Rosa, 20 sits staring out a window wondering how her dreams are finally becoming a reality. She remembers a time when she didn’t even know where her next meal would come from or how her family could pay their rent. “I was wondering exactly where my life was heading and I didn’t even know where to start making things better.” Rosa and her family were living in motel rooms barely making it on odd jobs that her father could find on weekends. Her parents were immigrants from Cuba and were trying to live a life free from oppression. One afternoon Rosa saw a flyer stating that free English courses would be available at the local library. She was quick to take a number and find exactly what it would take for her to learn English. “No one in my family spoke English and I knew you needed to know to find a good job.” This was the beginning in a series of events that would change her life.
By shopping at thrift stores and finding things that could sustain the family, Rosa was able to find information about local programs that could give them the help that they would need. The We Care in Dayton, Tennessee has such programs that help Rosa find a permanent home and give her the tools to make a better life. For more than 25 years, We Care Community Services, Inc. has been reaching out to Rhea County families in need. We Care has grown to offer a wide variety of services to meet the needs of those who are homeless, hungry, in need of clothing, suffering financially or emotionally, or those who just need help with a new start in life. We Care’s main focus is a commitment to building self-reliance in the people we serve for a better community. Rosa was able to learn English three days a week and start working on her G.E.D.
We Care’s Thrift Center is the largest thrift store in Rhea County and provides a wide variety of quality merchandise for families that need affordable prices. The thrift center is supported entirely by donations of clothing, toys and household items from local residents. All of the money generated by thrift center sales is reinvested in the community through We Care’s various assistance programs. For Rosa’s family this meant being able to afford a place to live and where Rosa would be able to focus on her school studies. “For the first time I thought that I could make a difference for me and my family and that was a powerful feeling for me,” says Rosa.
Rosa’s family living assistance was provided by Haven House and fully realized through the Hope Project. Haven House has four bedrooms for use by families and/or individuals. A part-time manager oversees the day-to-day operation of the shelter. Residents are required to be employed, seeking employment or pursuing education during the daytime hours. Kitchen and laundry facilities are provided for residents. Haven House served 350 individuals in 2010, providing 3,347 bed nights in the shelter. In order to help low-income working families realize their lifelong dreams of owning their own home, beginning in 2001 We Care partnered with the Rhea County Council of Community Services Inc. and the Southeast Tennessee Development District to start Project HOPE (Home Ownership Planning Endeavor). The Habitat for Humanity-type program helps working-poor families in Rhea County to purchase their own home for the first time through no-downpayment, low-interest mortgages.
From selling inexpensive clothing and toys to a few hundred customers in 1982 to serving more than 10,000 individuals last year through a dozen different programs, We Care has grown with Rhea County and is positioned to help Rhea County citizens help themselves for many years to come.