Everlena, a St. Louis native, grew up in a large family as one of 13. For 46 years, she worked as a chef for several St. Louis establishments. Through company campaigns, Everlena became a United Way giver for 14 years. But it wasn’t until several years later, she would learn firsthand the impact of her gifts.
Everlena settled into retirement, and at 70, her life took a drastic turn. Her grandson was admitted to a treatment center for the mentally ill, leaving Everlena the guardian of her seven great-grandchildren. When seniors should be enjoying some of the best years of their lives, Everlena was left to raise and care for the seven, ranging in age from 3 to 11. Life, as Everlena knew it, would never be the same.
With eight people cramped in a three-bedroom house, no new income and utilities cut off, Everlena realized she couldn’t do it alone. Not wanting the seven to be separated from family and put into foster care, she kept the faith and remembered what her mother always told her growing up: “do what you have to do.”
That day, Everlena cast her pride aside and walked through the doors of United Way supported Wesley House, where she was greeted with open arms by Program Director Linda Prince. After sitting and talking through her situation with Linda, a once disheartened Everlena felt hopeful.
“I left kicking my heels high,” Everlena recalled.
That same day, Everlena’s heat was restored. Through donations and support from Operation Food Search and St. Louis Area Food Bank, Wesley House was able to provide a full pantry for Everlena and her family. They referred her to organizations that provided clothing, utility assistance, house maintenance and school supplies for the children, to ensure basic needs were met.
Eighty percent of Wesley House’s funds come from United Way. Meaning without this support, Wesley House would not be able to provide this level of care, leaving Everlena to find other means to put food on the table.
But the helping doesn’t stop there. Everlena and her great-grandchildren were featured twice through the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and United Way’s 100 Neediest Cases program. The program, which has provided assistance to thousands of local families during the holiday season for more than five decades, has helped Everlena keep the power on for her great-grandchildren during the cold winter months.
“100 Neediest Cases is a wonderful program that gives families a chance to start over,” Linda said.
Today, with the continued help of Wesley house, Everlena is able to provide her great-grandchildren with the basic needs they require to develop into healthy adults and live their best possible lives.
About Wesley House
Wesley House provides leadership for the ongoing stabilization of the community and develops extensive local involvement in programs that enrich the quality of life for all who participate. Wesley House has been a United Way funded agency since 1925.
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