EDITOR’S NOTE: The Reindeer Gang is an annual holiday feature that identifies individuals and families with needs. Donations to Cherise Turner and her family can be made through Goodwill Industries, 5171 Eisenhower Parkway, Macon, GA 31206. (478-363-1478)
Cherise Turner’s biggest worry when she was nominated for The Reindeer Gang reflected exactly why she’s a fitting choice.
Turner, who works as a counselor and student adviser for Goodwill Industries, could only think of those who don’t have a job, according to Vicki Mills, Goodwill’s director of marketing.
“She was just very concerned that she would be taking from someone else,” Mills said.
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Since Turner began working at Goodwill in 2011, she’s tried to make sure she wasn’t taking anything from anyone else. Despite raising a son, Trayshawn, now 18, and eventually her 7-year-old daughter, Keymauri, on her income, Turner’s goal was to get off government assistance.
She said she saw others living off such assistance long term and didn’t want to end up that way.
“I guess to make it plain, I motivate myself,” she said. “It’s set up to give you a step up, but it’s temporary.”
So Turner started working toward independence.
First, she moved out of public housing and into a home in 2008 through Macon’s Hope VI Project. Then, she bought her own home in 2010 without the help of even that type of assistance.
“I’m an official homeowner,” she said.
Turner has come off food stamps in recent months, but that came after another big addition: another child.
She said she originally intended to have just one child, but after Keymauri was born, she noticed her son hanging out with another youth from the neighborhood named Brian.
One November night, Brian left her home after eating dinner there, but he returned about midnight.
Through tears, he told Turner there were no lights and no food at his house.
Eventually, the Department of Family and Child Services got involved, she said, and picked Brian up at school one day. Once Brian told the representatives he was staying with Turner, they called to ask why she had taken in a teenager that wasn’t related to her.
“And I said, ‘Because he needed it and I was able,’” she said.
Turner said Brian has been living with her family since 2010, and she has also adopted him.
Brian is now 18, and he and Trayshawn are set to graduate from Central High School this year with plans to attend college. Turner is also pursuing a doctorate from North Central University -- another effort to improve her family’s plight -- but her single income is still not enough to care for her three children the way she’d like.
This Christmas, the family could use some help with food -- two teenage boys can rack up big grocery bills -- and the children could always use more clothes.
Keymauri wears a size 10 or 12 in clothes and either a 4 or 4 1/2 in shoes. The two boys wear large-size shirts and 34x34 pants.
Brian wears a size 9 shoe, while Trayshawn wears a size 13.
Turner won’t complain about her situation, though.
“I don’t even know how I’m going to do it,” she said. “I just take it day by day.”
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.