A Story of Hope: Darleen
In Darleen’s apartment in Avondale, one of our graduate housing units, she opened up about a past of despair and loss and talked through what brought her to Hillcrest Hope. “I could not believe that there were people in this world that would care so much for a complete stranger, like me,” Darleen shared. “I had lost hope in people, being told repeatedly that I was not ‘good enough’ to deserve any better, I began to believe that for myself.” Today, Darleen recognizes that she has found what she had been seeking for so long, a community that cherishes her giving heart, never taking advantage. This is Darleen’s story of hope.
Darleen survived a marriage of abuse and extreme control for many years. Upon leaving the marriage, she put her entire life savings toward a custody fight for her daughter and after her resources were completely drained, she had nothing left. No money available, no home to live in, and her daughter was to remain in the unhealthy home of her ex-husband. Darleen sought stability through friends. She existed for four more years in Kansas City, depending on others to make ends meet. Darleen had two more children, boys, and always dreamt of reuniting her entire family-bringing her daughter to live with her and the boys.
“At that time, I had an opportunity in Colorado that led me away from my daughter,” Darleen explains. “I struggled so much with the knowledge that I would be leaving her, but I knew I had to get my life back together. I left with the promise that I would return to Kansas City.” In Colorado, life took a turn for the worse. Darleen struggled and the unthinkable happened: her vulnerability was targeted for another’s advantage, someone in authority. When Darleen tried to protect her family, she found herself in a mess of accusations made against her, and her children were taken from her home, without cause.
Family from Kansas City were able to come and claim relation to the youngest child, but not her older son. Darleen was detained without cause by local authorities and upon release told her older son was gone. To this day, she does not know where he is.
“I gave up,” Darleen admits. “Life became completely unmanageable. I was a jumble of emotions, from fury to shame. I knew in my heart that what had happened to my son was not my fault, but I have always wondered if I had just given in, not stood up for myself when someone wanted to take advantage of me, if I would still have my children. I had no more hope. I began living in my car, sleeping from couch to couch, and desperately searching for ways to escape the desolate place I was in (physically and mentally.)”
From Colorado, Darleen made her way to Arizona, where a cousin offered help. Darleen found a community and support in Arizona that helped her climb, slowly and carefully, out of the depression she had had felt so buried in. “Yet, even then, I did not have the people in my life I could truly call family. They walked me through the first step to moving forward but I needed to keep going.” Darleen found a friend that she followed to New Orleans who then began to take advantage of her kind spirit. She once again recognized the control someone had over her and started looking for ways to get out.
Each week, Darleen was allotted grocery money in the relationship. Carefully, she budgeted to save a good portion, while still putting food on the table. She hid the money, praying for a way back to Kansas City, her true home. Out of nowhere, a friendship rekindled with a woman Darleen knew in her childhood. As Darleen began to share her story, Roberta shared of a similar story, her own, and how she came to a place called Hillcrest Hope. “I know that God led her to me, grew the money hidden in my bottom drawer, and showed me a way out,” Darleen attests. “I wanted to get back on my feet by my own efforts and Roberta told me of a place that had helped her gain stability, structure, and a life she had longed for…a life I had longed for.”
“I prolonged applying due to fear. I did not know who in the world would want to help me, would care about me. Yet, I found the courage, applied, began calling. It was shortly after that when I packed two bags and got on a bus from New Orleans to Kansas City in search of the hope that had begun to grow inside of me.”
Darleen landed a job with Denny’s right away and a friend of Roberta’s owned a daycare that had a space that Darleen could sleep in overnight. After working the night shift, Darleen would catch a few hours of sleep before kids began to arrive at the childcare facility at 6am.
After much patience and diligence, Darleen was accepted into Hillcrest Hope. She recalls the day of her move-in and walking into her apartment for the first time: “I was so overwhelmed. I didn’t feel worthy of anything that was being given to me. I stood in complete awe, not believing that any of this was mine, that I wasn’t sharing it with anyone else. I was afraid to even touch anything. And that first night, as I finally began to feel safe, I was flooded with the sorrow of all that had happened in my life.”
It took some time for Darleen to truly settle in, accepting that this could be a home for her, during her stay with us. She began to grow more comfortable in her own skin and establish healthy friendships with other residents and individuals in her life. Most importantly, she has been reunited with her daughter. “I had yearned for so long to be with her, with all of my children,” Darleen shares. “Madison, my daughter, came right over when I moved in and it was the first time we had really spent together in ten years. We had to get to know each other again.” Madison now calls and stops by, Darleen takes Madison to work some days, and Madison chose to spend her birthday with her mom.
Darleen’s younger son is now back in her life as well. She gets regular visits with him and is working to get a shift at her job to see him even more often. And speaking of work! Darleen states that God had it on her heart to apply at North Kansas City Hospital. “I knew I belonged there,” she explains. She applied for one job, landed an interview, and the hiring staff adored her. Soon after that, they contacted her to say they had filled the position internally, but to please consider applying for another. She began to pray, remembering that God had given her this desire, this direction, and as her prayer concluded, the hospital called to offer her another position because they did not want her to go and find work elsewhere.
“Not only do I love my job, I get to pay it forward,” Darleen proudly explains. She has now referred her friend Roberta, who led her to Hillcrest Hope along with the two ladies that got Darleen her Denny’s job. Each of these women now have employment through North Kansas City Hospital.
“I ask God every day to make me a vessel from all that I have experienced and endured so that I can be used to help others. I have been so beaten, so belittled, so betrayed. I was told I was worthless and never good enough. No longer. I now feel worthy and loved. I see compassion like I have never seen before. I have gained back my self-esteem. I have so much love to give and since I have come to Hillcrest Hope, I have a family I have never had before. I have the healthy love that I have longed for.