The eldest of four, Vanetta was put into foster care at the age of nine, when her mother, who suffered from epileptic seizures, could no longer care for her. After graduating from high school in Piqua, Vanetta returned to Cincinnati and married at the age of 20. Five years into the marriage, Vanetta’s husband developed a serious drug problem, and she was forced to leave with her four young children. Soon after, Vanetta’s mother called 241-KIDS after discovering that Vanetta’s ex-husband still had access to the children, which resulted in temporary custody being granted to her mother.
Things went from bad to worse – a part-time job at K-Mart ended with a jail sentence, when it was discovered that Vanetta was giving friends discounts at the register. Upon her release, Vanetta found herself homeless, job-less, without her children, and despondent.
“I’d never been in trouble before, in my whole life,” she said. “Losing my kids so unexpectedly and abruptly like that, I lost myself and made some foolish, costly, choices.”
Sitting at a bus stop downtown with nowhere to go, Vanetta struck up a conversation with a woman who recommended that she seek assistance at the Freestore Foodbank, which was a few short blocks away.
“I’m convinced that woman was an angel,” Vanetta says. “I hadn’t seen her before or since.”
Vanetta immediately was interviewed for participation in the Continuum of Care program through the Freestore, which focuses on securing housing, stable employment and achieving individual goals, all with intense case management.
“I went back into court, and let them know I was serious about bringing my babies home – they knew I meant business, and for the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful for my future.”
Despite a health-related set-back, Vanetta kept focused on completing her program and achieving financial stability. She met a “wonderful man,” who has stuck by her side and supported her and her children every step of the way. Married now with custody of her children, Vanetta graduated the program and has been with Frisch’s for four years.
“My circle was incomplete without my kids,” she says. “Now my family is whole.”
Aged 17-20, all of Vanetta’s children have graduated (the youngest is entering his senior year) and are in school pursuing advanced degrees in their career of choice. She has instilled in them a strong work ethic, and is hopeful that their generation will model the same for their children.
“The Freestore Foodbank provided me an open door, and I took that opportunity and ran with it,” she says. “They took me from rock bottom, to being able to pay my bills – with money left over! Nothing feels better than that.”
“If the Freestore didn’t exist, I can’t imagine what would have become of me. I am so grateful for the help I received – it’s made me into the productive person that I am today.”