Charlotte Chapter

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Strangers Became Family ~ Stories of Hope

by Colleen Alden, SFFC Charlotte Storyteller

“Strangers came alongside us and became family. They turned something that could have been a tragedy for us – scarring my kids- into a blip on the radar” 

Newly divorced with three little boys, Safe Families partnering parent, Natasha, was working two jobs and holding things together. Thanks to the help offered by Safe Families in the past, she had just celebrated 1 year with her boys in the same house, and was working hard to create continued stability.

Enter 2020 and COVID-19, and the loss of both jobs on the same day.

Natasha decided to use the opportunity to educate herself and find something “economy proof” to build a career and support her children. For her this meant a certification in underwater welding. It also meant childcare for the weekly evening classes, which she did not have and could not afford. 

That’s when two amazing Safe Families Charlotte volunteer families stepped in as Family Friends.

“Sometimes you just need one good reason to do something – ours was that somebody needed us” 

Natasha’s 3 boys went to the home of Mark and Jennifer Claussner, SFFC Charlotte volunteers, once a week for 12 weeks. After evenings of jumping on the trampoline – and generally being doted on by her 3 pre-teen and teenage girls – Jennifer took the boys home and put them to bed, waiting until Natasha arrived home, often after 10PM. 

In her words, Jennifer and her family see Safe Families for Charlotte as a way to be a, “normal family helping out in a normal way”.  For her, it’s an opportunity to be a part of helping kids stay in their own families; a purpose which resonates with her deeply. 

Jennifer sees her family’s experience with SFFC as a life lesson: 

“Sometimes your normal routines, focusing on your own family, you feel like you can’t do more. Disrupting your routine weekly in a way that that involves late nights –  that feels hard and requires resilience. Then you realize you have more to give then you think – and you do it. We were ALL in and doing this with our whole heart. It was a lesson for all of us about adapting, for the sake of others.”

“Our lives are better for knowing Natasha and her family”

David and Laurie Hoe first heard about Safe Families through Lake Forest Church, and they loved the idea of being able to directly intervene with families in crisis, before the government has to step in. They were happy to jump in on the other weeknight childcare was needed and bring the kids to their house for dinner and some fun with their own teenagers on Lake Norman. 

For them, Natasha is a “great mom who just needed a little help”. 

Through dinners together, drive-in movies and regular connection, the Claussners and the Hoes continue to build their friendship with Natasha and her sweet family. 

Natasha has completed her underwater welding course and will soon leave for three weeks for a welding project in Trinidad. Although the financial and logistical burden was eased for her, she says the greatest impact was in being loved. The two SFFC volunteer families became her village, a community that takes her and her kids as they are, never makes her feel “less” for being in need, and celebrates her success at every turn.