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Donald's Story

“Donald, how did you find your way to Partnership?” Donald drew a deep breath and took a long pause. How could he possibly know where to start?  He was born into poverty, and for most of his life, he thought that would never change. “I think the food stamp people sent me here” he said. At this time last year, Donald was without a home, car, job, or internet access. Frustrated and afraid, Donald was isolated and deprived of the tools he needed to be successful. While standing in line, waiting to receive his food stamp allotment, someone told Donald he should enroll in the Building Stable Lives program at Partnership.

Building Stable Lives (BSL), is a program designed to help people living in the East Lake, East Chattanooga and Alton Park neighborhoods break the cycle of poverty. BSL works by focusing first on meeting a person’s immediate needs- like food, shelter and transportation. Then, once the basics are established, life coaches begin helping clients set and achieve goals that build the foundation for long term stability. This can include: finding employment, expunging old criminal records, support groups for overcoming addiction, and learning the job and interpersonal skills many have never been taught.

“When I went in, I was kind of in a shell,” Donald said, recalling the helplessness he felt upon entering the program. His immediate needs were housing, transportation and food. He didn’t have a dependable place to rest his head, as he had been couch surfing and sleeping wherever he could. He also did not want to live off of food stamps. Donald desperately wanted a job, but didn’t know how to get one. The age of technology had left Donald in the dust.

“I knew a little bit about using a computer, but I didn’t actually know enough to learn on my own. I got aggravated because I wished I could learn the computer skills so I could find a job” he explained. You could sense the frustration in his voice just from explaining his struggle. So, with stable housing arranged and reliable meals in place, Donald’s life coach, Jessi, got to work acquainting Donald with the internet.  “She helped me by learning on the computer. And to push myself harder and harder and harder to get up and go.” Day after day, Donald would practice what Jessi taught him, and slowly but surely, Donald learned how to use a computer to find a job at WAL-MART.

After a year of work and a nice promotion, Donald had saved up enough money to buy a home of his own, and shiny blue pickup truck to take him wherever he wanted to go. He truly reached the successful, sustainable future he had dreamed of. But that’s not where Donald’s story ends. His crowning achievement came in a phone call a couple months ago.  

“It kind of threw me off because I didn’t know who it was.” Luckily, he answered anyways. Much to his surprise, a case worker at Vocational Rehabilitation of Hamilton County was calling to invite him to their annual Employee of the Year luncheon. Donald said he didn’t think much about it, and didn’t really care to go- but he was available and said he would. It was only upon arrival that Donald realized he was the winner. “I got the plaque on my wall with my name on it. It came with a certificate so I made a copy for Jessi and have the original framed.”

Donald says being named Employee of the Year is his most proud accomplishment to date. It’s a nice reward for the blood, sweat and tears he shed while pulling himself up by the bootstraps. “Now, when I get up to go to work, I always remember what Jessi taught me: to get up and do the best I can do and be the best I can be.”

When you give locally to the Partnership, you are investing in your community. You are providing self sufficency and lasting stability for people just like Donald. Moreover, your investment is building a sustainable community by helping people go from the unemployment line to the employee of the year.

Thank you for continuing to support the Partnership as we work together to build a stronger, smarter and safer community.