Time was running out for Kristina Lucas and her four children, then ages 2, 5, 10 and 12. The family was staying in a homeless shelter that enforced a 15-day limit. Before that, for a few months, she had lived with family members, who could no longer make room for her family. Going back home wasn’t an option, as the living situation she had left behind was violent, leaving Lucas and her children emotionally scarred. Fortunately, just as their stay at the shelter was coming to an end, they obtained a referral to Family Promise of Lycoming County (PA).
Lucas credits Family Promise with changing her family’s future. “I loved the program,” Lucas said. “So many things in my life are better now.”
When Lucas entered Family Promise, she did not have a high school degree. Executive Director Melissa Magargle and Case Manager Jenny Hull worked with Lucas to obtain her GED, and then assisted her in enrolling in an associate’s degree program and completing the financial aid forms. More importantly, they helped her gain the confidence she needed to be successful in college.
Hull also worked intensively with Lucas on budgeting. Lucas said the classes helped her understand the importance of paying her bills first and saving whatever was left over rather than spending it (Hull calls Lucas a “super-saver). Lucas proudly points out that her son now plays football and basketball and her daughter is a cheerleader, activities she could never afford before her stay in Family Promise.
The budgeting skills Lucas learned at Family Promise were tested this summer, as she works at a Head Start program that follows a school-year calendar. While Lucas received unemployment during the two months when the Head Start was closed, the amount was less than her paycheck. “I knew I had to save to get through the summer, and we did fine,” she said. “Since Family Promise, I have also been able to put away money for Christmas presents, for the first time ever.”
The Affiliate’s parenting and mentoring classes also helped the family heal. The younger boys learned how to calm down to interact with the other families in the program, while the daughter received the counseling she needed to heal from her violent childhood.
Lucas, now pursuing her bachelor’s degree, said that Family Promise continues to provide care and support for her family. “Some of the church volunteers will still call me to make sure that I have enough food and other essentials,” she said. “I know that I can call Melissa and Jenny, and I will have them right away.
“Through the program, I found more than a new home,” she concluded. “I gained a family.”