Growing up in California, Lindsay was surrounded in her youth by neighboring children and families, her own including a mother with a junior high education, a father whose early career in the Air Force, followed by a business degree, blossomed into thirty plus years with Haagen Dazs, and five siblings, with Lindsay in the middle.
Lindsay’s hometown in Tulare County boasts being our nation’s second-leading producer of agricultural commodities. The county’s demographics are sprinkled with migrant laborers, and individuals and families facing challenges including poverty, high unemployment rates, (the highest in California), low education attainment, hunger, and California’s number one highest teen birth rate.1
In addition to the social and economic traits Tulare County may have afforded Lindsay, she was also a young child of divorce. Yet, even with these possible challenges, Lindsay chose early on to hold strong to life’s positive surroundings and happenings. Finding comfort with a supportive father, who she recalls telling her he would back all her decisions, Lindsay attributes much of her life today to his support and that of her older sister, Rebecca. However, today’s success was not without a few early obstacles.
Graduating high school, Lindsay found herself amongst Tulare’s pregnant teens. Not wanting to disappoint her father, Lindsay followed in her older sisters’ footprints and headed north to Washington State, two days after accepting her diploma. Migrating across two state borders, she was young and expecting, yet truly unsure of what to fully expect, other than that she knew Rebecca would welcome her warmly. Upon arriving in Seattle she moved in with Rebecca and began planning her future.
Lindsay found that in order to attend college with any level of affordability, she had first to achieve her resident status, which would take two years. Putting that on her calendar, she quickly found work and commuted via public transportation from Seattle to Redmond, one hour each way. By 2002, she had saved money, applied to North Seattle Community College (NSCC) and found an apartment of her own for her and her young daughter. Her intentions were to obtain her transferrable Associate’s Degree needed to move toward a Bachelor’s Degree. Her interests, at that time, were in Elementary Education with plans to attend Western Washington University (WWU). She recalls sharing with her NSCC enrollment counselor her worries with the financial demands of schooling and childcare, and how DSHS would not pay for any childcare. Contemplating how to make college a possibility for her as a single parent, she was blessed with a counselor who referred her to Seattle Milk Fund.
Reflecting on her interview with SMF, she recalls a couple of ladies that felt like they were aunts and made the process comfortable. “With public assistance, you have to jump through hoops, fill out paperwork, and you are under deadlines. These ladies made it easy and they covered childcare and books for two years. I didn’t even ask for books. And they didn’t ask for anything in return. “
Her schooling became challenging. Her first year of classes was on campus, including a few college prep courses. Surpassing her first year fairly easy, her second year evolved into a more demanding schedule and learning became progressively more challenging. Lindsay remembers thoughts that she didn’t want to be poor forever and how “a year felt like 10 at that time in her life”. Trying to ease her burdens, Lindsay chose to take many courses online, hoping to lessen the demand in transportation and juggling her daily schedule. Upon nearly completing her second year, Lindsay applied for Western Washington University’s Elementary Education Program, not realizing there were so few spots available or that there were other institutional options for her same degree. Unfortunately, Lindsay faced crushing news when she was not accepted…so much so that she chose not to complete her very last credit course necessary to receive her AA.
With fear it could push her career out years to reapply in the future, and as a single mom, Lindsay chose to table her education and focus on work to support her and her young daughter. By 2008, Lindsay was introduced to National Frozen Foods, through the help of her sister Rebecca’s connections with the company. Finding comfort in National Frozen Foods’ feeling like home, Lindsay accepted a position in sales service. Five years later, Lindsay still finds National Frozen Foods a welcoming home, with “people coming to NFF and staying until they retire”. In her tenure with NFF, Lindsay has become involved in her personal philanthropy as well as supporting NFF’s. Together with her colleagues, including co-worker Debbie Heriot (niece to longtime SMF member Jennie Rogers), Lindsay has wholeheartedly begun “giving back to SMF”. Through NFF’s corporate membership with SMF, Lindsay has jumped onto the volunteer bandwagon and volunteered for two SMF events including Homecoming and CookieFest.
Coming on board, Lindsay and Debbie together have steered NFF’s support of Seattle Milk Fund (See Article on National Frozen Foods “A Special Kind of Philanthropy”) with Lindsay overseeing National Frozen Foods’ Adopt-A-Family program with Seattle Milk Fund for the holidays. Just recently, Lindsay went back and finished her last class to suffice her credits necessary for her Associate’s Degree. Lindsay will receive her AA degree and plans to continue her education toward a Bachelor’s in order to strengthen her career options. This past March Lindsay married her longtime love and, together, they are raising their family quite efficiently. Giving back to her community, Lindsay and sister Rebecca volunteered at SMF’s Homecoming (Lindsay pictured left, volunteering with sister Rebecca pictured in the background). And, inspiring philanthropy at a very young age in her 13 year old daughter, both Makala and she volunteered most recently at SMF’s CookieFest. We are proud to have made this reconnection with Lindsay and we definitely wish her, and her family, much success in the coming years!
1 Gomez, C. (n.d.). Teen pregnancy prevention in the California Central Valley. Retrieved from http://www.hewlett.org/uploads/files/TeenPregnancyPreventionintheCentralValley.pdf
A parent to two boys, Jesse and Bennie, Jessica has been a single parent most of her boy’s lives. In 2005, when the boys were quite young, Jessica found herself in an unhealthy relationship with their father. Bullied to the point her self-esteem hit bottom, Jessica attempted to leave the relationship, but was threatened with statements like “your kids will hate you” or even worse, “I will take the children away”.
At the 2013 SMF Annual Lunch, Jessica shared that “having those types of things told to me over and over was very painful”. She knew she needed to look at their future and make serious changes. She realized that even if her kids did end up hating her, it was better they grew up safe and well and that she had to keep fighting and moving forward.
Although, as a single parent, Jessica had a job, State assistance, and support from her parents, it still wasn’t enough to raise her family. As she persevered and moved on to a better paying job, she took two steps backwards losing State assistance and childcare, and then when her mother was hospitalized. To top off her struggles, Jessica lost her car with the inability to keep up with payments.
Terrified, Jessica knew she needed to make more money and that she couldn’t continue to count on her parents as a long term solution, but she was fearful whether or not an education was the right direction. Taking the leap, she enrolled at Bellevue College in 2009 and was successful receiving a grant to cover the endeavor.
Without a car, Jessica walked the boys to school daily, took classes online, and took the bus to work, the grocery store and anywhere else they needed to go. Even with the bare minimums, the costs of living were astronomical. Jessica never splurged; she did without cable or internet, which meant she completed school work at the public library, using their internet. Her days were full with responsibility, single parenting, schooling, extensive homework, work, and the added pressure of public transportation.
Jessica felt very isolated as a single mom with little resources and no time for friendships outside of work and school. However, she continued to move forward and achieved her Associate’s Degree in Arts and Sciences in 2011. Proud, but for a moment, she knew this was only the beginning. She was still car-less, scared and struggling. Committed to creating a strong future for her boys, she applied to the University of Washington as the final hope of her future. Accepted to the Social Science Evening Degree Program, tailored to what she wanted to study; race, gender and culture, her tuition, childcare and other expenses were even more so enormous than community college. Therefore, during her 1st quarter, Jessica spent hours scouring the UW scholarship database, which is where she came across Seattle Milk Fund.
Jessica applied and was placed on the SMF wait list. Even with her parent’s support, pulling her small family out of poverty was an endless struggle. Her hope for a financially stable future and regaining self-esteem were chipped away. Then she received notice SMF had approved her grant application. Her feeling of support was incomparable to anything she’d felt to that point; “accepting me into the Seattle Milk Fund Program has changed my life. Going back to college was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
Immersed in school, studies and work, life was still difficult. Jessica tells SMF that “when you’re in a place like I was, you need people to give you the reassurance and tell you that you’re doing the right thing. Because of my lack of confidence, I always just agreed with everyone else. Then [one day] I realized that I had an opinion and a voice of my own. When I showed up at school, I didn’t see myself as worthless, and I wasn’t treated that way either. We were all there with a common goal and it was the best feeling to have complete acceptance. My peers and the Seattle Milk Fund did that for me and it felt good. I was in a good place. The Seattle Milk Fund provided me unconditional assistance and the help that I needed, when I needed it the most. It made it so much easier for me to reach my goals and for me to complete my degree. You help real families, families who don’t qualify for state support because we make too much, but not enough to raise our families.”
Jessica contributes SMF’s funding to easing her financial burdens, allowing her to pay bills on time, provide for her daycare needs and further considers SMF’s nurturing and positive support the avenue that provided her ability to earn her degree, and regain her self-esteem, dignity, and self-worth. Most importantly, SMF allowed her to become the parent she is today. Jessica told SMF’s lunch guests “there’s no other program like yours. You build real families who are trying to improve their lives but can’t afford the basic costs of living.”
March 2013, Jessica graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science, studying race, gender, and culture, just as she had hoped. She attributes the disappearance of her shame and her new-found ability to feel more of a person as a single parent to Seattle Milk Fund’s support. Through this new path, Jessica has been able to rebuild her life while feeling accepted.
Choosing her path of study, because of her strong belief that everyone should be treated equally and fairly, regardless of our unique differences, it is Jessica’s hope to someday help other women, children, men, families and communities. Jessica admits she’s gained a rich life, and with everything the boys and she have experienced, gaining self-esteem and a future were priceless. She would honestly do it all over again because of what she gained.
In recent years Jennifer Wilson experienced some of her most enlightening moments.
Struggling to balance motherhood, full-time student demands and volunteerism, Jennifer a new mother, learned the true meaning of being busy. She admits ‘never before [feeling] so thoroughly fulfilled’ and considers herself ‘the lucky recipient of ample kindnesses from loved ones and strangers. Believing it was only through the help of generous benefactors, Jennifer found a foothold in a tumultuous frenzy of obligations and responsibilities that made up her daily routine.
To a room full of Seattle Milk Fund Members, Jennifer’s story evolved, sharing a resounding theme that ‘great achievements are never accomplished by a single set of hands’. It was this theme that provided her perseverance through months of studies, motherhood and hours of volunteering. Graciously, Jennifer expressed thanks to the many that made her success possible. Beginning her journey with Seattle Milk Fund in the spring of 2011, Jennifer received childcare, education and/or family support grants over what would become her next seven quarters of studies in the nursing program at Seattle Central Community College.
Remaining tenacious, she found her inspiration a ‘gracious gift given to me by the ladies at the Seattle Milk Fund’. Through months of planning and piecing together necessary resources, enrolling in full time schooling, achieving high ranking grades, volunteering in local emergency rooms, caring for her toddler, mentoring young immigrant women wanting to pursue the nursing field themselves, AND commuting back and forth from Eastern Washington, Jennifer achieved her dreams.
In 2012, Jennifer graduated SCCC and was accepted by Seattle University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Through the introduction by an SMF staff member to a local chapter of PEO, Philanthropic Educational Organization, Jennifer once again became the lucky recipient of ample kindnesses from loved ones and strangers, receiving a PEO Program for Continuing Education Scholarship to assist her further on her journey.
Today, a confident mom, nursing student and community volunteer, Jennifer has seen a wide spectrum of emergent situations and maintained a cool and calm demeanor throughout. Confident that nursing is the optimal career choice for her, she’s found it satisfying to give back to her community, blossoming her understanding of the diversity of our vast world.
Jennifer’s profound knowledge comes firsthand, of the spectacular feeling of giving a gift to someone in need and seeing your small charitable act change the life of another. She believes that when serendipity brings two complimentary parties together at just the right time, the result is a mutually gratifying resolution. With gratitude, for Jennifer’s choice of serving in a helping field and putting our investment to such great work, we’re looking forward to the moment Nurse Jennifer enters our world, and what an investment it will be.
Stephanie and Lucas’s journey overflows with triumph. Stephanie’s story, a story of many single moms, is also often the story of Seattle Milk Fund recipients’ lives; a story where life throws a few curve balls and mothers like Stephanie do what needs to be done to make ends meet.
For Stephanie, life’s curve balls included moments of joblessness, heartbreak, health issues, school challenges for her young son, fears of homelessness, and so much vulnerability, that at times Stephanie wanted to give up.
And instead, she persevered. A single mom of a young boy, Stephanie had planned to return to school and get her nursing degree for quite some time; and although together, she and Lucas experienced enough challenges for one single mom to want to throw in a towel, she never did.
Due to Seattle Milk Fund members’ and donors’ support, and luckily for Stephanie and Lucas, SMF came around just when she most needed a supportive hand. Through SMF Childcare and Educational Grants, over a period of more than two years, Stephanie realized her goals.
In the Spring of 2010 Stephanie graduated from South Seattle Community College’s Certified Nursing Assistant Program earning her Associates in Applied Science. Today, Stephanie has persevered, putting one foot in front of the other. She currently manages a company that provides lactation services to new moms, has spearheaded programs to expand their services, networks with esteemed hospital staff, and still finds time to continue giving back to her community in her spare time, all while pursuing the idea to return to school for her bachelor’s degree.
Stephanie has served in community roles including Vice President of Deldridge Community Center, as a volunteer for Seattle Milk Fund, and as a Running Coach at her son’s school, together with supporting Cub Scouts. For this ‘typical, average woman’ as Stephanie likes to refer to herself, life ahead is on its way to a strong financial future, with a happily ever after ending. Stephanie Vos is simply one example of beating the odds of typical and average, and instead shooting for the stars, she’s definitely a success story!
A year after her husband had died of cancer, Nichelle Alderson, a sophomore at the University of Washington in 2005, found herself struggling to stay in school. “When things get rough, you just try to move forward, even when you don’t feel like it,” said Alderson. “A lot of my burdens were financial.”
With children in first and second grade, Alderson found out about Seattle Milk Fund through the childcare office at the university. “They were really receptive and they made the process really easy and nonthreatening, “ said Alderson. Although the mentorship program at Seattle Milk Fund was not yet in place, Alderson said the organization contacted her regularly to check in. “It was a good experience, looking back, to have something to be responsible to, in addition to my own standards and myself,” she said. “They wanted to make sure their investment was worthwhile.”
Alderson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in law, society and justice in 2006. She went to work for The Defender Association, and while working full-time, she earned her master’s degree in social work, completing the two-year program in one and a half years.
Proving to be more than a worthwhile investment for Seattle Milk Fund, Alderson recently earned a teaching certificate and will soon test to become certified as a licensed clinician in social work. She intends to teach and work in private practice, and eventually start a nonprofit organization that provides a holistic approach to social work for people of color.
Even as a little girl, Claudia had always dreamed of being a scientist. But her home was filled with abuse, forcing her to choose between staying in high school or continuing to live with horrific beatings. After dropping out, she drifted into an adult relationship that turned into a nightmare of domestic violence. She’d earned her GED, but college was out of reach as she struggled to become emotionally and physically healthy after decades of abuse.
By the time Claudia and Lynn moved to Seattle, they were homeless. Still, Claudia clung to her dream of getting a higher education. But how could she go to school and still be able to afford day care for her 4-year-old child? At an average cost of $1,000 a month1, childcare far exceeded the cost of rent on the apartment they eventually found.
Today, Claudia is studying physics, calculus and computer science full-time at North Seattle Community College while Lynn is safely cared for each day at the college’s on-site day care center. Claudia recently earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average and will soon graduate with an associate’s degree. She plans to eventually earn a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.
“Seattle Milk Fund stepped in when there was no other support for me to get the daycare I needed for my daughter – not government assistance, not another nonprofit, no one,” Claudia says. “Seattle Milk Fund helped remove the barrier that stood in the way of my ability to earn my degree, eventually secure a good paying job, and create the kind of life that I want and deserve – a life that once seemed so out of reach for me. Your contributions to Seattle Milk Fund have made this all possible for me. Thank you.”