A year ago, Lonja couldn't see anything but uncertainty ahead. She had been laid off from her job as a dental assistant in Minneapolis, and the apartment complex where she lived with her two sons, Devonje and Zackary, then 8 and 3, was feeling increasingly unsafe. “I couldn’t let my kids go outside to play,” she says, “because I never knew what they were going to find out there.”
Building a new life
Things began to change when Lonja’s church led the way to Twin Cities non-profit Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners (IOCP). Through IOCP, Lonja discovered CommonBond’s Vicksburg Commons, a 50-family townhome development then under construction in Plymouth. She visited the site and got a glimpse of how her family’s life could change.
“I must have come over here a hundred times to watch this place being built,” she remembers. “I’d drop Devonje off at school, and Zack and I would come over here; we watched the drywall go up and the doors go on. One day, he said, ‘Do you think if we pray real fast, God will help us move in here fast?’”
The view from here
Today, the family has a new townhome in a safe, close-knit community of neighbors who all keep an eye on one another’s kids and gather once a month for a potluck dinner. Devonje joined the Homework Club at the Vicksburg Advantage Center, an on-site service center for CommonBond residents. There he gets a chance to socialize and build his reading and math skills. In the fall of 2008, for the first time ever, he will start a new school year at the same school where he finished in the spring. And best of all, Lonja’s current temporary job looks like it will become permanent.
“Things have really started to come together for us,” Lonja says. “Without this opportunity, I would have had to move my kids to a shelter, or we’d have had to move in with my parents. Now, we’re in a stable, affordable home, and instead of frantically trying to make ends meet, I’m able to spend time making plans and goals for our future.”