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Hilary's Story

Updated: Feb 29

I'm a lifelong Puget Sound resident. I love this place! As a kid, I went to Salty Sea Days, caught 99 cent double features at Everett Theater, jigged for herring off the docks of Marine View, poured over Archie comics at the Everett Comic Book store, and ferried to Hat Island numerous times a year.



I was only 5 months old when our father left. Despite the hardship, my mom made sure we had a roof over our heads, food at the table, and she always had a job. We moved 10 times in 10 years, so when I bought a house in 2005, I made a vow to stay put. My husband and I raised our kids there for 12 years. Being locally employed allowed for more involvement in our community, including volunteering with Girl Scouts and helping at various soup kitchens. With the help of the Parks Dept., I co-founded the first-ever Park Watch of Snohomish County. Life was great!


At the end of 2016, a knock came at our door. Our youngest, a middle schooler, opened the only front door she’d ever known. The strangers on the front porch informed her they were the new owners. As I rushed to the door, she turned and asked me, stunned, “We sold our home?”


For the previous couple years, I’d been trying to save our home from foreclosure. My loan kept getting sold and it got confusing and overwhelming sorting all the paperwork. Just a month before the sale I had met with a foreclosure attorney and made it to the steps of Snohomish County Courthouse to stop the foreclosure. However, I overlooked one of the steps to save our home. One month later it was sold. I was devastated and humiliated. We had nowhere to go.


The next year was a blur. We had to send one child to a relative in Lake Stevens and one to a friend’s house in Kirkland. My husband and I took refuge in a makeshift storage unit in a friend’s backyard. That lasted a week. After that, we stayed in random places. It was so depressing being away from our children. I was unable to be there for them like I yearned to be. The experience forever changed each of us. Because of all that went on with splitting up the family - parents sleeping in parks, changing schools, the hundreds of questions with no answers - both of my children, within a couple months of each other, went to Children’s Hospital for suicide watch. I was devastated!


Times were dark and depressing. Gone were the days of feeling carefree. I was applying for housing from Bellingham to North Dakota for months. A year went by.


Even as I write this, several years later, I feel the despair creeping in.


With no shelter, no car, no phone, no job, and barely any time with my family, I was determined to turn it all around. I just didn’t know how. I worked with WorkSource as much as I could, as well as the family resource centers in Arlington and Lake Stevens. We finally got the call that housing was available and moved into our own apartment TOGETHER.


After so long without a routine, our property manager, Judy, was the strict change we needed. There were struggles to overcome with visitors, curfew, and weekly check-ins. Amrita, our Family Support Coach, was caring and persistent and introduced me to Alex at HopeWorks. I knew I was in a healthy environment with people who wanted to see my family and me succeed. I enrolled in a Ground Works internship through HopeWorks even though I had never done landscaping and was terrified of spiders. I felt excited about this new opportunity!


When I showed up the first day, I was intimidated to see I was the only female. But what I lacked in brute strength, I made up for in determination. With the guidance of Jim Gabriel, Eric, and others, I learned about landscaping, proper usage of hand tools, and how to work together to achieve goals. I felt my world shift. I had a support team at Housing Hope and HopeWorks checking in with me, offering solutions, encouraging me, and giving me the life-changing opportunity of becoming a landscaper. When the internship ended, I had earned a full-time seasonal position - the first woman in the six years of Ground Works’ existence. When the seasonal work ended, I knew my path was paved.


I was so impressed with myself. I was punctual. I hadn’t missed a single day of work. I rode my bike nearly every day - rain or shine - 10 miles round trip. I felt different. The depression faded away and was replaced with empowerment and a sense of community that I hadn’t felt for years.


I was looking for a job when Covid hit. And though life was uncertain, I was certain landscaping was for me. In June of 2020, I was hired by Rainbow Gardening and Landscaping. I haven’t looked back since.


I thank Housing Hope, HopeWorks, and Ground Works for helping me through the dark times, for showing me the power within, and for providing the tools needed mentally and physically to succeed. My kids look up to me and I have more self-respect and a positive outlook on life. To say thank you is an understatement. I hope my story inspires others to ask for help and to believe in themselves!



 

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