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."