By Tracey Benefield, Girl Experience Specialist for Girl Scouts of the Texas Oklahoma Plains
I was born in Hale Center to two teenagers. Naturally, my life came with a lot of challenges. I was born into a hole called poverty, and I knew from an early age that I would have to fight my way out. I dropped out of school at 14 to get a job and help raise my siblings, but I knew if I wanted to climb out of this hole, education would be essential. So, every night after I got home from bagging groceries, I studied for my GED.
Once I had my GED, I enrolled at South Plains College where I kept working hard, was a model student, and loved learning. But as is often the case, life happened. In my Junior year, I got pregnant. At the time, I knew I had a decision to make. I knew what it was to grow up with parents who weren’t prepared for children, and I wanted my children to be a priority. I chose my kids over my career.
So, life knocked me down a bit. I moved to Lubbock, got married, and started school here to get my degree in early childhood development. I was now going to school full-time, working two jobs, and raising a baby and a toddler.
I was on track to give my kids the kind of life I never had. But I was working so hard, that before I realized it, I looked up and was in an abusive relationship. One night it got so bad, we had to leave right then. We were homeless.
Here I was, babies in the backseat, car full of what few essentials I could grab, no money, no place to sleep, but this time my kids were down in the hole with me. I kept looking up, thinking, how in the world am I ever going to get out? I remembered I had been to a resource fair recently, so I rifled through my backpack until I found a pamphlet from Women’s Protective Services (WPS). I called the number and they told me to come down, they would give me a safe place to stay.
I had been at the bottom of that hole too many times to count, but this time was different because I had the resources I needed to give me that last little boost to truly get out. As a single mother, it can be difficult to support your family alone. I was working two jobs, and still going to school at night. But because of the amazing programs available to me, I was able to eventually get out of poverty.
It was WPS that first gave us a safe place to turn. Legal Aid Society helped me get a protective order. Early Learning Centers provided childcare for my children while I worked. Salvation Army gave us food vouchers. Lubbock Children’s Health Clinic helped me obtain a nebulizer when my son started having life-threatening asthma attacks. And at the Parenting Cottage, I took a class on how to recognize warning signs of domestic abuse before it was too late. All are United Way Community Partners.
And even after the company I worked for closed and I was two weeks away from an eviction and homelessness again, it was Girl Scouts that gave me a job and provided me with an opportunity to finally get out of that hole.
I love what I do now. I provide opportunities for girls to learn how to be confident, capable, fearless, young women. If it wasn’t for the United Way and its Community Partners I wouldn’t be where I am today making the difference I know I make every day. That’s why this year United Way’s Campaign theme is “Rise together, so no one stands alone”. Because when communities come together to give individuals that little extra push, we help them rise out of that hole and become more then they thought they could be.
Because of all the support offered to me by United Way, I was able to finally climb out of my hole and turn around to help others out of theirs. So, I want to just end my story by saying thank you. Thank you for your commitment to volunteering your time and money to help our community grow into a place where we can rise together, so no one stands alone!