Were living in RV recovered from dump
When the telephone call came to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church from a young woman asking for help to pay her rent, Kerry Hotard quickly recognized her situation was far more desperate.
“It dawned on me that I taught this young lady,” said Hotard, a retired teacher from Luling Elementary School.
Hotard was justified in her concerns about her former student, who was born with limited intellectual abilities.
Now, at age 31, Sharon Ranson has three children – ages 11 months old to five – who were living in a roach-infested RV recovered from a dump. The children were abandoned by their father, Ranson said. Ranson also has a 17-year-old son who Kerry also taught, but who is living on his own.
As anticipated, the more Hotard learned about Ranson’s situation the more she uncovered their many unfortunate circumstances.
“I truly never thought that anyone in this parish with all its resources and, as one of the wealthiest parishes in the state, had someone living in these conditions,” Hotard said. “And she went through the school system that was supposed to improve her life. She succumbed to depression and was not able to move forward and grow. She had a very bad life.”
But Hotard, as well as Catholic Charities and many others, have sought to give the family a better life despite their challenges.
Hotard determined the family was left with no apparent support. With little help available from already financially strapped relatives, Ranson was doing odd jobs for money. A woman put in charge of her SSI checks was apparently keeping them, Hotard said. Ranson didn’t know she was eligible for Food Stamps and there was no transportation to get help.
But Ranson’s call to the church’s St. Anthony Manna program turned everything around.
Hotard called program partner Sherry Rhodes with Catholic Charities and they, along with the community, have basically adopted the family.
“The children – all of them – need everything,” she said. “They had no furniture, no clothes, no nothing.”
They found housing for the family, and both St. Anthony Manna and Catholic Charities bought beds for them.
Ranson’s SSI checks have been reinstated and should be coming to her in a couple of weeks. They signed her up for Food Stamps, as well as WIC.
“We helped get her 5-year-old in school and provided uniforms and supplies,” Hotard said. “She didn’t know how to do that.”
They’re also trying to get day care for the 3-year-old so Ranson can get a job, but that’s proven difficult because she can’t get the care without having a job, Hotard said. They also hope to get Ranson driving classes and are helping her save money for a vehicle.
Food was provided to the family from the church’s food pantry, and they’re arranging for Ranson to get counseling.Parishioners, the United Way of St. Charles and family members have all donated money to the family, which Hotard said has been put in a bank account for them. A Facebook post drew even more donations of furniture, clothing and more.
“People from everywhere who saw the post brought in money, household goods and furniture,” she said. “They really stepped forward to help this young lady.”
Hotard said the response has been more than she imagined it would be.
“This young lady never complains,” she said. “She smiles through everything. She’s accepting of whatever happens to her. She’s very thankful for what we’ve been able to do for her.”
They’re teaching Ranson how to manage her money, particularly after spending her entire $300 in Food Stamps last month in two weeks. Hotard’s response was, “’Oh, Sharon, we’re going to teach you how to make that $300 stretch.’ And she wants to know, and she now has a desire to do it right.”
With a little help from the church’s food pantry, they were back on track.
In addition to teaching her about nutrition, Ranson is learning about housecleaning. A microwave and curtains were being delivered to them.
Hotard said the situation also has given rise to plans for area charities to meet in February to share what all they do to develop a guide. They are also encouraging use of Charity Tracker, a database of people in need and what they have received to ensure they get all the help needed to avoid people falling through the cracks.
“We need to stop enabling and truly help,” she said.For Ranson, Hotard said the community has rallied to help her making up for years of hardship.
“I see an opportunity for a young lady to have a fairly decent life for her and her kids now,” she said. “I see a young lady with hope. I hear it in her voice now.”