlande, a Project Grow alum, speaks about her future, her eyes brighten with enthusiasm.

 

“I know I want to work with neo-natal infants because it’s the most meaningful way I could give back to others,” she shared. “I don’t want to sound too cliché, but when you grow up around nothing but crisis and hurt—it only makes sense to find something that can impact others in a powerful way.”

Now a senior in High School,  Erlande was visiting Adopt-A-Family as she preparing for her adventure into college. While here, she shared the amazing life accomplishments she experienced since her time in Project Grow.

Erlande came to AAF as a young child, uncertain and worried, reaming closed off to staff and the other kids in the program. That all changed though, with the support from teachers, newly made friends in the program and the on-site mental health counselor.  “When Erlande first started the program, she was really shy and spoke in such a quiet tone,” shared Daron Morse, Project Grow’s Director of Educational Programs. “Over the years, her confidence began to build more and her voice grew along with it.”

 

After Project Grow, Erlande became focused on improving her mental health by participating in counseling and becoming involved in the community—healthy coping strategies that Erlande credits with eliminating frustration and anger management challenges she struggled with throughout childhood.

While sharing her excitement to AAF staff during her visit, she couldn’t help but express her gratitude for Project Grow, a program that helped shape her childhood and formative years for the better.

“Project Grow was my childhood,” shared Erlande with a smile. “Everything I remember about my youth revolved around this program—from the singing and activities, to learning how to cope with challenges at home, Project Grow meant everything to me at a very difficult time in my life. I knew I could always come here no matter the crises I frequently faced in my home environment.  The program taught me how to treat people with respect and humility; qualities that helped me excel in the healthcare career I began working toward early in my high school years. I remember volunteering with the nursing home across from Adopt-A-Family and applying everything I learned during my Project Grow years on a daily basis. To work in the healthcare field, you need to have a lot of compassion and patience; both are qualities I don’t think I could have refined without my time in Grow.”

Once she graduated out of Project Grow,  Erlande became focused on improving her mental health by participating in counseling and becoming involved in the community—healthy coping strategies that

Erlande credits with eliminating frustration and anger management challenges she struggled with throughout childhood.

“I knew I could always come here (Project Grow) no matter the crises I frequently faced in my home environment.  The program taught me how to treat people with respect and humility; qualities that helped me excel in the healthcare career I began working toward early in my high school years.”

As a busy high school senior, community volunteer, and Medicana employee, Erlande also successfully earned her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), EKG tech, and Medical Assistant licenses through a rigorous program offered through her high school. Erlande’s resilience, academic and professional success, and commitment to community volunteerism caught the eyes of two local patrons of Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, who became significant mentors in her life. Soon afterward, Erlande was honored with a tuition-scholarship from Bethesda-by-the-Sea in addition to significant scholarship support from Florida State University and other private scholarship providers!  She planned to pursue a degree in nursing with hopes of someday working in a neo-natal intensive care unit.

Even after sharing her many successes, Erlande has one focus on her mind—how she can impact her hometown.

“Project Grow and Lake Worth had a GIGANTIC impact on my childhood,” said Erlande in closing. “Lake Worth is where I was born and raised, however, you always want to become someone better than you grew up around. Even though I’ve gone through things that were so difficult and hurtful, I see myself back here in ten years giving back to this community (hopefully as a neo-natal intensive care nurse).”

 

We congratulate Erlande and wish her well on her incredible journey forward!

 

 

 

 

The Strength of a Mother

Kyla and her one-year old daughter Savannah, came to Adopt-A-Family scared and fearful of the world around them, holding on to each other tightly because they were afraid of the unknown.  Kyla had not had it easy, struggling for a long time with PTSD and extreme anxiety. She wanted nothing more than to provide a good and happy life for her daughter but needed a confidence boost and helping hand to do so.  Kyla and her daughter moved into SAFE in October 2012 and slowly began to open up and work towards gaining the courage and boldness to achieve her goals.

After spending time working and building her self-esteem with her Family Advocate at AAF, Kyla put her daughter in daycare so that she could explore employment and school opportunities.  With the help from AAF staff, Kyla’s confidence grew stronger and stronger while Savannah learned to no longer fear the world, but to explore it and learn everything she could.  In 2014, while also working part-time and caring for her daughter, Kyla started to attend PBSC to go for her Associates in Human Services and was so successful there that she even made the Dean’s List two years in a row.

 

“Kyla’s confidence grew stronger and stronger Savannah learned to no longer fear the world, but to explore it and learn everything she could.”

 

With her success earning her Associates Degree, Kyla is currently working towards earning her Bachelor’s degree. By mid-2016 Kyla was married and expecting her second daughter Arabella and with help of her spouse and his family they were able to move into their own home in OK in September 2017 while being self-sufficient and providing a fulfilling and safe life for their daughters.  

If you want to help other mothers like Kyla, you can donate below. Let’s make it a special Mothers Day to all the moms in our community!

 

Determination to Grow, the Strength to Learn

Nikki is a determined, passionate, single mother of two young children who hasn’t yet met an obstacle that she couldn’t overcome through a strong will and assistance from Adopt-A-Family services. With a long history of domestic violence and homelessness, Nikki is familiar with the challenges that life can throw at you.  When she first came to AAF, her younger sister had an open DCF case and she was working to get her stabilized and out of the system. Nikki moved into Project SAFE with her younger sister and two young children and even on that first day her tenacious personality was clear when she made the statement, “I will only need this program for two years and I will be back on my feet.”

A natural-born hard worker, Nikki immediately dedicated herself to making a better life for her children and sister every single day she lived in Project SAFE. Taking on the responsibility of guardianship of her younger sister, she did everything in her power to keep her stably housed until her sister turned 18, and continues to support her to this day even as she has moved out on her own.

 

Couple of kids playing at the park and having fun

“I will only need this program for two years and I  will be back on my feet.”

While in Project SAFE, Nikki worked hard to increase her earning potential through new employment opportunities. Having recently increased her income with a new job, she is saving money to pursue her dream of a degree in Crime Scene Investigation – Forensics. With the rise in income, Nikki felt that she was also ready to live independently again. On February 15, 2018, almost two years to the day of her entering Project SAFE, she moved into a three-bedroom rental that fits within her budget. Within a two-year timeframe she set for herself, Nikki met her goals of regaining independence and providing a safe and stable life for her and her children.