Rosa Stevenson, 21, says she has never been able to provide Christmas gifts for her six-year-old daughter, Mary Jane. But this year, that will change with the help of the Hope House of Colorado Santa …
Rosa Stevenson, 21, says she has never been able to provide Christmas gifts for her six-year-old daughter, Mary Jane. But this year, that will change with the help of the Hope House of Colorado Santa Shop.
“I’m looking forward to actually getting them presents this year,” Stevenson said. “I’m excited.”
Stevenson is one of over 100 teen moms in the Denver Metro area who will be able to shop for gifts for their kids using points they earned from attending Hope House classes throughout the year.
Hope House of Colorado is a nonprofit based in Arvada that empowers parenting teenage moms to strive for personal and economic self-sufficiency and to understand their significance in God’s sight, resulting in a healthy future for them, and for their children.
This is the first year for the Santa Shop model where moms can earn points and shop for their children. In years past, it was an adoption-style program.
“First and foremost we are a self-sufficiency organization. so it just makes sense for the girls to earn,” said Lisa Steven, executive director of Hope House. “It’s so empowering for them to earn it and spent it on their children themselves versus having someone pick for you.”
All the teen moms Hope House services live below the poverty level, many coming from generational poverty situations.
“Where it seems common to give a big Christmas gift to your kids, this is very rare for them,” said Kara Mapel, residential program manager for Hope House. “They don’t have the extra cash to purchase gifts. They purchase the essentials, but this is fun for them to be able to provide toys.”
Stevenson, now a mother of two, give birth to her oldest at 14. The last grade she completed was eighth.
But after years of couch surfing, abusive relationships and working minimum wage jobs, Stevenson is taking hold of self sufficiency through GED classes at Hope House and enrolling in the residential program.
Stevenson’s husband and father of her one-year-old son, Jeremiah, has been in prison for the last seven months, serving a 40 month sentence. The reality of having to raise two kids on her own pushed her toward the residential program at Hope House.
“I’ve been struggling,” Stevenson said. “My husband going into prison made it a bit harder for me because he was the one working, paying bills. I lost it all.”
The Hope House residential program provides Stevenson stability and support she needs to complete her GED. She also attends parenting classes and will soon start healthy relationships classes. The classes are part of the requirements to graduate the Hope House program and also help the girls earn points for the Santa Shop.
For 18-year-old mother Trinity Williams, moving into the residential program at Hope House was one of her biggest struggles with the most reward.
“Moving away from my mom and into the residential program was a struggle for me because I’m very family oriented and I like being in my space where I can fell safe,” Williams said. “But after a couple weeks of living here, I felt at home.”
Williams got pregnant with her son Anthony, who is now eight months old, the beginning of her senior year of high school. She was able to graduate with her high school diploma in December of 2017, a semester early.
Three months later, she gave birth. In August, 12 days after her 18th birthday, she moved into Hope House residential.
“He’s freaking great,” Williams said of her son.
“I love him so much. He’s literally my happiness. He’s the one who makes me go for what I want. I’m making sure I can provide for him and be the best mom I can.”
Williams is in her first semester studying athletic training at Metro State University. As a three-sport athlete in high school with aspirations of playing volleyball in college, Williams saw athletic training as a good fit for a future career.
While at Hope House Williams takes advantage of the college and career readiness class, which allows her time to study, register for classes and meet with her biology tutor.
That class is one way Williams has been earning points for her trip to the Santa Shop.
She has her sights set on a walker for her son, who is close to taking his first steps.
“It’s nice to have the points and not have to go out and spend actual money because not only is it hard to be a teen mom but to have to do it alone as a teen, it’s so hard,” Williams said.
By the shop being based on points, Williams said she is able to get the things that she wants for her son to have a good first Christmas without having to stress about it.
“It makes me happy,” Williams said. “because I can do for him what my mom wasn’t able to do as a single mom of three kids.”