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Diane, Cincinnati OH

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The first time Diane (name changed to protect her identity) met some of the Families For Families (FFF) volunteers was during one of FFF's monthly dinners at Cincinnati's YWCA Battered Women's Shelter in March of 2009. The women started talking and Diane was happy to tell the volunteers how she was working on her transition out of the shelter. That said, having no furniture and no money made the thought scary but she was determined to give her two sons a new place they can call "home".

Life had not always been a struggle for Diane. Not that long ago, but in a different life, she was a typical Cincinnatian middle-class soccer mom and wife. When her husband became increasingly abusive and threatened her life, Diane's only chance was to flee to the Battered Women's Shelter. Days later, Diane and her sons were sent to a Shelter in another state for their own safety, where they remained for 18 months, until her ex-husband was incarcerated for life. With the perpetrator behind bars, Diane could feel safe enough for herself and her two sons to return to Cincinnati. And this is when she met the FFF volunteers, during her second stay at Cincinnati's Shelter.

Having listened to her story the FFF volunteers were eager to help. When Diane moved into her small apartment FFF was able to provide bunk beds and bedding for the boys as well as other small and bigger household items and supplies. Knowing that she was not alone made Diane's transition easier and gave a shimmer of hope.

It is 18 months later, Fall of 2010. One of our FFF volunteers receives a text message from Diane, telling the good news that the boys and she are doing well. Relatively well. The first apartment they lived in had been broken into during full daylight. The few expensive items like the computer for the boy’s homework and two game boys had been stolen, but mostly her younger son felt invaded and threatened and had to resume counseling. Then came the bed bugs and she had to throw away the comforters and other items that they had received from FFF.

But Diane is a fighter. They moved and she finally found a job, shift work. Many mornings she gets up at 4am to be in time for her 6am shift, the commute is over an hour. Luckily her boys are old enough to look after themselves during the day. And they are good boys – the older son hopes to achieve a scholarship to improve his schooling next year.

At FFF we felt that Diane passed our path so we could make a small difference in her life, hopefully ease it a little. Some of our volunteers got together to bring Diane and her boys a Thanksgiving dinner. We organized winter boots and coats for the three of them and provided warm comforters and new bedding. Just before Christmas some of the FFF volunteers made another surprise visit at Diane’s home and brought a Christmas tree and some gifts to open on Christmas Day. "I think that this is what people want us to do, when they donate money to FFF," a volunteer says, "to help the women and children who have been through the darkest dark in life and help them see that there is a light and people who care."

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Holly Young, Cincinnati OH

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My journey to becoming a non-profit leader.

I once was asked by my pastor to give a testimony. He thought of me when he thought of Andrew, one of Jesus’ disciples, I just laughed …thinking I should not even be in the same sentence as a disciple. Then God gently reminded me that He chose flawed and sinful people to be His disciples.

Well….hello? Hah! So Here goes………………….

I remember as a young child not understanding why anyone should be lonely, hungry or poor. Don’t they have friends? A family? Neighbors? A church home? Can’t adults see the needs around us and why aren’t they doing something about it? My heart ached for them and I was confused.

I didn’t understand why people would stop and help animals that were hungry & lost, but not people. And so my journey began…….

Although I was a very, very shy child I realized that I loved people! All people! My heart ached for people who were sad and joyful for people who were happy. God guided me thru the years as I sought out ways to help others. It started with my school mates, and then thru youth group, and with my husband’s father who was such a leader in the community we grew up in. Each Christmas eve his church would serve a special meal for those in poverty…..I loved every minute of it and yet my heart hurt as well. I had prayed over the years for God to give me the courage and the opportunities to help others. What I wanted to do was walk the streets of Cincinnati and meet, talk to, feed, and love on the homeless. My husband asked if I could find a safer way to help people. I prayed some more and helped where ever I could, VBS, homeless shelters, soup kitchens etc. God answered my prayer only after he made me walk a journey, so I would be equipped to take on what He had in store for me. He created New Life Furniture . We serve families and individuals who have overcome homelessness, fled an abusive situation or simply live in extreme poverty with their furniture needs.

When a single mom who has been told she is worthless and has been beaten for years lets me hold her, cry with her, and provide a furnished place for her family. That is priceless!

When a Vietnam veteran who served our country is now sleeping on a bed, when the concrete sidewalk was his bed for 3 years…..That is priceless!

The fact that God can use me, a sinful, ordinary, common human being just like he did Andrew, that is not only priceless, it’s a miracle. That’s the business God is in……Making Miracles thru people like you and me….just by simply loving others.

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James Mitchell, Cincinnati OH

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Sometimes the worse moments in life happen at the most convenient times.

On May 24th, 2011, at around 3 o’clock in the morning, Police Officer James Mitchell had a heart attack which occurred with perfect timing.

How so? How can a heart attack possibly occur at the right moment? Well, early that day James and a friend spent 8+ hours driving back to Cincinnati, Ohio from Atlanta, Georgia. And he never experienced a heart attack while on the road. Not while he was in Atlanta for a class reunion/cookout. Not while he was driving 75 North in Tennessee, and not while he was stuck at a gas station in Sparta, Kentucky because of a severe rainstorm. No, James had the blessing of experiencing his heart attack a couple of hours after he got home, while in bed with his wife – a nurse at Mercy Fairview Hospital.

After all the hours James spent on the road, it wasn’t until he came home when he started to feel a throbbing pain in his arm. He was able to figure out that he was having a heart attack in a peaceful setting. He started to perspire, asked his wife if she felt the room was getting hotter, she said no, they prepared to make a trip to the hospital as a result, he ended up collapsing on the bathroom floor, and his wife took care of him until the ambulance arrived. Once it did, EMTs transported him to Mercy Fairview. There, he discovered that he had 100% blockage in his right artery and was immediately operated on. He has since made a full recovery and has continued his work for the past two years with the Cincinnati Police Department.

James said, “It could have easily happened when I was out on the highway. I feel abundantly blessed to have been with my wife.”

Talking to James, I found it really awesome how relaxed he was about the incident. Clearly, he perceives it as a more of blessing than a memory that another person may not wish to look back upon. He told me, “The incident changed my total outlook on life. I now value every moment.” The event may have been a tragedy, but God took that moment, made it something James could handle, and helped him to grow from it.

Because of the heart attack, he told me how he even valued the moment my dad and I briefly met him, after the Cincinnati Reds’ game at Great American Ballpark. Homer Bailey, one of the Reds’ starting pitchers, threw a no-hitter, so practically all the fans were there until the last out. It was still a packed stadium, so we stuck around the area until the parking lots were empty. As we walked around, we bumped into James, who was on-duty, and had a short, very friendly conversation with him. He said it’s not like he wouldn’t have appreciated our conversation before the heart attack, but that now he appreciates such conversations in a new light – greater than before.

The heart attack seems to have helped him embrace the kids at the high school he works with. Through the Cincinnati Police Department, he has been specifically assigned Hughes High School, and additionally takes care of and provides for 14 other schools in the Cincinnati area. He spends each day, talking to kids for hours, whether on the phone or in person. He says he tries to make sure he interacts with every student in at least some way – he’s been known to give everyone he sees a handshake. He even visits the elementary school, with the hope that he’ll one day know all the kids before they reach high school.

In his free time, James mentioned that he simply enjoys being at home with his wife, mowing the grass, working on cars, riding his motorcycle, and bowling. He has five kids who are out in the real world, and looks forward to every time they visit. He added that he has an old car hobby. He has fixed up a 1985 El Camino and took it to a few car shows.

Again, all too often there is good which surrounds tragedy. I find that there are always blessings available in response to suffering. You just have to look for them.

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