“I left the house with nothing,” Doris says.

She isn’t exaggerating. Doris and her three daughters left their home in a hurry, with no place to sleep and no clothes, except for the ones they wore. To make matters worse, Doris had no job to support her family.

But she knew whatever lay ahead was going to be better than what they’d left behind.

Back at home was Doris’s husband, a man who had physically abused her. Though Doris suffered for years at his hands, she always found it difficult to leave. Her husband provided the only income for her family, and there was no telling what he would do if he caught her trying to escape with the children.

But once she found the courage to go, Doris knew she needed to leave quickly. So she gathered her daughters and fled the man who had terrorized her.

She’d left everything behind, but Doris had hope, especially for her children. She knew one of her sisters was receiving help for troubles in her own household, and it seemed to be making a difference. Doris decided it was worth a try.

So she reached out to Friends First, Mercy Home’s mentoring program, which matches children with positive mentors and provides family support.

Brother Paul, a longtime coworker of Mercy Home, spoke to her first.

“She called me over and she said, ‘Oh, Brother, could you find mentors for my children?’” he recalls.

Once he heard her story, he knew he had to do more than that. To Brother Paul, helping Doris and her children was his— and Mercy Home’s—responsibility.

His sense of obligation came from a conversation he had with Father Close, the late former president of Mercy Home, and predecessor of Father Scott. He remembered Father Close telling him, “Paul, we really need somebody to go out and work with these families. We’re missing that piece.”

So Brother Paul did just that. He accompanied Doris to court to face her ex-husband. With Mercy Home’s help, he did everything he could to help Doris get back on her feet.

“[Brother Paul] helped me with clothing, he helped me get my furniture together, myself together, because I was stressed, really stressed out,” Doris says. “So that’s how it started. He [Brother Paul] has helped me with a lot of things.”

He also helped match two of her daughters with mentors.

Doreen, her middle child, was 13 when she met her mentor, Elizabeth. “Our first interaction I remember I was very nervous,” Doreen recalls. “And [I remember] she had a lot of freckles and at that time I had a couple hundred freckles, and [Elizabeth] was like, ‘You know how I knew we were gonna hit it off? The freckles!’”

Eventually, Doreen’s shyness faded away. She realized she could lean on Elizabeth. “At the time, my mom and my dad had gotten a divorce,” Doreen says. “So…knowing about what was actually happening in our lives, she stood consistent, [saying], ‘I’ll pick you up. How did your day go?’ Even after our time in the [Friends First] program ended.”

Through cooking together, going to plays, making ornaments, and more, Doreen’s friendship with Elizabeth gave her hope.

“We got to experience all different types of life,” Doreen says. “I feel like she showed me how things could be.”

Today, for Doris and her family, pain and suffering are things of the distant past. Doris has found success as an award-winning chef and even received praise in the local news for her achievements.

Beyond her career accomplishments, Doris is happy for the blessings Friends First provided her children.

“I am grateful that the kids have exposure to different things in life,” she says, “as far as going downtown or going to plays…even dealing with different kinds of people. I think that that helps your kids a lot. There’s another world than the little four walls that we have here.”

Doris has even become an advocate for Friends First in her neighborhood. “I see kids on the street, and I ask, ‘Would you like a mentor?’”

Doris’s daughters now have children of their own, and the practice of welcoming Friends First mentors into their household has become a proud family tradition. For them, the volunteers are not just mentors—they’re family.

Brother Paul has been in touch with the family for over twenty years, and calls Doris regularly. As much as he’s had an impact on Doris and her children, Brother Paul is aware of the positive effects they have had on him.

“[They] enabled me to climb inside [their household] and learn the good things: the family, the closeness that you see,” he says.

“Even when there’s poverty, families back up one another, and they help one another. It’s given me such a good feeling to be in touch with Doris [and her family]. I’ve loved it.”

Doreen and her mentor, Elizabeth, still keep in touch, too. And the ornaments they made together are hanging on the walls of the family living room.

Doris’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Infinity, is the newest member of the family to have a mentor.

“[I like] how kind [my mentor] is and what she takes me to go do, and she’s willing to do what I like to do,” Infinity says, smiling.

Her mentor, Kelsey, knows they’ve got a lot in common: “My favorite thing about Infinity is her ability to communicate,” she says. “She is quite talkative, which I enjoy, as I was the same when I was 10.”

Thank you for making possible such wonderful, life-changing relationships. Because of your support, our Friends First mentoring program helps not only children in need, but entire families as well.

3 replies
  1. lisa malmquist says:

    Thanks for the wonderful positive, inspiring story! Hearing this makes me see that what each one of us does is important in this world. And can change lives for the better is we choose to be generous in this way.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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3 replies
  1. lisa malmquist says:

    Thanks for the wonderful positive, inspiring story! Hearing this makes me see that what each one of us does is important in this world. And can change lives for the better is we choose to be generous in this way.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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