THIS is Community

THIS is Community

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In spite of working full time, Sky Ray struggles to feed her family. Her story illustrates how non-profit and public programs work together to lift up families striving for a better life.

An optimistic and tenacious young mom, Sky Ray lights up when she talks about her children – Jaden, who turns 10 this month and Serenity, age two. It’s the same when she talks about her job as a Family Outreach Worker for the North Carolina Baby Love Plus Program, administered in Guilford County by the Piedmont Health Services and Sickle Cell Agency, a partner program of Second Harvest Food Bank.

To these two full-time roles, Sky’s recently added a full-time course load at NC A&T University, with classes on campus two nights a week and online courses the other three. Her day starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends when the homework’s done. It can be overwhelming, and sometimes there are tears, but never as gut wrenching as the day she arrived at the doorstep of the Salvation Army Family Shelter, with a younger Jaden in tow.

Two Steps Back

Sky was a full-time manager for Foot Locker when, a few months into her pregnancy with Serenity, she began experiencing seizures. After repeated hospitalizations and significant lost hours at work, she could no longer pay her rent. Eight months pregnant, with nowhere else to go, the shelter was a refuge.

“During the day, Jaden stayed active with other kids in the Boys & Girls Club, but the adults had to leave. I didn’t have a car then and, by that point, I was only managing to work 10 hours a week. I went to the public library or the mall to escape the summer heat.”

Just days before she gave birth, Sky and Jaden left the shelter to stay with a family member who had agreed to a short-term stay. Sky returned to work and eventually moved her family to public housing. She’d been on the waiting list over a year and a half. It wasn’t ideal. Sky worried a lot about Jaden’s safety.

An Open Door

At the start of her pregnancy, Sky was referred as a client to the Baby Love Plus Program. She stayed connected with Angela, her case manager, who had coordinated prenatal care and trips to the doctor and, most important to Sky, given her encouragement to stay strong and motivated. It took nearly two years before Sky was able to move herself and her kids into a better housing situation and put a down payment on a used car. Things were looking up. No longer tied to the bus line, she could look for better paying work. But when she took the leap to a new job, the net broke—her first paycheck, and those of all her co-workers, bounced.

“I had no idea what I was going to do until Angela called. There was a new, grant-funded position open with the Baby Love Plus Program, and she was encouraging me to apply.”

Sky started her new job as a Family Outreach Worker nine months ago. She’s grateful to the people and organizations supporting her on her journey. This includes Second Harvest Food Bank and the Piedmont Health Services Food Pantry. The help she is able to get at the pantry means there’s nutritious food on the table and enough money to keep the lights on. And that means Sky can stay focused on building a better life for her family. Roles Reverse

Sky’s enrolled at A&T to become a Social Worker. Her vision board (picture on right) affirms her inspiring attitude and determination to stay healthy, strong and moving forward. Serenity is thriving and Jaden, who was failing in school last year, is now a straight-A student. Every other Tuesday, you’ll find Sky at the Salvation Army Shelter teaching a class and interacting with families.

“It was hard to go back to the Shelter the first time. I could see the familiar pain and worry in their eyes. When I share my story, I know it’s helpful, especially to other young mothers. Having a supportive family is a blessing, but sometimes you have to be your own superhero.”

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Find Your Way to Feed Community.

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$1 provides 7 meals.

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#mother #children #SkyRay #PiedmontHealthServicesandSickleCellAgency #GuilfordCounty #Greensboro #Family #Guilford #AampT

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