Zac and Lasandra Clayton were living in Douglasville, Georgia, with their six young children in a house that was literally falling apart. The landlord refused to make repairs and their home became essentially uninhabitable. It was no place for children. Additionally, the neighborhood was beset with problems and the Claytons feared raising their family in such a hazardous environment. They had no choice—they had to leave and make a new start.
For a number of reasons, including proximity of family, they ended up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Unfortunately, they were not able to secure housing and spent the weekend at a local homeless shelter. Lasandra feared for her family’s safety but did her best to hide it from them. “I had to put on a brave front for my children—if they saw I was scared, they’d be scared.”
When they gave Family Promise of Cheyenne (FPC) a call, Lori Kempter-Mansel, the Affiliate’s director answered, listened to their story, and said, “Come on in—we have an opening for you.”
Monday morning they headed to the FPC Day Center and began building a new life. They went from a shelter to a program—and that made all the difference the family needed.
Both Lasandra and Zac enrolled in a tenant education course offered through the program and they immediately began participating in FPC’s parenting and relationship group, which they credit with strengthening their bonds as a couple and with their children. Lori also connected them with Strong Families, Strong Wyoming, a local organization that helps students and young families work towards self-sufficiency. Lasandra took a class to become a Certified Nursing Assistant and Zac did the same, earning his Commercial Driver’s License. FPC also helped them register with the Department of Family Services, giving them access to daycare, as well as financial assistance for food and living expenses.
They were able to quickly build a support system with many of the volunteers they met. They became members of one of the host congregations, Cheyenne Berean Church, having formed friendships with many of the members. Their new congregation welcomed them as family—even presenting them with a newer van and seven car seats, so their children would be safe.
Lasandra is continuing with her schooling, pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Human Services from the local community college, while Zac is exploring a career in mortuary science. Both are working—Lasandra as office manager for Grace UMC and Zac as a driver and maintenance man at a daycare facility.
The Claytons moved into their own apartment less than six weeks after arriving at FPC. Their kids love their new home in Cheyenne. They are all enrolled at the Poder Academy, a free public charter school the Claytons learned about from a volunteer family they met in the program.
Lori marvels at their resilience. “What strikes me is this family’s joy of life and ease of connecting with everyone in the program. I wondered, with six kids, ‘How will they navigate?’ They did so well—they all loved being around the volunteers. They’re achievers.”
Today, the whole family volunteers when their congregation hosts and Lasandra speaks at Family Promise events whenever she’s asked. Explaining how Family Promise transformed their lives, she shares, “We’ve gained so much knowledge. We’ve learned how to do better, how to succeed. We owe so much to everyone in the program who put in the time to help us.
“The caring they showed us—that’s what helped us the most.”