A candle holder sits on the mantel of Glendora Rivera’s new home. “Cherish yesterday. Celebrate today. Dream tomorrow,” reads the trinket, a gift from her 14-year-old son Jaquan.
Glendora certainly cherishes yesterday, as evidenced by the family portraits and photo albums in her living room. The enthusiasm when talking about her new home and the warmth in her voice are signs of celebration. But rather than simply “Dream tomorrow,” Glendora is making her dreams a reality today.
Growing up in New York City, Glendora moved south in 1998. As a single mother, she didn’t want to raise her sons in the city, so she relocated in Greenville, N.C., where she lived for five years, then to Charlotte, where she has lived since. She has a high school diploma and over the years has worked at various jobs in retail and restaurants, including several summers at Paramount Carowinds Amusement Park. The mother of six, with children aging from 12 to 25, was able to get by on such jobs with the help of income from some of her children, three of whom lived with her at the time. However, her circumstances changed when her 19-year-old son moved out of the house. Without her son, Glendora lost a source of income. She had previous evictions, so when she realized she could no longer afford rent at her apartment, she told her landlord, sent her two youngest children, Jaquan and Tamazer, to live with their father, and moved in with her oldest daughter.
With this change, Glendora realized she needed more permanent work. “I need a job that I can hold onto,” she told herself. When her sister informed her about a job opportunity at Burlington Coat Factory, she jumped on it.
“They told me I wasn’t qualified, but my spirit was so good that they gave me the job,” Glendora says with a smile. In November 2011, she began working at Burlington Coat Factory.
Even with the new income, Glendora could not afford a place on her own, so in early 2012 she contacted Charlotte Family Housing. Since she had a stable job for several months, Glendora was put on the fast track for housing. With her social worker, she began budgeting and saving for a house.
Glendora isn’t keen on dates – she is usually vague, speaking in approximates or months. However, there is one date she knows for certain: May 24 – the day she moved into her new home.
“We’re going home, children,” she said to Jaquan and Tamazer on the day she signed her papers. “Wow, we’re home.”
Her new house is “spacious,” as she describes it, with a fireplace, office space, den, and fenced-in backyard. Her kids like to sit outside on the porch where she doesn’t have to worry about them, and their neighbors come over and say hello.
While she has a house, Glendora’s journey is far from over. She has recently graduated from “Getting Ahead,” a program that teaches families the hidden rules of the middle class and evaluates their current resources, and she is excitedly looking forward to “Getting Ahead 2,” the follow-up program.
“I had no respect for money,” Glendora says. In fact, her previous approach to money had been, “You give me a dollar; I spend a dollar.” Thanks to programs like “Getting Ahead,” Glendora has a new understanding of finances. Every 15th of the month, Glendora puts $25 into her savings account. She is also working to save $500 to buy a car through Charlotte Family Housing’s Jumpstart Automobile program. Charlotte Family Housing has done more than just teach Glendora; it has empowered her.
“I am in poverty, and I need to be on my A game to get out of poverty,” Glendora says. “I don’t want it to roll over to my kids.”
As she says, the bus stops and starts with her, and by bringing her A game, she is doing her best every day and not settling. She realizes that while her family is back together, her future and the future of Jaquan, now 14, and Tamazer, 12, rest with her. “You feel better if you are doing stuff too,” she says about her journey with Charlotte Family Housing. “I don’t want a hand-out – I want a hand up. Don’t go past the mountain and just give me something on a silver platter.”
Charlotte Family Housing has empowered Glendora, giving her the hand up that she desires and helping her climb the mountains in her life. While she still has much to work toward, she has learned much already.
“You can take a fall, but as long as you keep your head up, stay focused, be persistent and don’t be ashamed to ask for help, you’ll get to where you need to go,” Glendora says.