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A House on the Rock

Metaphorical and actual storms have swept through our country in 2020 and impacted us all. In Orange Mound, it’s stormy weather all the time for a single mom. Poor choices made, trajectory miscalculated, hopes dashed, fate cast, all add up to hard challenges in less than desirable living locales here. The hope for economic stability for a young single mom in our neighborhood is depressing. Forty percent of female-led households live at or below the poverty line. The median income in Orange Mound is a little more than $21,000 with more than a third of residents making $15,000 or less. Those statistics describe our workforce at My Cup of Tea. Parenting children alone among indifferent neighbors, municipal shortages, uncompassionate landlords, food deserts, crime, gangs, drugs, and without support is a tsunami with locusts and frogs thrown in. Home ownership, were it possible, would only lengthen the list of bills and multiply the challenges.

We offer shelter in the storms of life at The House in Orange Mound. We “map quest” a path for our ladies that will guide them around the corner toward economic security and dignity. Currently, thirteen of our ladies have their first steady job, an apartment in which they pay rent on time, a primary care doctor, access to healthier food, a laundry service, and a solid support network that echoes God’s faithfulness. We have confidence that His storms have silver linings, and He is a loving and patient redeemer.

Cheryl believes in God’s promises and presence and that His power is most tangible in weakness. Everyone knows Cheryl in Orange Mound. She has lived here all of her life, and is a Street Capitan for JUICE Orange Mound, a resident-led, nonprofit. She is our House Manager and our all-time top salesperson in the tea company. Her cell phone number is on speed dial for all of our employees, and she selflessly and voluntarily is on call for us 24/7. Cheryl was a classic single mom for her three children and now has four grandsons. She has wanted to own a home in Orange Mound her entire adult life. Beyond the satisfaction of possessing property, she has wanted to have a tangible legacy to leave her children and grandchildren. Homes are not typically bought here. They are passed down or pushed over. Well familiar with the barriers of home ownership, but not dissuaded, Cheryl had identified a possible house to buy down the block from our tea company. She told me 9 months ago that she thought the Lord was going to arrange for her to buy it. Several of us prayed with her and stepped back to wait. “Patience” she said. “It will come”.

Real estate reality in OM is simply disheartening. The proverbial storm surges of life have put us “under water”. Years of neglect, red-lining and bad weather have eroded the once proud and thriving community. Being creditworthy to repair a home is a conundrum here as well. Financial Institutions balk at approving loans to people who are without the history of means to repay them.

One of the many storms of the Summer nudged a massive Southern Red Oak of age and girth onto the roofs of two houses, front yards and across a major corridor through our community. The tree had been identified as one of the oldest in Memphis, and protected, though not maintained, by the Park Commission. Limbs brushed past the roof of the house Cheryl had prayed for, then crashed into its yard. The owner was ready to sell.

Purchasing your first house in our neighborhood in a pandemic/recession might seem unwise. But Cheryl has prevailed without losing focus for four months. She learned her dogged courage while single mom. The 90-year-old house is now hers. It has some old age challenges, but the Lord has provided through the benevolence of Service over Self (SOS) and a man named Big Dog. The yard has some giant Yucca plants, but My Cup of Tea volunteers with hoes and shovels are up to the challenge. Floors and walls need some wax and paint and OM contractors have begun the repairs.

Cheryl is the first of our single moms to own her own home. We are energized now and motivated for others to join her, hopefully on our block. Cheryl is another story of success. The good news of her new address is spreading through the pipeline of Orange Mound neighbors, and one more inspirational chapter has been added to the record of the renaissance of our community. Others will indeed follow.