It was after I experienced the power of support and service from others in my early years as a child that I started to see that serving others was not just the right thing to do but something we all should commit to do in our lives. Growing up my family battled poverty, homelessness and other generational chains of struggles. I am the oldest of 7 children and it was hard for us. When you are born in this world with no real plan set out for you, it’s hard to imagine life beyond just existing until you pass away.
Existing for many families like mine meant living paycheck to paycheck, relying on the government for food stamps and assistance, relying on schools for meals for children like me and my siblings. It meant watching people around you dream about what could be when you can’t even think beyond what is. And somewhere along the way around the age of 14, I began to hope that someone would come along the way and share their means, access and resources to help me and my family get out of where we were.
One by one, I began to see people who were willing to serve my family. I saw love in action and small acts of kindness through service drive radical change in my life. It came through several people and resource being instrumental lifters, not handouts, but lifters. I reached my hand, heart and desires to have a better life out and they reached back with what they had to help make it happen.
The First Lifter For Me
In 1999, I met my now husband Richard Baker, one of the co-founders of Serve Unity. He became one of those people who found ways to be a lifter for me and my family. I was 16, living with my friend at the time and working at a part-time job where he worked too. I had become so tired of moving around from house to house. I had become so weary over my family circumstances that I just wanted to runaway from it all – so I did.
When decided I could not deal with it my life circumstances at home, that meant I also took the risk of what it means to be on my own. That left me providing food, shelter and clothes for myself at 16 years old! When my husband met me at work he could not believe a 16 year old girl was in my circumstances. I was a mess. I would wear the same white shirt, black pants, and shoes to work everyday it seemed. He would watch me as the K-Mart store closed take off for my 2 mile nightly ride from the store to my friends house. Sometimes he would follow behind me he said until I was about half way there without me even knowing.
At 18 years old, he decided that rather than ask me on a date he would help me get a car. He talked to his dad who had a 1989 old Dodge Spirit that needed a paint job and engine. Having worked on cars with his dad most of his life he offered to help me fix it all the while going with me on many visits to see my family. He helped me not only transition back home with my family but he helped me enroll in night school so I could get caught on my Highschool credits. Holding me accountable and tutoring me so I would not drop out of Highschool.
I was working and going to school day and night. In addition to trying to survive the chaos that still swirled around me at home. But him and his family knew being at home meant I was on the same side of town nearer to them so they could help me. There were times I didn’t have personal care products or enough money for dinner when I worked at night. Him and his parents would help me as much as they could. His mom and dad said, “You have to graduate Highschool girl, without an education you won’t be able to change your life. We are not going to let you quit.”.
Because He Chose To Help
My husband and his family provided 4 key needs for me to get through 1999-2001 (I graduated late, but in the Fall of 2001). They provided:
- A lift through providing me a car so I had transportation to provide for myself
- Encouragement and accountability to not quit School
- Food, Shelter, Clothes as needed
- A safe place for emotional escape from the struggles in my home
- Most of all they provided me a glimpse of hope that I could not see
There is so much more to the story and we will share more of it with you along the way. Because in order to understand your WHY sometimes you have to go back to the place where the WHY changed your own life. Also, in order to support a mission of any organization you need to know who the leaders are and what motived them to start it.
Our hope is to take Serve Unity from being a LLC to eventually becoming a Foundation that can help other people just like me – be empowered to change their life! This mission is about bringing people together through the power of service but it is also about bringing people together to change lives!