Houston & Peach

Reindeer Gang: Mother in a transportation bind

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Reindeer Gang is an annual holiday feature that identifies individuals and families with needs. Donations to the Reese family can be made through Family Promise of Greater Houston County, 213 McArthur Blvd., Warner Robins, GA 31093 (478-328-8181).

WARNER ROBINS -- For Jessica Reese, the move to Middle Georgia has been a blessing and an escape, but it’s also presented a challenge.

Reese and her five children moved to Warner Robins 18 months ago from Maryland to get away from an abusive domestic situation. Without a vehicle, the transportation situation she found was not like the one she left.

“There’s no public transportation ... like I’m used to in Maryland, but I love it here,” she said.

That lack of mobility has left Reese, who went seven years between jobs before her current employment at Burger King, in a bind. Her youngest child, 5-year-old Kaitlyn, just started school this fall, but before that, she would have needed to pay for child care in addition to finding a way to get to work.

“Now with all of them in school, I can work while they’re in school,” she said.

Reese and her children -- 13-year-old Joey, 12-year-old Ashleigh, 11-year-old Seth, 8-year-old Victoria and Kaitlyn -- have been staying at Family Promise in Warner Robins for a little more than a month. According to information provided by Family Promise, the organization “provides shelter, meals and support services to families without homes through a network of local congregations.”

Reese said she’s grateful for the help she’s received.

“It’s been awesome. This program is so loving and caring and giving,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Family Promise, I honestly don’t know where we would be right now.”

Despite Reese’s circumstances, Family Promise Director Nicole Fogle said Reese has shown a “great attitude.”

“She has a great spirit; she never goes around ... thinking about what she can’t do,” Fogle said.

Reese said she tries to maintain that positive attitude for her children. She knows that negativity or panic could cause them emotional distress.

“I try to keep it positive for them, so they can be happy,” she said.

That inspiration could make all the difference, since Reese and her children do not have any other family in the area. She has a sister in Maryland and does not have a relationship with her father and stepmother.

“She does not have any support system, any family,” Fogle said.

And Fogle said the family’s situation has made it difficult for Family Promise to even secure transportation assistance other than the organization’s 15-passenger van.

“Because of the size of her family, it’s difficult to say, ‘Hey, can you transport six people?’” she said.

That is Reese’s chief concern. The Family Promise program only lasts 90 days, and while she has been saving her wages and disability money that one of her children receives to help secure an apartment, the family is still without a vehicle.

In addition to issues getting her children to and from school, that would leave Reese relying on taxis to get to work.

While that cost would be difficult to cover, it doesn’t hinder Reese’s positive attitude.

“I feel everything happens for a reason, and I feel it can only get better from here,” she said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.