A Leap of Faith, A Decade Later

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(Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra with FSH grad Ricki and her daughter Ashiyah in front of the apartment – Ricki & Ashiyah moved into on Louisville Scholar House campus 10 years ago…TODAY. Ricki is now a therapist serving families in our community!)

Ten years ago, our organization took a big leap of faith.  On August 19-20, 2008, we opened our first campus, moving 32 residents in at Louisville Scholar House. This was Family Scholar House’s first foray into providing the affordable housing critically important to stabilizing families so that single parents could focus on their education and career preparation while also providing for their children.

As we mark this important anniversary, we recall those first residents not only as they were when they moved in but also see them as the awesome community members that they are now, working in their careers, raising bright children, and planning for the future. I also remember their struggles and how having a place to live and an academic coach and a family advocate focused on their success, provided them with a fresh start and hope.

Many people stepped up to help us build our first campus.  This was the beginning of important new collaborations that included Jake Brown of the Marian Group, leaders from the University of Louisville and Louisville Metro Government, Gladys and Lewis ‘Sonny’ Bass who named our campus, and service partners throughout the community who referred homeless families to us. Many other community members came forward to support our work both with funding and with their volunteer time for special projects.

One of my favorite projects from these early days involved a chaplain who offered her services to help interested residents create a special prayer for their new apartment homes.  Regardless of their faith tradition or personal background, they were given a chance to write something for their family’s new home that expressed their feelings at this new beginning. Here is one of the special blessings from this project:

May we never forget today, even as we prepare for a better tomorrow.

May this home be a refuge from the realities of poverty; a place to heal as a family; and grow in mind, body and spirit.

May we start and end each day with “I love you” because both parents and children need to hear these special words.

May we never take for granted the roof over our heads, the food in our cabinet, the clothes and furniture donated by others, or the opportunities that are being given to us.

May we show our gratitude by setting high expectations for ourselves and then exceeding them as often as possible.

May the experiences we have had fuel our desire to be successful and may we then pay it forward to others who deserve a chance too.

These words of wisdom remind us that this little family was taking a leap of faith also.

In the ten years since opening our Gladys and Sonny Bass Louisville Scholar House campus, we have continued to stretch our resources to expand programs, build more affordable housing and serve our community. We have added collaborations, including those with True Up and other foster care service providers. Yet, the needs are still great with hundreds of families and foster alumni on our housing waiting list.

Our outcomes show the impact of the combination of housing and intensive services, with 431 college degrees earned by FSH graduates now employed in our community. With each new campus development, we accelerate the positive economic impact to our community that comes with the transition of a family from poverty to employment and self-sufficiency.

On August 29th, we will celebrate the grand opening of our fifth Louisville-area campus, bringing our housing capacity to 247 single-parent families and 32 unaccompanied foster alumni.  All of these residents are focused on education and career preparation so they can become contributing members of our community. We invite those who have been involved, volunteered and cheered for our participants on this journey to join us to celebrate the grand opening of Riverport Scholar House and Riverport Landings. Find more details at http://www.FamilyScholarHouse.org.

What began as a leap of faith continues because of the faithful support and encouragement from our community members and the dogged determination of our very deserving participants. To each and every one of you who have helped with funding, household donations, volunteer projects and advocacy on our behalf, we say thank you. Thank you for having faith in us. As we celebrate this special anniversary and another grand opening, “May we never forget today, even as we prepare for a better tomorrow.”

Cathe Dykstra
Chief Possibility Officer
President & CEO
Family Scholar House

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