A devastating headline to read but imagine if this was a part of your life story.
This was the reality for Marie and Dizelle, and their children Michael, A’mya, Dalemontae, Clyde, Yahir and Nathanial. They were living in Chicago and felt like they had finally made it. Both were working at Amazon and felt at peace with where they were and where they were going. They had rented a house which they intended to purchase in the near future. The family invested time and money into their house, turning it into a home.
After tucking all the kids into bed on a cold December night, Marie and Dizelle got busy wrapping the holiday presents they had purchased for the children. They were so excited to finally be independent after years of homelessness and struggle. As they wrapped the gifts, they talked about their dreams, dreams that now did not have to include getting out of a homeless shelter. They shared dreams of hope, love, and a great future for their family.
Later that night as they were sleeping, a fire broke out. Fortunately, everyone was able to get out of the house safely, only to watch their treasured home slowly disintegrate into ashes. In the span of a few short hours, the family was back in a homeless shelter with nothing to their name but the clothes on their backs. Devastated and discouraged, they worked to rebuild all that they had lost that night.
Along the way, tragedy struck once more…
Michael was graduating high school with honors. During his graduation party he ran down the street to show his friends the medal he had earned for his achievement. From seemingly out of nowhere, a gun fired and Michael was shot. Their son lived, but Marie and Dizelle knew that it was time to get out of the big city. So they moved their family to Bloomington, Illinois.
The family had lived in this area once before and knew it to be a quiet haven. Upon arrival in Bloomington, they settled into the local Mission shelter. Determined to make a better life for their kids, Marie and Dizelle searched for work, a difficult task with small children in tow. They turned to the Boys & Girls Club for help with their children during the summer search. Marie and Dizelle wanted a place where their kids could be free. Run. Play. Be a kid. What they found was a second family.
“We feel so blessed to find a place that not only loves our kids, but us, too,” said Dizelle.
Dalemontae, Clyde, Yahir and Nathanial all participate in the After-School Program which helps to keep them on track with their school homework, and also inspires them to be a part of a community. Here they learn valuable social emotional skills that help them to discover who they are and encourage them to strive to live up to their full potential.
A’mya participates in Teen CLUB which includes an After School Program and an evening program two nights a week. “She had a real hard time making friends after moving here, burying herself in her phone,” says Dizelle, “now she has friends, good friends, which makes me so happy.” A’mya participates in Bon Appetit, a cooking program, as well as SMART Girls, a small-group, all-girl, self-esteem enhancement program. Both programs have given A’mya the confidence needed to seek her first job.
Currently, the close-knit family lives in a two-bedroom apartment. The Boys & Girls Club provides the kids space to run, and play, to learn new things, new skills, and to meet new people. The grateful family receives food boxes each month and will enjoy an extra special Christmas this year, thanks to a local donor intent upon making up for that Christmas two years ago when all seemed lost.
“Above all, the Club has given us hope that people still care,” said Marie, “What we were looking for was a safe place for our kids, what we found was a family.”