Today, Kelsey lives with her two young children in Texas. She’s a working mother, doing the best she can to get acclimated to her new environment after spending years in Lebanon County.
It’s a big change. But the significance of the move is bigger.
In the fall of 2020, LCCM published a story about Kelsey and her son AJ, who was three years old at the time. It was her third stay in the shelter, and it was during the pandemic.
In that story, she said her hope for the future was that she could build a life that would allow AJ to flourish in school and to lead a happy, healthy life.
She didn’t know at the time how hard that road would be. She struggled to hold onto that hope and make it a reality.
Despite having enough savings, thanks to her time at FRESH Start, she opted to pay for a hotel room when she moved out because apartments were difficult to find in Lebanon County during the pandemic.
Her savings dwindled as she paid for a hotel room, and eventually she had to leave. She also felt it was best to house her son with his grandmother. This is when things began to take a turn for the worst.
She was still working, but she and her son’s father were living on the streets, sleeping in parks under trees and bridges. It wasn’t long before she began doing drugs again.
“I felt nothing,” she said. “You go into survival mode and do whatever you can to stay alive.”
One night she had bags of clothing sitting outside as she waited for a ride. She went into a store to get something to drink and when she came out her clothing was gone.
She eventually made her way back to Lebanon County Christian Ministries and would pick up clothing and food items in the lobby. She was approached by shelter staff members who cared for her and were concerned.
“They wanted me to come back in for the very last time,’ she said.
The next couple of weeks that followed were critical with two goals in mind: keep Kelsey safe and away from drugs and get Kelsey and AJ on a plane to Texas to be reunited with her mother and her other child, Olivia.
A LCCM staff member worked tirelessly around the clock for those two weeks. During that time, Kelsey began reading a bible in her hotel room. Staff then got Kelsey her own bible, and she began letting the words sink in as she highlighted verses and passages that gave her hope.
But she was struggling because she was still detoxing from drugs. Then one day, a staff member told Kelsey to immediately pack her bags - she was going to Texas.
“I cried for like 20 minutes,” Kelsey said. “I wasn’t expecting to go right then. I thought, ‘wow, this is really happening.’”
When she arrived in Texas, she was reunited with her daughter, who she hadn’t seen in over two years.
AJ, now 5, starts school in the fall, and is learning how to be a big brother.
“It just feels right,” she said. “I think ‘wow, so this is what it’s supposed to be like. This is the way it should have been.”
Kelsey is sober, working, saving money, and trying to get a home for her family. She knows she still has a long road ahead, but she is hopeful.
“A lot of people tend to beat themselves up about what they are doing. But the more you put yourself down, the worse it’s going to get,” she said. “You have to find people that are going to help you look forward and pick you up and keep going. If no one else is going to lift you up, you got to do it for you, and trust all the rest will fall into place.”
Lebanon County Christian Ministries