“Momma, why do you have a rock in your neck?”
The playful question from her young daughter Lainysha in late 2015 began Devona’s journey through cancer. A shoulder surgery and rehabilitation earlier in the year had resulted in the loss of her job, and now cancer threatened her life. When circumstances seemed as though they couldn’t be any harder, her step-dad passed away the week following her surgery.
So you’ll have to excuse the tears when Devona talks about the Franktown Open Hearts volunteers who have become “extended family” to her.
“I don’t know where to start. It means so much to have trusted people who love Lainysha, who care about her and she’s safe with them. She is learning so much, like cooking and sewing and knitting. I can’t put a price on my daughter’s face lighting up when she gets to see a lion or acrobats at the circus – the extras I can’t give her because I’m more worried about having food on the table and a roof over our heads. Franktown has made life so much easier for me. As a single mom, it’s all on me, all the responsibility.”
Franktown Open Hearts Ministry is a 501c3 nonprofit in Franklin, TN whose mission is to “bring hope to Williamson County’s inner city youth by providing them the educational and vocational tools necessary to positively impact their lives.”
Some of the ways Franktown lives up to their God-sized mission are through various classes to give youth marketable skills. Lainysha, Devona’s daughter participates in Franktown’s Take the Reins program, a program that was born from the partnership of Take the Reins Ministry and Franktown that teaches kids about equine care and immerses them in a safe space where equine therapy can take place. Lainysha also participates in Franktown’s culinary class, sewing class, tutoring, and recreation. When she is not at Franktown, she is showing her proud mom and “Ni-Ni” the skill she has learned during Franktown’s 5-day-a-week programming. Lainysha recalls her favorite things about Franktown:
“I like to come and they help us with homework, get a full cooked meal, and get to be with friends.”
Devona talks about the recent Franktown Automotive Program gift of a 2003 Odyssey van with gratitude and more tears.
“I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am to have reliable transportation. I can get myself and my family safely to where we need to go. I can drive to my oncology appointments without worrying that I can’t find someone to take me, or that my vehicle will break down on the way. It’s one less stress to worry about, a real relief.”
Devona is not the only recipient of a vehicle from Franktown’s Automotive Program. To date, Franktown’s Automotive Program, designed to help families in the community receive reliable transportation and give youth automotive repair skills, has seen over 10 vehicles go to families in their community, and they are not stopping. Franktown has multiple cars that are still a “work in progress” and will be gifted to families once their repairs are finished.
Franktown Program Director, Brandon Tinnon explains:
“When you give someone a vehicle, you have given them the opportunity to be independent and lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty. They now have access to reliable transportation, so they can get a job and make sure their kids get to and from school okay. Receiving a vehicle from Franktown really changes the course of these families’ lives.”