Plastic dishes hang neatly in the kitchen counter’s drying rack. Paw-shaped mud stains adorn the concrete driveway. The Disney Channel projects from the corner television.
For many people, this is merely the humdrum of everyday life, but for Tiffany Willie these things are special — because they are hers.
Willie spent most of her adult life bouncing around before landing at Buckner Family Pathways in Conroe, Texas, in 2011, and transferring to Lufkin, Texas, in 2012. She discovered that the program provides housing, child care and counseling for single parents as they pursue higher education to better support their families.
Willie said she also discovered hope through the Buckner program.
“I was able to stay in school and still make it,” she said. “We have a future now, and I wouldn’t have one without Buckner.”
The mother of one nearly missed this new life she and her daughter are living. She was engaged to a young man she met in high school, but they broke up before the wedding. Shortly thereafter, Willie learned she was pregnant.
“Our relationship wasn’t violent yet, but it was close to it,” she said. “God gave me Matty as my guardian angel, as a wakeup call. I didn’t want her to have to grow up like that.”
Healing from the split was a long and painful process. Willie lost most of her friends through the relationship because they didn’t approve of her boyfriend. She moved back in with her parents and had to learn how to care for a child on her own.
Though Matty, now 9, has a healthy relationship with her father and the two enjoy spending time together, building a foundation took time.
When Tiffany first arrived at Family Pathways, she wanted to be able to provide for herself and her daughter more than anything.
“She’s a very determined, strong-willed lady,” said Holly Valentine, program coordinator for Buckner Family Pathways in Lufkin. “She’s full speed ahead in everything she does.”
Tiffany’s faith and life experience naturally propelled her into a leadership role at Family Pathways, where she was already a few years older than many of the women in the community.
“The ladies really gravitated to her,” Holly said. “They were able to look up to her, and she was always willing to do something for them.”
In March 2015, Willie’s dreams of self-sufficiency came true. She signed the mortgage for her first house and moved in 10 weeks later. For the first time in her life, she has a place of her own.
“If you had asked me a year ago if I would be buying a house I probably would have thought you were crazy,” she said. “I didn’t even know I could qualify for a loan, but it all came through.”
After graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University with a bachelor’s degree in social work in May 2014, she secured a job working at a mental health facility and earned a social work license.
Willie said it’s her faith that has carried her through this journey. The process itself has made her faith stronger, she said, and she hopes Matty sees the redemption God brought to their lives.
“I really want her to learn to be strong in her faith because if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be here,” Tiffany said. “God never leaves you.”