There is a smiling child in the picture taped to the computer beloging to Bright Beginnings, Inc. Executive Director Betty Jo Gaines. It's not her grandchild, but she is a family member of sorts. Her name is Diamond. Her mother LaDonya came to Bright Beginnings as a single mom struggling to balance her life: going to school, raising children, and keeping financially afloat.
Shuffling between friends, family, and transitional housing left LaDonya drained but doggedly determined to provide a better life for her children. When Bright Beginnings had an opening for her first child, she remembers crying with joy and relief.
Over time, Betty Jo Gaines and her staff provided a second home for LaDonya and her family. Her children thrived. They made friends and gained social skills; LaDonya marveled at their expanding vocabularies. With child care no longer an issue, LaDonya applied for a teacher's aide position at Bright Beginnings. She became a role model to other parents, just as the children's teachers had been such an inspiration to her.
"When you see other people who've been in your shoes and who are successful, you realize that you're not going to be in this situation forever," she says.
Today LaDonya is a teacher at a day care center and is saving up for her own home. Little Diamond, the child in the photo, is now a big girl of four preparing for kindergarten in the fall. She's ready for that important step thanks to the love, nurturing, and sense of stability her family received from Betty Jo Gaines and her staff at Bright Beginnings.
"It's a good feeling to know your kids are safe when you have to leave them every day. I know how it feels for these mothers. I've been there."
Families with young children are among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population in Washington, D.C. Bright Beginnings is a child and family development center that offers a bright start for homeless infants, toddlers and preschoolers, and their families. Bright Beginnings serves about 186 children annually whose families are living in crisis shelters or transitional housing. Learn more about Bright Beginnings.