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#GivingTuesdayNow is almost over. Only a few hours left to help our families affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Gifts made today will be matched up to $50,000 thanks to the generosity of a dedicated group of employees at William Blair and its matching gifts program.
Our Home Nurtures Growth and Potential
Mercy Home never gave up on me. They were always there, every day, to help me grow into a stronger version of myself.
Even after living at Mercy Home for a few months, 15-year-old Leah still hadn’t come out of her shell. She was quiet and had a hard time connecting with her peers. All the girls she lived with had interests and hobbies, like music and art that motivated them. But Leah didn’t have anything that inspired her. She had nothing to call her own.
That all changed when she opened a pack of tomato seeds. Our girls home features a lovely garden in the backyard, and every spring our girls get the opportunity to grow flowers and vegetables. At first, Leah thought planting seeds in tiny containers was just another boring activity. She watered the soil regularly but grew impatient when nothing happened.
“I’m used to being disappointed, so when the plant didn’t grow right away, I thought it was just another thing that didn’t work out,” she said. “But then, after a week or so, this tiny green sprout popped out. Finally, I felt like I was a part of something good, like I created it.”
Before moving into Mercy Home, Leah lived with her parents in a house of neglect. Both of her parents struggled with substance abuse and unchecked mental health issues. Moldy dishes stacked up in the sink and food rotted in the refrigerator. Clutter and garbage filled every room. Cardboard covered broken windows and the lawn was overgrown and full of weeds.
Much like the house, Leah never felt taken care of. When she could, she stayed with friends, but that wasn’t always an option. She kept her own room clean, but cockroaches always skittered under the door. As the filth invaded her space, she felt trapped.
“I finally told a social worker at school about what was going on,” she said. “And she asked me if I’d ever heard of Mercy Home.”
Leah and her parents came in for an admissions interview and liked what they saw.
“Everything was so clean!” Leah said. “The grounds were beautiful. Even my parents were impressed. That’s when I knew Mercy Home was a good choice.”
Even though she was excited for a fresh start, Leah felt embarrassed about where she came from. Discussing her problems out loud in front of other people was difficult, and she did her best to hide her emotions. Despite encouragement from our coworkers and her peers, Leah remained dormant.
That is, until she started taking care of her tomato plant. Once it sprouted, she transferred it to the garden and put a support cage around it so it could climb. Every morning after breakfast, Leah ran out to the garden to check on its progress. She enjoyed nurturing and watering the plant and pulling weeds from the vegetable beds. As the tomato plant grew, Leah did as well. She started to open up and talk more in group therapy.
“It takes a while for people to get comfortable in new surroundings, including me,” Leah said. “But Mercy Home never gave up on me. They were always there, every day, to help me grow into a stronger version of myself.”
Not only has Leah discovered a new hobby, she’s also made a few friends.
“There’s a group of us—we call ourselves the ‘Garden Girls,’” she said. “We’ve kind of put ourselves in charge of the garden. We have a lot of fun.”
Leah says seeing her tomato plant grow tall gives her a sense of pride, especially now that it’s bearing fruit. The tomatoes still have a few more weeks before they’re ripe and ready for picking, but Leah and the other “Garden Girls” have big plans in store.
“Once the tomatoes are ready, we want to make pasta sauce from scratch, using vegetables we grew in the garden,” she said. “I found a simple recipe with basil and garlic that I want to try. I’d like other girls to try it and maybe they’ll get into gardening too.”
Every living thing, be it a plant or child, needs nurturing. That’s what we do at Mercy Home—we nurture—thanks to the support of good friends like you. Your light cultivates fertile ground, where our kids can grow and reach their full potential.
Please note: Because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed.