A family tragedy broke Jennie's family apart, resulting in her being placed at Amarillo Children's Home when she was six years old. She lived here throughout her childhood until she was nearly 18. Twenty-three years later, she came back to us as a much-loved Assistant Houseparent.* (This story was written in 2013, see the bottom for an update!)
What is your favorite memory from your time at Amarillo Children's Home?
One Christmas when I was about 10, we had a set of houseparents who found out that we'd never looked at Christmas lights or had stockings. On Christmas Eve, the man took us out to look at Christmas lights. While we were gone, his wife filled our stockings from the room of donated used toys. We came in, and we could smell the cookies and the hot chocolate. Our stockings were stuffed – filled to the top. It was the best day ever.
How have things changed since you were here?
It was a different time. It was a good place, just different. At that time, kids who came to ACH were here until they graduated. All of the kids were really close – like family. There wasn't a lot to do. We mostly just played outside. It wasn't fun or exciting, but it was our home. The adults weren't very hands-on. It was a different day and age. Now they are so involved here – all of the adults are. There are so many people engaged with the kids.
Also, when I was here, when you graduated, you were done. Now there's the After-Care program. I think people could have been a lot more successful with that... knowing that when you turn 18 you still have a place to come home to.
What brought you back to ACH as an employee?
I've always wanted to come back – ever since I left. I ran away when I was nearly 18. I knew I was going to be discharged soon, so I ran away. And I fell flat on my face. I found my sister, and we stayed in an abandoned trailer for a few weeks. Then we went to a homeless shelter. I met a Mr. Wonderful who wasn't so wonderful, got pregnant and had a baby at 18. I decided I wanted things to be different. I went to college, then moved to Abilene to interview for a job, but I was painfully shy. I was too shy to do the interview. So I ended up working at a convenience store instead. I stayed there, did well and was promoted through the company. I thought often about coming bak, but I wanted to stay in the Abilene area until my kids were through school. I have three amazing kids – one son in the military, one who's a firefighter and in the ministry and a daughter who's in college*.
I wanted to come back and work at ACH. I felt like I could make a difference, and my kids encouraged me to pursue it. I was praying about it, but I had been at the same company for 15 years and was in a good-paying position. It was a difficult decision. Then one day I was pumping gas and praying about it, just not sure if it was the right thing to do. I was praying, "God, I need a sign. You know me - I'll obey, but I just need a sign to be sure." I looked up, and there was a big diesel truck. Across the back were the words, "God's trying to tell you something." So I said, "Ok. I have to do this." And I'm glad I did.
*Jennie remains an incredible asset to our campus, now in her role as a Houseparent. Her daughter has followed in her footsteps, working as an Assistant Houseparent.