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Dawn and Rachel doing better through Pathway of Hope

Mother and daughter find a new path in Hibbing, Minn.

Added on Friday, May 1, 2015

Two years ago, Dawn Lasserre and her daughter Rachel moved to Hibbing, Minn., looking for a fresh start. They had left a small town in Wisconsin, where Dawn worked as a certified nursing assistant. Without getting into details, their lives had become too turbulent there.

In Hibbing, Dawn knew somebody she and Rachel could live with as they got back on her feet. Unfortunately, their new life didn’t get better: Dawn couldn’t find a job to save her life.

“I couldn’t even get a gas station to hire me – nobody in town knew me,” said Dawn, who has a great work history.

That was April 2013. She finally got a job that September, working as a special education teacher at a local school. But by then, the financial damage had been done.

“For six months, no bills were being paid and no money was coming in,” Dawn said.

Hibbing food distributionTo stay afloat, she’d been getting food at the Hibbing Salvation Army (pictured). There she met caseworker Nancy Massich, who told her about a new Salvation Army initiative called Pathway of Hope.

Pathway of Hope is a national Salvation Army initiative that provides long-term, one-on-one support for struggling families that want to start thriving. Each family meets with a Salvation Army caseworker at least once a week to formulate a game plan, set goals and track their progress.

Dawn signed up just over a year ago.

“You have no idea how desperate I was,” she said. “When somebody extends a branch of hope, you say heck yeah.”

Starting small

Families in crisis often stay in crisis because their challenges seem too daunting to overcome.

That’s where Pathway of Hope comes in. The initiative meets families where they’re at and provides a clear and realistic path to self-sufficiency.

Nancy Massich of Hibbing Salvation Army“Together, Dawn and I set goals,” said Nancy (pictured). “Small goals, so that I did not overwhelm her.”

When Nancy says small, she means it.

“Even if I got the dishes done, I was one step ahead of where I was before,” Dawn recalled. “It was as simple as keeping my focus up instead of down.”

Gradually, Nancy offered bigger responsibilities, through the setting of weekly and monthly goals. When obstacles arose, Nancy had Dawn’s back.

“Sometimes I would just cry,” Dawn said. “I never knew what was going to drop from one day to the next. But I had Nancy pushing me, standing by me, holding me accountable. She was putting a lot of time, energy and love into me. I didn’t want to let her down.”

Nancy also kept her eye out for other programs that could help Dawn and Rachel.

“Nancy got us bikes through a local bike program,” Dawn said. “And when back-to-school started, she got Rachel supplies through The Salvation Army.”

Dreaming big

Nancy and Dawn also set long-term goals, including having Dawn find a summer job.

“Before school ended last year, Nancy put a bug in my ear about what I was going to do without an income all summer,” Dawn recalled.

Ironically, she got a job at a gas station after all. She started working there at the end of the 2014 school year.

Dawn and Nancy at Hibbing Salvation ArmyShe hasn’t stopped. Now, nine months of the year, she works at both the school and the gas station. The extra income Dawn has been earning by working two jobs has helped her chip away at another big goal: paying off debt.

“When I started Pathway of Hope, I had six big debts to pay off – now I only have three,” she said. “If everything goes perfect, I’ll have everything paid off in a year.”

Through it all, Nancy has constantly been impressed by Dawn’s resolve.

“I held Dawn accountable and she followed through,” Nancy said. “She is a wonderful person and it has been a joy for me to see her triumph through the struggles of this past year. She wanted to provide a better life for her daughter and was determined – she just needed a little guidance.”

That guidance has led to Dawn being a stronger and more confident version of herself.

“I’m much more stable – mentally, physically and financially,” she said. “This program is not for people looking for a handout. It’s set up to give you a hand up to a better life. It teaches independence. It teaches you to be proud of yourself and say, ‘Hey, I can do it.’ The scary parts in life aren’t quite as scary anymore.”

Dawn is thankful to have made this journey with Nancy.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better person,” Dawn said.

Growing initiative

Pathway of Hope began in Minnesota and North Dakota in August 2013 at a handful of operation centers. Today the initiative is offered at 20 Salvation Army centers, with 10 more centers scheduled to join by September.

Through Pathway of Hope, dozens of families have achieved these and other goals:

  • Buying a home or finding stable housing
  • Obtaining full-time employment
  • Getting a driver’s license
  • Improving their credit
  • Starting college and/or obtaining GED
  • Receiving mental health treatment or other medical care

Sherrie Trucker of Pathway of HopePathway of Hope is a high-impact approach that focuses on finding the root causes that keep families from becoming self-sufficient. The initiative targets families with children in an effort to impact generational poverty. Studies show children who grow up in poverty are 32 times more likely to live in poverty as adults.

“The power of this initiative lies in the weekly meetings with Pathway of Hope case managers,” said Sherrie Trucker (pictured), Pathway of Hope director in Minnesota and North Dakota. “This keeps goals on the forefront and makes people feel accountable. Goals are broken down into small action-steps so that people can experience achieved satisfaction. This motivates them to continue taking small steps until a larger goal is completed.”

Pathway of Hope is just one example of how The Salvation Army is proactive in developing innovative programs that change lives.

These programs are made possible when you make a donation.