Forty-three-year-old Jeneen has lived in Kingsport for the past five years with her three young daughters, ages 5, 6 and 9, and in that time, the divorced mother has lost her job and her home.
“When I first moved to Kingsport I was caring for an elderly man, but he passed away,” Jeneen said. “I was working as a waitress, but I wasn’t making any money and they let people go. I was renting a house and just couldn’t do it any more. I stayed with my mother and stepfather, then was told about Interfaith (Hospitality).”
Jeneen moved to the Model City from Asheville, N.C., for family reasons and has been living at various churches associated with the Interfaith Hospitality Network for the past four months. IHN (which has recently begun the process of rebranding itself as Family Promises) is a coalition of local churches who reach out to families in crisis.
“I’ll be ringing the bells with the Salvation Army (this weekend),” Jeneen said. “These churches have been wonderful and supportive and Interfaith has really helped me out a lot.”
Jeneen has also been working with Friends & Neighbors — a non-profit organization that helps families into transitional housing — and is one of the families being helped by the Times-News Rescue Fund — a yearly program that aims to put a little extra food on the holiday tables of some of the region’s less fortunate families.
Two of Jeneen’s daughters are her biological children, while the 5-year-old is not. Jeneen has taken care of her since the little girl was 18 months old, while the biological mother had used drugs and essentially left the toddler behind.
“They’re blessings to me. They’re my rock. My children keep me going,” Jeneen said, adding she has been able to get the 5-year-old on TennCare and signed up for Social Security benefits. However, the father of her two children has not come through with any support.
“He’s in North Carolina and keeps going through the system. He’s over $30,000 behind in child support payments. I don’t get any kind of assistance from him,” Jeneen said, remarking how resilient her children are doing during these hard times. “They’ve been strong. I think it’s been harder on me than them. But, there’s been a lot of love and support from the churches and they’re doing good in school.
“They’re just anxious to get a home. We do have some things in the works and I hope it goes through.”
The job market has been especially tough for Jeneen; small children make the situation more challenging and the struggle to find work in the current economy has been hard. But she’s not giving up. She said she is working to obtain her GED and would like to continue on to college, possibly pursuing a path in social work.
“I’m doing well on my test scores and I’m not going to stop until I succeed,” Jeneen said. “I want to give back to the community and I want to help people who have been in my situation.”
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Times-News Rescue Fund, P.O. Box 479, Kingsport, Tenn. 37662.