Stories of Hope
Chris Kerns – Community of Hope board member, volunteer and advocate – always says, “This is the most important work you will do every day.”
To mark 35 years of serving the District’s most vulnerable neighbors, we gathered our founding members for a reunion. We used that moment to present the first-ever Tom Nees Award for Exceptional Service to our champion, Chris Kerns.
When Jasmine was six months pregnant, she came to a community baby shower held at our Conway Health and Resource Center. She was expecting to learn a lot about labor, breastfeeding and basic newborn care. When she left, she had a brand new baby carrier in hand and something more. A community.
It’s the first week of school in Washington, DC. Students are cracking open new crayon boxes, sharpening their pencils, and adjusting to polo shirts and khakis after a summer in shorts and sandals.
When you ask Tatiyanna about her future, she sounds like a typical high-achieving high school student: playful, optimistic and dreaming big. “I either want to be a lawyer or a chemical engineer,” she says. “I’m still deciding.” This soon-to-be senior made honor roll every quarter lastyear, and her schedule next year is packed with advanced placement classes.
But she wasn’t always the well-adjusted student that she is today. When Tatiyanna was in 8th grade, her grandmother – her legal guardian – went through a divorce, forcing the family out of their longtime home. They eventually ended up in a DC homeless shelter.
Life used to be simpler for Joseph and his girlfriend. They lived on a quiet block with their young son, and their second was on the way. Joseph had a reliable job at a hardware store. He had grown up in what he describes as an unsafe area in DC, and he knew he wanted better for his kids. “I wanted to live where my kids could go outside and play, you know?” he remembers.
But three years ago, everything changed. His girlfriend lost her job, their car broke down, and Joseph lost his job, all in quick succession. Any one of those challenges might have been manageable, but all together, they became a crisis.
College started rough for Francis. In his first semester, his mom became homeless. After supporting her through brain surgery the year before, the family wanted him to focus on his goal: becoming the first in his family to graduate college.
As a kid, Francis’ family life was good. “It wasn’t easy for my mom,” he remembers. “She’d had me at a young age, and couldn’t go to college. But she always made sure there was food on the table and a roof over our head.” But Francis’ senior year of high school, that stability slipped away. Sabrina was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had emergency surgery to remove it.
Community of Hope patients, staff, neighbors and you, our friends, came together to show their support for our Marie Reed Health Center, and their hard work has paid off! Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, funds to include our Health Center in the Marie Reed Community Learning Center have been identified.
When Mickenzie found out she was pregnant, she was excited - but nervous. Living on her own in DC, two hours from her family in Richmond, she wasn’t sure where to start. All she knew for sure was that she wanted a natural childbirth.
Have you ever cooked steak in the microwave? Matthew Davis hadn’t either. But when the food service professional moved into the City's DC General Family Shelter last year, he missed his kitchen, so he got creative. “I’d make eggs for my daughter in the common microwave,” he said. “Once, I even cooked steaks in there!”
With 20 years of experience as a cook, Mr. Davis did not expect to end up unemployed or living in a shelter. A single father of a 10-year-old girl, the two of them moved to Washington, DC to be closer to supportive family. But his job search proved to be unexpectedly difficult, and when he exhausted his family’s hospitality, he had nowhere to go.
When Patricia decided to get out of her abusive marriage, she knew her bold choice meant leaving a good job and friends. But it also meant safety for herself and her 12-year-old son. They moved 400 miles away to Washington, DC to stay with family and start again. But life in DC was not easy. Her relative turned out to be verbally abusive as well, and Patricia and her son found themselves with nowhere safe to go. “I just had to get myself stable and secure again,” she said. “Not for me, but for my son.”