Imagine that you are facing eviction from your home, leaving you and your two children homeless just days before Christmas…and days before you are scheduled to have surgery. You’ve already called everyone you can think of for help, but so close to the end of the year, they have all spent everything they have to give.
That was the situation facing Deanna Thompkins and her children this past Christmas. But thanks to a tireless effort by Camp Phoenix staff and the generosity of members of Kensington Church, the family was able to get caught up on their rent and save their home … just one day before they were due to be evicted and a mere four days before Christmas.
The Thompkins family came to the attention of the Y through Camp Phoenix, a program that serves teens with an educational summer program and the year-round Steps of Success program at Rogers Elementary in Pontiac. Camp Phoenix adopts families from the school every year, and a teacher there who had a close relationship with camp staff let them know about Deanna Thompkins’ plight.
“We weren’t about to give up, even after everybody said no,” says Lisa Senac, director of Camp Phoenix. Program coordinator Adrianne Smith got involved and vowed she would do whatever she could to keep the Thompkins family in their home. “I want to be positive — I want to shoot for the moon and find a couple stars,” Adrianne says. “I pray all the time about everything, and I believe if you keep being patient and keep being positive in this world, you get what you give and positive things are going to come back.”
Meanwhile, Lisa sent out the “mayday” to everyone she could think of who might be able to help, including Carol Miller from Kensington Church. Miller was also moved by Thompkins’ plight and started mobilizing help from her church community. “When it comes to helping people who need food or something else, I’m all in — I do whatever I can,” she says.
Some of the $850 Thompkins needed was contributed by the church, and the balance of it came from a small group headed by Becky Lee, campus leader for the church’s Orion campus. Becky and Carol paid the landlord, and Deanna was on her porch waiting for them when they came back with the receipt showing she was current.
“When I called and told her I found someone who could give her the funds, she just started to cry and thanked God,” says Adrianne. “She said she couldn’t believe we’d work so hard. It probably was the most moving thing I’d ever been a part of.”
Beside helping Deanna avoid eviction, Carol Miller serves on the board of a charity called Gifts For All God’s Children which provides toys and warm clothing to children at Christmas. Gifts for God’s Children provided the Thompkins children Christmas gifts, and the church gave her an envelope of gift cards for gas and groceries.
The family is still in their home and doing well. Lighthouse of Oakland County contributed $650 beyond the Y’s efforts to keep her in her home, and have committed to help with her rent for a few more months while Deanna recuperates from surgery.
While saving the Thompkins family from eviction was certainly above and beyond their day-to-day work, it flows from Camp Phoenix’s devotion to the people they serve.
“One thing we always say is that we’re not just a program, we’re a family,” Lisa says. “We serve a need — people know there is a community who loves and cares for you even when you think everyone has forgotten.”