“I grew up in New Orleans in the 7th ward ar St. Betnard’s and left after Katrina. I worked at an Touro Infirmary Hospital and we stayed to work. My sister lived on the third floor in St. Bernard housing and all of my family went there because we thought we would be safe but the water came to the second level. There were 16 of us there. We threw the refrigerator over the banister and put kids in it. My nephew and his cousin pushed them to the interstate. They got a boat out of someone’s yard on the way back. They pushed a group of us to safety, then went back for another group. We slept on the interstate that night. The next day we walked for eight hours to get to the Super Dome. Inside, people were fighting, shooting, and raping around us. I thought my eardrum was going to bust from the gunfire. We stayed there for four days, then got on a yellow bus and went to Texas.
I was dating a guy from Daphne and my son and I came here. We got married, he cheated on me, and that was the end. That was a hard time. I didn’t know anyone here. I wasn’t accepted by the black community then because I was from New Orleans. I was criticized for going to a counselor because black people don’t go to counseling, we pray. I know that Jesus is on the mainline, but I was mentally distraught after all of the things I had gone through and needed someone here to talk to. My son needed someone to help them get through the changes, too.
My life turned around in Fairhope because of the people who helped me. When we came here after Katrina, we went to the emergency room hospital to get tetanus shots and the human resources department was there. I was in raggedy jeans and smelled bad. As I was looking at the jobs on the board and a lady asked if I had been in Katrina. She got me an application and the next day someone called me about about a job. I had nothing at the time and told her I couldn’t afford uniforms. People at the hospital bought my uniforms for me.
We were staying in a tiny trailer that had maggots and we were tried to clean it with water. I went to the Dollar Store to buy water for us to bathe in. I lady I met there who left $100 in a card at the counter and that paid for the gallons of water. She adopted me and my son and invited us to got to church with her.
Living in the trailer was tough because my son was too big for it and his feet hung out the bedroom door. After I had a few dollars from my job, I started looking for another place to live. The woamn who helped me find this house told me to give her the key and she would have some furniture in here by the time I got home. Over my 12-hour shift, she and her friends not only brought in a house full of furniture, they decorated it, left food in the cabinets and refrigerator, utensils, a basket of seasonings. A cake on the tablet said, “Welcome home.” My son came home from school to the trailer and I told him we were going to another house to housesit. We walked in the door and he walked around and said he wished we could stay here. I let him go through the whole night thinking we were just staying in someone else’s home. The next morning I told him this was our place and we both started crying. Strangers did that for us. So many people reached out to care for us and 13 years later we are still here.
I started babysitting and caring for sick people on the side and the jobs were coming in and it was more than what I could do. All of the signs showed that God wanted me to hire people to give them jobs. It was a battle because I didn’t want to do it. One day the Holy Spirit said, ‘This not about you, it is about giving other people a chance.’ So I started We Care Private Sitting. In September, a group of us are going to start giving haircuts and shampoos to the elderly. So many of them need love and attention and we will give them that and help them feel good about themselves, too.
I learned about caring and working hard from my mom. She was a beautiful woman and we ran from window to window to watch her walking home. She wasn’t on welfare and worked seven days a week. She was raising six kids by herself and there was nothing we wanted for. Our house was spotless and uou would never know we lived in the projects until we stepped outside. On the way home from school, I would see a homeless person on Canal Street and bring them home to my mom. She would feed them, give them a bath, and get them some clothes.
I was also a fighter and always boisterous. If I saw someone picking on someone or bullying someone, I would go after them, even if I didn’t know them. I was kicked out of school and sent to an adolescent service center for bad behavior kids. They taught me how do deal with anger.
The projects is a tough place to grow up or raise kids. Shooting is normal there. We would sit on the floor and play games until they finished shooting and then go to bed. I have walked over dead bodies in the hallway to go to the grocery store. I was widowed at 27 and had a good husband who died from cancer. I worked three jobs raising my son and daughter by myself. I bought a raggedy house in a good neighborhood to get my kids out of the projects. We didn’t have to dodge bullets there.
After Katrina and other difficulties in my life, I didn’t think I could take it anymore. But I found home. Fairhope is where I have found my peace and my relationship with God. People of all colors have shown me love and I wrote a poem, ‘I am a Living Testimony’ dedicated to them that hangs in a wall in my house. I am a living testimony of the good that God can do and that He can take our broken pieces and make us whole. It is time to share the love that so many people have given me.”