Pre-Love In Abundance, I was just a divorced mother of three trying not to hurt my children any further because of my choice to marry and then divorce. There was no manual for how to circumvent the steps of divorce successfully, and my children were not as forthright as I would have liked them to be about the things disturbing them after the divorce. It took me talking with other children of divorce or separation to recognize problem areas for my children.
As a mother, who did not want to hurt her kids any further; I needed to know from somebody’s child what not to do, so I asked struggling parents if I could have some conversations with their children about any of the changes they may be having a difficult time with, now that their parents divorce or separation was final. Since my children played no role in my choice to marry and then divorce, and because they would not share some of the things bothering them afterward; the goal had to be to assure that they were not hurt in other ways because of my choice to divorce, and what I did not know. Some major lessons heard from these once innocent children, were:
When my parents were in the initial stages of their divorce; my mom would get on my last nerves because of always asking “How are you doing?” or “Do you want to talk about…?” I didn’t really answer her, but I did give her look that said, “Will you please just leave me alone! I have to figure this stuff out too, for myself!”
Other kids stated, My parents get together, but it’s never a good thing. They are so into their hurt that there was very little room for anything else-except them.
As a self-professed child advocate, it was very important that every freely given conversation with these children (who were hurting through no fault of their own) began with me telling them that the information shared was between us would remain between us, as long as nothing said was leaning towards information that could potentially harm them or their family. They agreed, and we moved forward.
(There was still not the thought of beginning a nonprofit, or even writing my first book. I was still just a desperate mother finally getting some real help!)
The objective was to gain the trust of children who were now hurting because of their parent’s inability to recognize that their children had not separated them into categories of “You did this!” or “You did that!” The children just wanted their parents to remember that one of them was still just their mother, and the other was still just their father.
After hearing the horrors of so many children’s stories, the child advocate in me was driven to tell their stories in an effort to give children who believed they did not have a voice; a voice. I felt an equally desperate desire to let these children know I heard them, and how they could help other children hurting.
I felt driven with an emphatic desire to empower these children with how to deal with the new dilemmas in their lives they did not know how to effectively resolve without disrespecting their parents or the authority figures before them. My problem came in the promise I made not to use their name, or to tell someone their story in a way that could come back on them.
Too many children felt caught in the middle of their parent’s pain, anger, desire to tear each other down, or something else equally displeasing. The tragedy of their parent’s divorce was now filtering into their child’s already subpar public education; because many were getting in trouble at school because of the changes in their home dynamics and their new feelings of anger and extreme frustration.
All of that was said to say that when Love In Abundance began, it wasn’t because as the founder I had this unyielding or overwhelming desire to run an organization, or do anything already more than I was doing. After years of casual conversations with children hurting because of their parents separation or divorce (that began as summer excursions to keep myself busy- because my grandparents took my children on vacation every summer, all summer long); if I’m honest, the thought of Love In Abundance came into being long before I even knew there was even going to be an organization.
After years of conversations, I knew the time was nearing for the conversations to end. My children were getting close to high school graduation, in preparation for college; which meant I had a whole new group of unknown things to add to my already overloaded plate of responsibilities. I was feeling a little guilty about the conversations to help these children being over (because it seemed as if so little attention is paid to effectively address their needs and new realities), so I made a decision to get a group of kids together (going through the divorce or separation of their parents) to tell them some of the stories heard so they could begin to believe they were not alone in their feelings of being alone or abandonment by a parent. Within this group, and after about almost two hours, an anonymous child in the room said, “You need to begin a place for kids like us, because we know that you really care about us.”
For the sake of my own curiosity, and to shut the mouth of several haters; I began to research exactly how difficult it would be to begin a nonprofit, and discovered it wasn’t difficult at all. But, I did not want to begin something this significant because of people who were annoying me. I had to do everything in my power, to keep it positive, with the right motivation; because these children, above the realities of any other children, already feel more than enough disappointment because some adult has made him or herself more important than them.
GOD has always shown me, through the trials and tribulations of my own life that Love truly is the cure-all to fix anything. So I gave the company the name Love In Abundance, Inc., before fully committing to being the founder of an organization created to show children and families hurting how love, in the right degree, had the power to fix or change anything!!!
To date, those words are still the kindest words I have ever heard, from someone else’s baby hurting. But some realities really began to kick in about my own realities, and the needs of my children and the plans for their future. As a divorced mother of three children who are only three years apart, preparing to go to college; I had to weight the pros and cons of everything. This was very definitely an area I could afford to be selfish. Check out some of pros and cons:
PROS: I thought about my job making a difference in the lives of once innocent children hurting; and that was thrilling! CONS: I had to face the the reality of being a divorced mother of three-with sporadic at best-support from my ex , being very real. This made the thought of quitting a great paying job to do something that could lead to poverty extremely unappealing or at the very least, not on my list of things to do that made any real sense.
PROS: The problem that has become my blessing is in the days and weeks after that child’s request was the truth that I could still hear that voice asking me to do something that all of a sudden sounded appealing because of its ability to make my heart the happiest it had ever been. CONS: Did I have the right to take on a totally different path for my life, without being totally aware of what my new responsibilities were going to be, with my children truly growing up?
PROS: Having been an extremely logical person all my life, I knew I was a Christian who truly loved GOD, and that HE would not put more on me than I could bear. CONS: But the thought of being broke scared me because I did not have a support system of people to help me. I was all alone; except GOD of course.
THOUGHT: The evaluation for if Love In Abundance, Inc. was my bliss was difficult to gauge on my own, because any decision toward other children’s good came with the reality of my choice possibly negatively affecting life for my children and a group of once innocent children who did not need someone trying to figure out how to help them. In the midst of my turmoil that seemed to last forever; I kept asking myself where is my faith? I knew GOD was all I felt I had after the death of my grandparents; so I told myself I had to keep trusting GOD to move forward. This was easy to say, but really more difficult to live than I expected.
CONS: In that trust, the logical side of me had heard how difficult it would be to begin a nonprofit because if the people giving to nonprofits didn’t like what the nonprofit was doing; poverty could become real, and I had my children and their future to think about. PROS: But the charge beyond any of these children hurting that would not allow the thoughts of beginning a nonprofit to die or remain dormant was the voices from every person quickly telling me what could not be done by me, for my children, or those like the children I’d had conversations with for years over countless summers. These people clearly did not know that I love a challenge, and I love to shake things up! But when the competitor in me was combined with the fact that I was raised to believe, and I had to accept as the truth, that GOD was not going to put more on me than I could bear; I began looking at beginning Love In Abundance as GOD giving me this huge opportunity to make a difference for once innocent children, while showing me an expanded version of myself at the same time. I was very excited, and kind of scared-in a great way!
TESTIMONY: Just thinking about GOD selecting me for such a special purpose made me ecstatic; but I had been challenged to do something I did not feel prepared to do and that concerned me a lot. I had to remember, if GOD is going to give me something HE wants me to do, HE’S not going to leave the plan for doing up to my little finite mind. With the name picked out, and some idea of what we wanted to do and who we wanted to serve; the next step was to make Love In Abundance, Inc legal. I completed the paperwork , because I love research and I did have some knowledge about the legalities of paperwork. I completed the business plan, wrote the bylaws and rules of order, completed the application, paid our fees and we waited. For a then unreformed impatient person; that was hard!
HATERS: Have you ever noticed that haters come out of the woodwork when something phenomenal is about to be done; but they are not coming to support. These limited thinking people are there to cast doubt in the midst of no room for doubt to be anywhere. These haters said it would take months for the paperwork to come back, and because I had not hired anyone to complete the paperwork for us; the paperwork was probably going to come back telling me what I had done wrong, that would need to be corrected before continued consideration was given to whether or not we could become a 501c3 organization, with level nonprofit status.
PRAISES TO GOD! To their surprise and mine; we received the paperwork back in a little over three weeks, after a phone call from Mr. Gil Storey with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Mr. Storey and I talked for approximately 45 minutes about my plans for Love In Abundance, Inc. By the end of our conversation he said, “I wish you were going to be here in Kentucky, because my granddaughter is going through her parent’s divorce, and she is having a really hard time with their willingness to tear each other down in front of her”.
THE REALITY OF THE BLESSINGS:
Mr. Storey also informed me that we should be receiving our advanced ruling paperwork in a few days, but when I went to the mailbox later that evening, the paperwork was already in there. I considered the promptness as confirmation from GOD; that we were on the right tract! The truth kicked in that Love In Abundance, Inc was now an official nonprofit organization, and so did a great deal of fear. We were a public charity able to make a difference in the lives of single parent families, especially the children and we were excited, but clueless once we began to meet those who were our target audience.
The reality screaming the loudest was : What now? I must admit that I was very eager to make sure everything was done correctly because the decision had finally been made to become a life changing nonprofit organization. The reality that could not be avoided was, I was not prepared for the work that went into designing the strongest program structure to evoke the changes needed, because I avoided college immediately after high school. I had not even began to deal with the reality of being viciously physically abused for three years, by my own father. I did not know where we were going to start because there were so many problem areas. As a individual not accustomed to worrying, who in fact gives herself 24 hours to get past any contrast to my desire to be happy, and on to an amicable resolution to whatever was trying to prohibit that. I began to really think about the fact that we now had the fate of innocent children in our hands, and it was a bit overwhelming; because there was no room for panic, fear, or stagnation.
THE EPIPHANY OFFERING PEACE: The job at hand had to include taking the time to actually listen to GOD, so that I could hear what HE was telling me to do for these families and their children. After all, HE was the One who gave me Love In Abundance in the first place, so it just made sense to wait for HIM to tell me what to do as we established ourselves. We are not a faith-based organization, but I am a Christian who lives the reality of being a Christian in everything I do.
Listening became the norm, and we moved forward in the midst of feeling very unfamiliar with the realities of most of our students. The great thing that will always be one of the greatest things ever is, even in the midst of every ounce of uncertainty was excitement, passion, and an eager desire to be the change I wanted to be for our children, and GOD made it happen! In the midst of anything else that could happen, I had never been so charged about any of the previous jobs held. This let me know that I was on the right path, and life could do nothing but become greater. TRUTH LEARNED: Sometimes we can get so bogged down by the insecurities of people, or venturing into unchartered waters or territory; that we overwhelm ourselves with details that are not our business, instead of taking all the new information acquired and listening to the One true source who gave you your gifts in the first place.
Love In Abundance, Inc (LIA) was established in 2002 as an organization created to assist single parent families right above every cutoff for assistance, and we were excited. The problem we immediately encountered was families who seemed to be struggling with an inability to remember to function as a viable family unit in the midst of being a separated or divorced family unit. In the beginning it felt like we were the only one’s happy about our existence, because even the parents were lazy, missing, or nonchalant in most of the activities or programs created specifically for them. Instead of gratitude or appreciation, we heard of plethora of excuses for why other things were always just a little more important than anything we were attempting to do to help these family’s learn to live as a viable, productive family-while my money was going down the drain.
A prevailing reality that had to be accepted was the truth that the reality of divorce is much like music in that divorce crosses all cultural and societal boundaries. At times, the separation for the parent provides little or no consideration for the necessity of adhering to the mandates of a productive family unit. Neither reality made room for the best interest of the child/children who are not readily aware of how to deal with the loss of their parents as a unit-or able to deal with separating their parents into categories of “he did this” or no, “she did that”.
DISCLAIMER: The statements about parents are not applicable to the parents they are not applicable to. We learned the hard way that parents can, in fact, become so focused on their separation that they appear unable to realize the devastating affects of the divorce or separation for their child. The child often feels left to seek their own methodologies for dealing with a loss they do not like, appreciate, or understand; and many of their resolutions tend to cause more trouble than the sought security.
Love In Abundance, Inc. was formed to act as a bridge for effective communication into the real issues, problems, or concerns of said children and their families for the successful survival of the still existent family, for both the child and family. However, and after three years of limited participation from the parents-we knew we were going to have to make some pretty significant changes. After three years of trying to work with parents, dedicating our time, attention, and our money to assure programs were in place to help parents work in their child’s best interest above their own; and having these parents make excuses for why they did not make a meeting or attend an event scheduled specifically for them; Love In Abundance, Inc. had to step back and do some serious evaluations.
Reality constantly showed us that the students of like parents were the only parties maligned, negatively discussed for their exhibited behaviors, and/or negatively discussed in a variety of media sources because of the appearance of no concern for advancing in education. At the same time, nothing was being done or said about parents or other adults perceived to be teaching their children a series of negatively learned behaviors. Children were learning the hard way that it no longer took two to make a thing go wrong when they were the second person in the equation; and too many of them were beginning to show their frustrations outwardly.
It appeared that everyone was looking past the reality that children do not come into the world with a series of negatively learned behaviors. Students model behaviors exhibited before them; use dialect spoken to or in front of them; and their prioritize life matters based on the priorities of those with the greatest influence in their lives; and none of these behaviors lead to these children appearing to want to excel in anything but making money without a plan to secure it. And because these students will be the future, if rightfully informed of the best possible strategies to secure that level of success or not; we at Love In Abundance, Inc.knew we had to change our focus for the sake of the children, and their right to know how to achieve their innate desires for their present lives and future.
- We have seen too many students drop out of school because of growing tired of being the parent in the relationship, without any of the greatest benefits of being in charge.
- We have seen young ladies give up on her future because of seeking love in all the wrong places, and becoming pregnant for a guy who didn’t like or love her.
- We have heard too many students say, “I want to have my own place so I don’t have to do ____________ or so I don’t have to be bothered with__________________ all the time!”
There are so many realities Love In Abundance, Inc. has heard from students (and others working with children) over the course of the last eleven years that were at one time beyond our scope of reality. And because our students are our priority; our entire first month is spent helping students increase her value of self-via increasing her Human Capital. Students become aware of her personality strengths and weaknesses, character strengths and weaknesses, and learner type to know how to leave every situation being the most favorably viewed. In an effort to allow these students to keep their focus on those needed things to secure their desired future, without disrespecting the adults before them in denial or who may have been struggling with any number of dysfunctions; Love In Abundance, Inc. readily accepts our students willingness to be the priority in their lives, without disrespecting the authority figures before them by defining the boundaries for being the priority.
Love In Abundance, Inc. change to having a stronger student focus is based on our truth and willingness to accept students willingness to be the priority in their lives; as long as students are willing to truly be the priority in their life. Because students need to learn how to effectively structure all facets of their lives, in the midst of any inconsistent boundaries felt to be limiting their future or comments appearing to diminish their chances at achieving their goals for the future; all lessons begin with students incorporating a goal and an objective for each program or activity. This aides students innate actions in being personal and connected; which enhances her willingness to gain more (for herself) from each experience and/or activity. Love In Abundance, Inc. has not abandoned working with parents, but now work with parents willing to work with us.
Beginning in the 2005-2006 school year; Love In Abundance was blessed to add an in-school program. The In-School environment brought with it the inclusion of working poor and blended families because the pertinent issues for single parent families are often the same for these blended families. As a result of lessons taught to us by the students in school, Love In Abundance Conceptual Framework for Students needed some research to evoke the long term above temporary change needed for students to willingly seek to master their lives instead of changing the course of their lives due to any anger or frustration felt or what could appear to be a willingness to merely exist through their lives/education. It only took a short period of time in the school environments before LIA came to realize four distinct things:
- A great deal of students had a strong desire for fun to be incorporated into all endeavors: education and otherwise;
- A larger than expected amount of students stated that many of the adults in their lives have shown them how the rules for behavior could change based on an adults needs for the moment; which included teachers perceived to readily change the rules for behavior when certain students were involved;
- Students claiming that because adults change the rules all the time to work in their favor; that they should be able to change the rules sometimes to make sure things work in their favor also.
- Many students had severe trust issues with adults, limiting the student’s willingness to just trust that an unknown adult would do right by or respect them.
Love In Abundance, Inc. would like to be thought of as the village member helping parents, parent their children; instead of an organization functioning with no knowledge of real life for parents who are doing all they can for their children. Sometimes, as the single parent is doing all he or she can to maintain their status quo, certain necessities of life are left to another day that sometimes never comes.
Instead of penalizing the parent or child for life happening to their families, as some in society seem so willing to do; Love In Abundance, Inc. wants to be the support system for both the parent and child for the sake of the still prosperous family. When children and parents experience an increase in their Human Capital, and knowledge of Who Am I to Me™; their expectations for their life change, and their willingness to work toward a dream becomes real. In an effort to lessen the number of young people perceived to have a heightened sense of entitlement, it is necessary to introduce a set of rules, boundaries, and life lessons to empower them for their successful ongoing.
Love In Abundance purposely incorporates the concept of reward and reciprocity into each program and activity offered to show the strength in being the priority without disrespecting every adult perceived to be a violator. The goal is to help every willing student get used to the possibilities of opportunities being created just for them. The objective is to aide all participants in knowing if they are willing to do their part, LIA will extend a hand of care and do ours. The initial struggle to grasp the aforementioned concepts, and the attitudes of students and parents worked, has created Love In Abundance, Inc. first motto (a gift from my fore-parents, regularly told to their grandchildren:
You should never be the person providing the ammunition for anyone to ever speak negatively about you; but every time your negativity is experienced prior to your brilliance being appreciated; that is exactly what you will have done.
After experiencing Dr. Pierre Bourdieu’s Capitals at Houston Baptist University, LIA’s new motto became:
Before you get to the CAPITAL; you must be willing to make some INVESTMENTS in Yourself!
Because students who have taught themselves how to maneuver through life have a different reality: LIA promotes students desire to be the priority in their lives (without disrespecting the authority figures in their lives), by defining their responsibilities to live as their priority. YOU have to be the person working harder on your EDUCATION now ; because you will increase the amount of MONEY you have to get to your desired future later!
The College Must Begin in 8th Grade™ Literary Series is the culmination of five years in research mode without a focus on money because of discovering I was unprepared to best effectively address the needs of our students. While only two research projects were required, I added a third project carried out simultaneously, to assure addressing the past, present, and future. The College Must Begin in 8th Grade™series is the founders answer to empower like students with how to live their greatest self on their terms (until they acquired the ability to trust); this would allow him to meet their needs and surpass society’s limited expectations for students like them. When the series is collectively viewed, each book encompasses the academic and social, character development, and behavior modification activities able to propel any student into the greatest life and future, based on the heightened strengths of each equally deserving student.
Bonuses and scholarships are included in each book in the series to encourage like students to continually work in their best interest. Fifty percent of the net profits will be donated to LIA to assure we are able to help a greater number of students. (GOD was not finished with HIS plan for me or HIS children, so HE added a few books after these, to assure all the support we’d need to empower every willing student to exceed even their own expectations. I know HE’S exceeded mine.)
Check out the contest page to see the opportunities offered that will change life of some of the most in need student’s lives as they know it. A minimum of 11 students (1 first place and 10 second place winners) from each contest will have the opportunity to earn funds for advanced education. And in an effort to shake things up, and provide the opportunity for others students to earn funds for advanced education; every remaining student (beyond those winners for first and second place) will be able to refer people to our website, to purchase their design, for 50% of the net profits of the design and framing–perpetually. The initial funds will go into a fund for students for advanced education. Once he or she has graduated from college; all additional funds will go to the student. Every student served by Love In Abundance, Inc. is empowered by knowing they will:
- Be the person to enhance his or her willingness to learn, think, act, and react in their best interest, because their dedication must be focused on being the most informed and influential person with insight into the plans needed to fulfill their desires for the future.
- Grasp the reality that – My Right (or Yours) is NOT the Only Right that Counts or Matters™! In the midst of how very important any student may be telling themselves they are; no one with opportunities will be walking around, begging any student to surrender to the expectations the student talks about wanting in the future, to grant them the privilege of actually receiving the talked about opportunity to get to that future.
In working in alignment with the realities of students that can become overwhelming at times; I will admit that I was clueless as to what GOD believed I could bear, because it appear that HE believed one things, and I just was not there. Crying and feeling alone in a crowd of people became my norm. A lot of people used to say that everything about Love In Abundance, Inc. began backwards; and opinions are as vast as breaths we take every single day. But,
- Over the last 14 years, Love In Abundance has been blessed to serve over 1,152 students in Title I & lower performing schools, with very little help.
- Love In Abundance, Inc.has helped 49 students enter and remain in college.
- Love In Abundance, Inc.has helped 17 parents pursue advanced education for the first time.
- Love In Abundance is a nominating organization for the Posse Foundation, because they sought us out.
- Vickie Gunnells-Hodge has had two articles published by Dropout Nation. And the ultimate blessing is in
- GOD who has blessed us with the College Must Begin in 8th Grade™ Series; two volumes in a series titled: Their Lies vs. Your Truths; and the PRO ME is NOT ANTI YOU® 9-week Who Am I to Me Vision Board Project, The Movement, Workshop and Tour, and a Compendium to be the change HE wants to see in HIS children and me, too.
Hard does not even begin to describe the path to this point, but we’re still here and preparing to enter year 14 on April 1, 2016! Love In Abundance, Inc. (LIA) has four ideologies that guide us and our students, and they are:
- You should never be the person providing the ammunition for anyone to disavow who you are and whom you must believe you have every right to become!
- My Right (or Yours) is NOT the Only Right that Counts or Matters™!
- Before you get to the CAPITAL, you must be willing to make some INVESTMENTS in YOURSELF!
- PRO ME is NOT ANTI YOU®
Are You Ready to Help Us Help Them? Come on,
Let’s Shake Things Up…