“I grew up in a foster home. My parents didn’t adopt me until later in life because I’m Indian. Back then, the laws in Alabama didn’t allow Caucasians to adopt Indian children. My parents didn’t have children of their own, but they loved and fostered 127 children over 30 years. The kids were in and out all of the time, and I didn’t bond with them. I felt like I was just another kid. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that this is my family.
I played basketball at the University of Mobile. I got my undergrad and masters degrees in education. I had ovarian cancer at age 19. I was also pregnant at the time. I lost my son at age 20 and was told I would never have children. I followed in my parent’s footsteps in caring for children who needed homes. I worked and taught at Wilmer Hall. Over 13 years, I was also a foster mom to 12 teenage girls.
I later had a biracial daughter. My family didn’t approve and didn’t want us around. My world came crashing down. My husband left when our daughter was four. He took everything we had, including our car and savings. I lost our home. My daughter and I lived in my Chevy Astro van for two years. I tried to get help from social services, but they told me I wasn’t sick and could get a job. In order to get daycare assistance, I had to have a job, but I couldn’t get a job until I could get my daughter into daycare. They finally gave me $105 a month, but told me I had to volunteer somewhere. I loved volunteering at the animal shelter and they hired me to help get animals adopted.
December and January are our busy months at the shelter. People adopt an animal in December for a Christmas gift and return it in January because it was more than they wanted to deal with.
My dad passed away and my mom begged us to move in with her because she was scared of being alone, but my daughter and I had to live in the back of the house. Her attitude toward my daughter didn’t change, but it was better than living in our van. My mom passed away and I inherited the house and the bills that came with it. I have done renovations and repairs with my friend Michelle. We learned a lot on Google and YouTube and did everything ourselves. I paid off the house and bought a used car. It took ten years to save enough money for the car.
I had a stroke four years ago and they told me to go on disability. I can’t do that. I want to get out and do something with my life, and I didn’t want to lose my job at the shelter.
After surviving all of this, I have to help other people. My main job at the animal shelter is helping animals get adopted, but I also get to be kind to the people who come in. Some people come in grieving over the death of a dog or cat and looking for the next pet to replace it. I console them about help them find the right pet that fits them.
My second job is delivering groceries on the weekends through Walmart. I found out that there are many needs out there, especially the elderly. I mowed someone’s grass and helped another hang up curtains. Sometimes just taking the time to listen is what they need. For Christmas, I am going to give candy canes and Christmas cards to the elderly and people living alone who I see on my routes.
I have learned that life can be hard, but kindness is free. You never know when your kindness will affect someone’s life.”
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