I meet with every single member at least once.
Usually within the first week of them moving into Hope Street. I want to be able to at least put a name with each person’s face. These “meetings” are scheduled for 30 minutes, sometimes they go longer and sometimes they don’t get much past hello. There are talkers and there are those you have to pull words out of.
I remember my first meeting with Amanda as though it were yesterday. She walked into my office on time (this rarely happens), with her two beautiful little girls (Kaylia and Andreia). She politely smiled at me. The girls immediately had a million and one questions as they proceeded to physically touch every possible thing on my desk or window sill. What’s this? Why do you have this? Do you like basketball? Each question being thrown my way as though we were on a speed date with limited time to get to know one another. There in the midst of the commotion was Amanda. Lovingly looking after her girls. Amanda and I exchanged a handful of words - her responses to my questions were all one of two words: “good” or “okay.” When it came to the part where I ask if the member has a question for me, she smiled and said, “No.”
As she left my office I remember thinking, okay good talk - gosh those kids are adorable.
Amanda and her girls moved into Hope Street just over a year ago. Since that time, they have imprinted themselves on our hearts. I wish I could hand you my phone and allow you to scroll through the countless photos and videos (some they took themselves) of these girls as they enjoyed life at Hope Street. Amanda and I had daily conversations (yes, multiple words strung together). I got to know her story, she checked on me and I checked on her. We talked about music, movies and hard moments in life. We talked about faith and why things happen the way they do. We grew a friendship.
There was a routine we grew to expect as a staff. Amanda would get her girls ready for school and wait on the steps for their bus to arrive. I could count on her smiley face, the two miniature versions of herself all greeting me with loud and warm welcomes, “Hiiiii Ms. Ashhittty.” Amanda cleaned our building; she took tremendous pride in making our space spotless. Our space was a reflection of her - her desire to welcome people in and remind them of their value and worth. The girls would make their daily rounds after school (they stopped in mine first) to quickly say hi, because “you have a lot of work to do Ms. Ashitttty?” - before running down the hall to Ms. Hannah. Their noise, was joy and peace to our community. Their laughter, their questions and simply their presence helped make Hope Street feel like home.
That has stopped. Amanda passed suddenly at the age of 44 in April. She left behind 4 year old Kaylia and 8 year old Andreia. That phone call was one of the hardest ones I have ever had to receive. I was speechless. I couldn’t hold it together. If I am honest, I am still struggling.
I shared her story for the first time last week at a luncheon. I shared it because I wanted people to understand “why” Hope Street matters. I think we have done a better job of explaining “what” Hope Street does, but why does it matter? While I could give you a bunch of my own reasons - a former Hope Street member who came to console me, said it best:
“Ash, she died in the place she knew she was deeply loved for who she was. She died at home, with a community who gladly received her - mess and all. That’s what we do here, we love broken people.”
So that’s why. We continue to love broken people, because they matter. You do the same, as you choose to partner with us - through the mess, beauty and everything in between. I love sharing good news with you, I don’t want to have to make a habit out of sharing the bad… but it’s still good, because of the Hope we have. Amanda knew that Hope and she died knowing she is loved - mess and all.
Families have been a part of Hope Street for just over 5 years. Each family is given their own apartment. Our moms and dads pay a little bit more to stay in their own unit, but we do not charge membership for kids to stay. Yet, somehow that lost revenue has to be made up. We do that through our Baby Acorn Fund. This fund supports kids being able to live at Hope Street, it is our way of investing in and seeing whole families heal, grow and flourish together. It costs Hope Street $150 per month for a kiddo to stay. Our goal for our fiscal year end is to replenish this fund as we head into a new fiscal year. Annually we budget $30,000. This allows us to have 15-17 kids in the building per month. Would you please consider investing in the next generation by contributing to our Baby Acorn Fund? You can support one of our kiddos for a year at $1,800, 6 months for $900 or 3 months at $450. Any gift helps us reach our goal!
Your gift, helps moms (and dads) like Amanda stay at Hope Street at a rate that is manageable. Your gift, allows kids like Kaylia and Andreia to be loved on by amazing volunteers, staff and community members. Our Hope Street families get to see a new possibility for what life can be, and to feel safe while exploring this. It helps remind us “why” a place like Hope Street matters - we all need a safe space to be reminded that God loves broken people.