Holly is a natural helper. “We’re all about helping people,” she says, “whatever it takes.” Today she and her teenage daughters know almost every tenant in their apartment community. They cheerfully decorate their neighbors’ doorways for Christmas, and they keep the outside of the building neat year round. Whether volunteering with the Salvation Army and the Rescue Mission, surprising the veterans in the CASA community across the street with thank you cards and baked goods on Veterans’ Day, taking cookies to the seniors at a nearby facility at Christmas, or delivering homemade goodies to all of their neighbors on Valentine’s Day, they are always looking for ways to brighten someone’s day.
Holly and her two girls have been in their CASA apartment for four years. Their lives weren’t always so cheerful. 11 years ago, Holly and her girls (aged 3 and 6 at the time) fled an abusive relationship and struggled to land on their feet. Holly then married a good man, but lost him to cancer. Left without resources or support, Holly and her children again faced violence and instability as they tried to find a place to call home. Holly ended up in a shelter in Raleigh, but she was determined to find an apartment. Her CASA apartment was “a new beginning,” Holly remembers, “the chance of becoming something better than what we were.”
Having the space for her family to be together means the world to Holly. “We’re a close family because we’re all each other has,” she says. She’s determined to raise two kind and giving daughters. For Christmas last year, Holly says proudly, her children decided they didn’t need presents. Instead, they made gifts for their neighbors and helped with the Salvation Army’s toy drive for less fortunate families. Holly’s own family was adopted by a local congregation, who wanted to provide items for them at Christmas. When the woman arrived from the church to drop off their gifts, Holly surprised her by saying, “Well, I have some things for you too!” She disappeared into her apartment and quickly returned with her arms overflowing with toys and clothes the girls had chosen from their own closets to donate to less fortunate families. She laughs when she remembers the look on the church lady’s face.
Holly has taught her children not only to survive and care about others, but also to set big goals for themselves. Her youngest daughter has dreams of opening a bakery and gift store. Her oldest will graduate from high school in June and plans to join the military. Their apartment, she says, “was hope for us” – a hope she sees living on in the bright futures of her daughters.