Tennessee wanted her kids to be raised in a home with a father, a fence, and a dog—something she never had. Instead, she found herself on the run from an abusive husband who ruled their home with control and fear. She knew that in order to save herself and her children she had to leave.
“I realized I could never afford the price of his abuse,” she says. “I had run out of everything that it would cost for me to stay. So, I ran, I ran until my feet and chest burned.”
Days passed, and Tennessee spent them in fear of being spotted or returned to him. She was hungry, hopeless, and hurting. She was on the run trying to catch a bus going in the direction of a bed and shower.
During this time in 2019, after inflicting years of physical and mental abuse and after a violent episode, Tennessee’s husband was taken to jail, her sons were sent to foster care on the east coast, and she lost custody. She lost everything – her children, her job, her home. Tennessee was running out of hope.
Then, she found Fresh Start.
“You won’t believe that a building called my name, but it did,” Tennessee says. “The building owned by Fresh Start Women’s Foundation called my name. I heard my first name as clear as a teacher’s role call for attendance.”
She continues, “I stopped, or it stopped me I’m not certain—but when I heard my name everything around me paused.”
Tennessee explains that she felt an overwhelming feeling that she had found light in the middle of a dark path. She tended to doubt and question everything, but something about Fresh Start gave her a feeling of comfort and certainty. The wonder she felt when encountering something that powerful kept her up all night. She decided to make a visit.
“The first step into the building greeted me with photos of powerful women on the wall,” Tennessee remembers. “Women just like me—and it was as if they were saying ‘we have been waiting for you.’”
First, Tennessee met with the social work team and received counseling that helped her to identify her abuser and his weapons of destruction. The women she encountered gave her strength and courage, which blew the breath of life back into her and gave her the will to rebuild. She began to attend workshops.
“The endless number of educational classes taught me independence and to rely on myself,” Tennessee recalls proudly. “It was like I was practicing becoming this great fighter, preparing for victory in a war that started to become a small battle the more I prepared myself.”
She continues, “’I can do this, I will do this’ was now the voice in my head.”
Equipped with the sharpest tools, Tennessee started to defeat all the dragons and villains in her life with ease. She rescued her children and was able to save enough to get a small place and file for divorce. She earned college credits and secured a career with Intel.
“When I look back, I never imagined that there was a program made for women who needed a fresh start called Fresh Start,” Tennessee says, smiling. “I never imagined they would be the hand that would pull me out of deep waters when I was on my last breath and drowning by my surroundings.”
She continues, “I have a long way to go, but I am nowhere near my starting point, and with this strong team of women, their resources, and my children cheering me on…… still I rise.”
Tennessee’s son, Major shared: “After my stepfather went to jail, I was separated from my mom and brothers for four years. My stepfather was abusive for a longtime and I always wanted a better life for my mom. I know it was really hard on her when my brothers and I were taken away. It was really hard on us too. She lost her job, our house, and had to live on the streets. Then one day she found Fresh Start. They helped her find her way again. She learned to get custody of me and my brothers, and she met a lot of women who showed her how to believe in herself again. After taking a career class she got a job at Intel. It’s amazing that she works there… and my 18-year-old brother got a job there too! Maybe I’ll get to work at Intel or somewhere cool when I start my career.”
“I’m really proud of my mom, that she’s come this far on her own, and for the people at Fresh Start that helped her, I just want to thank them.”
With the help of Fresh Start, Tennessee found her inner strength to become a hero for herself and her children. Major and his brothers now live together and support one another during life’s most important moments. Major is now in 9th grade and on the junior varsity football team at his school. Tennessee’s job at Intel has opened doors for her and her children and she is forever grateful she took the first brave step that started it all.