What difference can the gift of new furniture make in the life of a family who’s struggling? For 29-year-old Kelsey, it means a place for her family to gather together and be a family again.
Kelsey got pregnant with her first child when she was 17. Her grandmother, Lorraine, says, “She was a little rebellious when she was a teenager but not too bad.”
Kelsey thought the man who fathered her three oldest children seemed like a decent guy at first, but then the physical abuse began. “I was in a pretty bad situation,” says Kelsey. He pressured her to use drugs along with him. She says, “Peer pressure — it really is a thing.”
“I ended up using drugs and I chose that myself, but it was a lot of pressure from him,” she says. Finally, after enduring several incidences where he hurt her badly, Kelsey left. One day when he went to work, she called a friend to take her to a women’s crisis center in Elkins, West Virginia. From the crisis center, she found a home in Huttonsville. But after she had been on her own for six to eight months, the children’s father got visitation rights. She returned to the relationship.
“Then she got on the meth,” says Lorraine.
A 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control states that West Virginia had by far the highest number of deaths due to drug overdose — 81.4 per 100,000. The next closest number was 49.2.
Trying to break free
As the abuse began again, Kelsey knew she had to get away. She did and she got clean for a time.
Then she met the man who fathered her next two children. The relationship started off well, but then the verbal abuse began. “He did a lot of cheating. Things were also very hurtful so again [I chose] to self-medicate; I ended up doing drugs again.”
Together, Kelsey and her boyfriend struggled in low-paying jobs to pay the bills and support their children. They didn’t earn enough to pay rent and got evicted.
They all moved in with Lorraine. “I have cried at night and prayed for that girl,” says Lorraine.
At this point, Kelsey just wanted to sleep all day. The kids weren’t going to school. She was in court over custody of her three eldest children, and then she failed a random drug test. So, Child Protective Services took her kids away for 18 months. During that time, she had supervised visits with her children but couldn’t be alone with them.
“For those 18 months, I got clean all by myself. I didn’t do any rehab,” says Kelsey. “I was pregnant; whenever I found out I was pregnant, that was one of my main reasons to quit.”
Lorraine explains that Kelsey did try to get into rehab, but every place that took pregnant women on drugs was full. So she did it on her own — cold turkey.
Ready to change
Kelsey received a lot of counseling — something she continues even now. And she took a lot of parenting courses to prove her readiness to care for her children again. “Ready to change and be different,” she says.
In September 2022, she’ll have been clean for two years. And she’s got all her kids back now. She shares custody of Zachiah and Graysen, but the rest of the kids live with her full time.
A couple of weeks after they all were reunited, Kelsey felt like something was telling her she should go to church at Valley Independent Baptist Church. Lorraine had tried repeatedly to get her to attend, but Kelsey always held back. But this time, she says, “I just had this feeling that I needed to go.”
She really enjoyed it and so did her kids.
One Sunday a guest spoke at the church. “It was a guy who was kind of like in my situation who turned his life around so that actually did a lot of good hearing that and being here,” she says.
Connecting the dots
More good things have been happening since Kelsey got drug-free. She’s met Adam, who’s a great father to the children. She’s found her own home now too. To help furnish the new place her uncle gave her a sectional, but it was old and very well used.
Then the church’s pastors, Stanley and Mark Allen, reached out to Kelsey with the offer of brand-new furniture. Thanks to corporate donations given through World Vision, churches and community partners like Valley Independent Baptist Church can provide brand-new furniture to families who need it most. Families like Kelsey’s.
Pastor Stanley likens this chain to a connect-the-dots painting. Corporate partners connect with World Vision who in turn connects with community organizations who connect with families in need. But without those lines between each party, a person can’t get the full picture. Pastor Stanley says, “You couldn’t see the butterfly until all the dots connected.”
In fiscal year 2021, World Vision’s West Virginia Storehouse served 325,317 people by distributing 13,896 pallets valued at $23,993,257. And across the U.S., World Vision served 10.3 million children and adults and distributed 97,469 pallets of supplies.
Creating a home
On a Saturday in April, Kelsey, Adam, and all the kids came to pick up donations of brand-new furniture at the church. Kelsey chose a bed for her 11-year-old son, Timmothy, and a brand-new sectional couch.
She says, “It’s big enough for all of us to sit together as a family and have family time.”
She also picked a kid-sized picnic table.
“We have a firepit out back so as it starts to get warmer, we’re definitely going to be having some fires and cookouts and things like that,” she says. “So, it’ll definitely be a perfect place for kids to sit and enjoy the outside.”
“It’s the best gift she’s had in a long time,” says Lorraine. “She’s proud of her house [now] because she has nice furniture.”
Kesley says that even though both she and Adam work, it’s been hard to put aside additional money to purchase new furniture. But this surprise present means she can provide an even greater sense of home for her children as they begin anew.