I know y’all saw the whole “suspended account” business, but that’s what happens when your
evil overlordsout-of-state accounting department sends your paycheck late, and it doesn’t clear until the day after you were told it was going to clear. Add ot the fact that December is always a lean month, anyway, and you’ve once again got a broke broad.
The holidays however, have been completely lovely. Got some cool things by way of the man in red, including a brand new one of these bitches from my small brother; spent a good portion of the night/morning before Christmas Eve getting it all set up and cleaning out my contacts database. It’s amazing the obsolete shit you find in there after five years of not really paying attention. Anyway, my sister got me some cool stuff, too, including dish towels and new placemats (yeah, domestic stuff that I asked for. And!??) The only thing I have left to get is a new winter jacket from Mother, but finding one that fits over my giant ass and that I actually like has been a real drag.
Of course, the holidays would be nothing without family drama, and there was a goodly sum of it this year. None of it, remarkably, has anything to do with me. I KNOW, get out, right!?? That’s, like, a total first in a long time, but yeah, everything was very peaceful and happy. There was some missing of people I shouldn’t be missing, too, of course, but nothing that made me a soggy mess. All in all, a wonderful week.
The coolest thing of all, though: You know the 8-rugrat family I wrote about? People listened, and they literally went from less-than-nothing to overabundance like whoa. A church put them in a fully furnished house rent-free for a year, and the kids got a whole bunch of toys and clothing. And Ogger and his nefew are planning to get their vehicle up and running as early as this weekend. Good stuff, something I’ll always be kinda proud of.
Piet the staffer did a great job on the folo—it’s after the jump:
With pride, Rashawn Phillips performs the tour, her 2-year-old daughter, Cierra, trailing at her side, sipping on juice.
This is Phillips’ living room. And her dining room. And her bedroom, finally, her own bedroom.
There’s a bedroom for her boys, and a bedroom for her girls.
And a yard where the kids can play. And a playground nearby.
In the living room is her sofa. Her table. Her lamps. Her children’s books. Her family’s board games. Her television set.
In the kitchen are two refrigerators. She’ll need them; she has a lot of mouths to feed.
Men move in her new beds. A woman mops the floor to her new basement.
A house at last for this single mother of eight, for a family who faced homelessness, a family that could have been separated forever.
The stress has been great on Rashawn Phillips. In her darkest hours, the 34-year-old has thought about leaving. She has trouble supporting herself, much less eight children who look up to her, who are counting on her.
Her childrens’ five fathers have all left. But she couldn’t leave her children. The mistakes she made weren’t their fault. And really, her children were all that she had.
In this house, this gift, Phillips says she feels like she is on the tip of heaven.
To Rashawn Phillips, this place is more than a house. It’s hope.
. . .
Bettye Brooks saw Phillips in the Post-Tribune and on Post-Trib.com. She was sitting there, staring out from the newspaper, her eight children all around her, some laughing, many smiling brightly.
The Dec. 7 Empty Stocking Fund story about her and her family was short. Less than 500 words.
But Brooks couldn’t shake what she read. How Phillips, studying to be a nurse at Ivy Tech in East Chicago, raising eight children all on her own, had been living in Hammond’s Cape House shelter since October. How she had to move there from a modest two-bedroom apartment after she was told by the landlord that there were too many occupants in her apartment. How she came to the Boys & Girls Club in Hammond for help. How her 60-day limit at Cape House was coming to an end.
Brooks couldn’t think. She couldn’t sleep. Her mind was consumed with this family.
Brooks talked to her husband, Cato, a pastor at the Tree of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Gary.
The church owned a house. Couldn’t it be Phillips’ house?
Brooks did everything in her power to get it ready for Christmas, recruiting volunteers to help paint, to help clean, to even assemble the tile floor for the bathroom.
She convinced one churchgoer, Jean Ishmon, to help raise money through her group, the Northwest Indiana Community Reinvestment Alliance. Ishmon convinced Centier Bank to donate $1,000.
Phillips has said the blessings she’s received from the church are like a dream. To Brooks and the others, charity like this is what the Christmas season is all about.
. . .
There was another woman reading the Post-Tribune that day who would make a huge difference in Phillips’ life: Elizabeth Gingerich, a Valparaiso University professor.
That Thursday, she wasn’t just reading the paper for the news. She was looking for her father’s obituary.
Gingerich’s father, Walt Reiner of Valparaiso, had died earlier that week. A civil rights advocate and community leader, he had helped the less fortunate in the community and had found homes for the homeless.
Gingerich read about her father. And then she turned and read about Rashawn Phillips.
She took it as a sign.
Gingerich reached Phillips and said she could try and get her a house in Valparaiso. But, amazingly enough, Phillips already had the house lined up in Gary.
But Phillips had few possessions.
So Gingerich and her husband, Keith Chitwood, helped. They bought nine bed frames and nine mattresses. They brought a washer and dryer. They brought furniture. They brought lamps. They brought clothes and dishes and toys and books.
They decided they’d bring Christmas gifts for the children, as well as a Christmas tree. It will be the first Christmas tree the Phillips family has had in three years.
It’s what Walt Reiner would have wanted.
. . .
Life hasn’t been easy for Rashawn Phillips, but the house and donations have made it easier.
She’s realized she’s had enough children. Time to get her “tubes tied,” she said.
But Phillips doesn’t have a job. She quit her job in September because it simply wasn’t paying enough, and the burden became too great atop of motherhood, studying and moving to the shelter. She hopes a woman who contacted her after reading the Dec. 7 article, interested in offering her work, will help out.
The house is a gift, but after three months, Phillips will have to pay for the utilities and rent. She will have to find a way.
She still has to take classes, and a test, and do some clinical work. She doesn’t expect that she’ll get her degree and become a licensed practical nurse until 2008.
In the meantime, she’ll have child support and welfare and food stamps and visit clothing drives. What little she’ll make from work will go to rent and utilities and items like toiletries.
Movies will be out of the question. Going to dinner will be out of the question. For how long, she doesn’t know.
Today, though, she is living a dream. She can hardly believe her fortune. But she knows she will still struggle.
. . .
They’re all here. Ebony, 14; Ashley, 12; Jasmine, 11; Tevin, 10; Johntrell, 9; Jawaun, 7; Aaliyah, 5; Cierra, 2. And, of course, there is Rashawn. Inside, the kids laugh and play. They sip on soda and suck on candy.
Little Cierra tries to clutch a teddy bear as big as she is. Ashley takes a look at the bathroom’s medicine cabinet with wonder.
The boys rough house in the dining room, and even Cierra clutches at their legs as they playfully tumble toward the ground.
Aaliyah holds a crayon and begins drawing in a coloring book. And Ebony sits next to her in a bean bag and reads. For a moment, she lifts her eyes from the pages, looks around the living room, and says with quiet appreciation, “It’s beautiful.”
And just like that, the Phillips’ new house has become a home.
Contact Piet Levy at 648-3102 or firstname.lastname@example.org