"I never thought I could be this happy."
On a bookshelf in Marketta’s living room, there’s all the things you’d expect to see. Framed baby photos of her daughters. A prayer devotional opened to today’s date. Pictures of family members from high school graduations, weddings, baptisms.
And in the place of honor, right in the center of the shelf? A photo of Marketta, grinning ear to ear, embraced by two of the people who helped change her life forever: her Bridge mentors, Renee and Sue.
Back in 2011, Marketta and her daughter Faith left an abusive marriage. “The only reason I had stayed with him as long as I did was because I was so afraid to be poor,” Marketta remembers. “He had always worked and I stayed at home with Faith—I had nothing of my own. But I separated from him after he threatened to kill me, to kill Faith and to kill himself.”
For three difficult years, Marketta and Faith bounced from one couch to the next, never allowed to stay longer than a few weeks or months at a time. They landed at her mother’s home in February 2014. But Marketta was given a firm deadline. By June 1, Marketta and Faith had to be out of the house—for good.
Marketta began to scramble, desperately looking for a solution. She looked into homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, cheap motels. She applied to Bridge Communities that spring, went through a rigorous interview process—and in May, she and Faith moved into their own two-bedroom apartment.
With her own address for the first time in three years, Marketta felt a huge sense of relief. But, she soon realized how challenging the Bridge program could be. “At first, I would cry all the time,” she admitted. “It was very hard to have my finances controlled by other people and have my mentors look at my bank statements.”
Her mentors introduced the idea of an envelope system, where Marketta’s paycheck would be allotted into cash each week, then separated into envelopes labeled “Groceries,” “Gas,” “Phone,” and so forth. Once she hit her budget for the week, she wouldn’t be allowed to use credit cards for any extras. Marketta was reluctant to try it, thinking she’d never be able to manage it, especially not on her small CNA salary.
Days later, Marketta was in the waiting room during an oil change, talking on the phone to a relative about her skepticism about the envelope system. After she hung up, the gentleman next to her said, “I couldn’t help but overhear you—I’m a financial planner, and I promise you, this envelope system will be the best thing that ever happened to you.”
She took it as a sign, and decided to go all in on the envelope system. “That’s when I saw real change in my life,” says Marketta. “I began to save, and ended up saving $9,000 over two years. Plus, my credit score went from a 550 to a 740.”
Marketta went all in on the Bridge program at this point, too. She began to search for a better-paying job through Bridge’s employment program. She started attending Bridge’s nutrition workshops, and worked one-on-one with a dietician to learn how to cook healthy, affordable crockpot meals. “The program was hard in the beginning, but it got better,” she says. “I had to be humble, because the only way to succeed is to admit when you need help.”
The biggest changes of all for Marketta came once she let her mentors into her heart.
“Renee and Sue were always there for me, and they became my support system,” she says. “They were always tough—but I knew it was because they loved me. They really became like family. They helped me find my faith in God and taught me the power of prayer. And, they helped my daughter with her father issues, too.”
By the time Faith was just eight years old, she started to show signs of depression related to her past trauma. The family’s mentor team and case manager quickly helped Faith into weekly counseling sessions, which made a huge positive impact in her life. Faith was also paired with a Bridge tutor, Sharon, who provided the patience and compassion Faith needed to get back on track in school.
Bridge also connected Marketta to Kerry O’Brien of Prairie State Legal Services to ensure Marketta could obtain child support—a big hurdle for her. “I didn’t want the child support at first, because I really didn’t want to have anything to do with my ex,” she explains. “Kerry made me understand that by not pursuing child support, I wasn’t being fair to my daughter—because that was her money and she deserved it.”
“Marketta was so dedicated to working on her financial goals like her budget, building savings, and improving her credit score, in order to make a better life for her daughter and herself,” says her mentors Sue and Renee. “We were so impressed with her hard work! It was such a rewarding experience to get to know Markeeta and be a part of her amazing journey.”
Marketta continued to work hard, and after her time in Bridge’s transitional housing program, she stayed on in her apartment as a renter—all while diligently saving and giving Faith a safe and secure life.
“Growing up, I never had stability—I went to a different school every year, always moving around,” she says. “I’ve learned from having this stability, and I know that made change happen for Faith. She’s not this sad kid anymore. She’s always smiling now. Being in Bridge made us love each other more.”
And, after the Bridge program, Marketta reconnected with her childhood sweetheart, Patrick. “He’s calm, he has an excellent work ethic, and he makes me a better person,” she says with a smile. “I also taught him how to budget the Bridge way, and now he’s the biggest saver in the family!”
They married in late 2016, and a year later, welcomed daughter Serenity to the family. And, this past July, Marketta and Patrick proudly became the owners of a beautiful three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. And joining them at these milestone moments? Renee and Sue, who are still part of her family.
Marketta will forever be grateful for you for helping her build her life into what it is today.
“Being in Bridge makes me want to help people and pay it forward,” she says. “Before Bridge, I never thought my credit could be this good, I never thought my family could be this great, I never thought I could be this happy. Thank you!”
Marketta and her family purchased a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house!