Meet John and Marialice
Driver and Paramedic for Dallas Fire-Rescue, Texas
Almost every little boy dreams of someday riding in a big red fire truck, and this was certainly the case for Lamontry Lott. But for him, a young man born and raised in public housing, he could have grown into someone whom society would have counted out.
As a teenager who didn't take school seriously and dropped out before graduating, Lamontry is thankful for the positive role models and mentors at his housing authority that offered him his first part time job and pushed him to study for his GED. With the help of his GED program's scholarship, he was able to take college classes and earn enough hours to apply to the fire department.
Failure was not an option for Lamontry, and public housing was the stepping stone that provided opportunities for him and his family to become self-sufficient. Now, he says, ''I am able to live my life’s dream as a homeowner, firefighter, and paramedic in my community.''
Lamontry was recently promoted and is studying to become a lieutenant. His latest promotion was truly a dream come true as he now has the responsibility of driving a big red fire truck.
The second that Owen moved into public housing with his son, the rest of his life began to fall into place. He was quickly offered a job as a driver within the housing authority, though his work didn’t end there.
Owen began working with the residents, becoming president of the local tenant association, a position he has held for six years during which he’s brought back community Thanksgiving dinners and even created the ''Backpack Brigade'' to provide school supplies to children in need.
Now a member of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority (New York) Board of Commissioners, Owen says ''without public housing, I’d never be in the position I am in today. Having a stable and consistent place to raise my son and be part of such a warm community has helped him earn higher grades in school, and grow into a mature, respectful young man.''
Owen received the Niagara Falls City School District distinguished ''Parent of the Year'' Award on two separate occasions, a testament to all that he’s been able to accomplish in his community. ''Public housing isn’t an apartment. It’s a home. Our community is just like everyone else’s. We celebrate Christmas. We go trick-or-treating. We’re there for each other. And it only gets better.''
Raising three children alone was tough for Koronne, but was made easier by having a stable home for her and her family.
''Living in public housing gave me the opportunity to be a parent. I was able to spend more time with my children, instill them with morals and values, and make sure that they got a good education.''
Koronne’s children didn’t just dream of higher education, they pursued it. Her son is now an NCAA basketball coach. Her daughter has a degree in physics. Her youngest works at an organ donor clinic.
''They broke the cycle of poverty, and I’m proud of them every day. When you become a parent, you stop worrying about yourself, and you worry about what you can give to your children. I know that everything I was able to provide for them was because of public housing.''
Meet John and Marialice
There are few things as pleasant as the smell of a pie coming out of the oven or the aroma of simmering stew on the stove. To many of us, it is what makes where we live feel like home. For Marialice McClean and her son John, cooking and eating is a connection they have shared for more than 75 years. The two live in separate one-bedroom flats in Sunset View Apartments in Cordova that are managed by Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.
Growing up, John watched his mom run the kitchen for his family. Today, at 82 years old, he does the cooking for the evening meal, and it makes his mother, who is a few months shy of 102 years young, smile. "John was always a good cook, right at my side in the kitchen early on. My other son wasn't interested and my daughter was a terrible cook," Marialice says.
John laughs, "Mom taught me to love food," he chuckles and looks at his waist, "and as you can see it is an affair that has lasted." He says his mom makes a great leg of lamb and wonderful Chinese food, especially chop suey. "She does it all and does it well," he says.
“They are a big part of our family here,” says Anica Estes, AHFC’s asset supervisor for the property, as another resident pops in to take a “fun size” Snickers bar from her candy jar. She continues, "It gives me a sense of pride that after John moved here, he felt it would be a good place for his mom."
Anica, with the help of an AHFC maintenance person, Martin Faulkner, manages the day-to-day needs of the property that is low-income housing for seniors and Alaskans with disabilities. There are 22 units at Sunset View, Anica says, “The AHFC facilities here have provided stability and have grounded our community. People who want to stay in Cordova now have more of an opportunity.” For people like John and Marialice, Sunset View and Cordova are now simply home.
The two go out to lunch together every day. The Cordova Medical Center has a nice restaurant with discounted meals for senior citizens. Marialice reminisces about riding horses in California and Wyoming or the beauty shops she ran in Alaska, and John listens, smiles and finds ways to coax more memories from her.
John moved to Sunset View about three years ago, and liked it so much, he decided to go get his mom and have her live with him in Cordova. "New Mexico was too hot for her, she was lonely and I missed her, plus this place feels like family to me. So I packed up and went and got her." Marialice was a little surprised when John came to bring her to Cordova but she was ready to be close to family. “He gave me a big bear hug and said, 'Mom, come on, we are going home.'"
For 17 years, Jerry was the bookkeeper for a thriving trucking company in Follansbee, West Virginia, which was 20 miles north of his residence in Wheeling. Life was going great, and with his wife, Nancy, they had just bought a new home, leased a new car, and Jerry was promoted to a full-time partner of the company he had served for so many years.
Three years later in January 2000, Jerry learned from his boss that the business was closing in one week and he would need to find employment elsewhere. This was a crushing blow as Jerry and his wife had several bills to pay, and they were raising their grandson. The next few months would be full of tough decisions for his family; Jerry turned in his car lease, filed bankruptcy, and they had to sell their home.
In March 2000, they toured an apartment at Garden Park Terrace, which was part of Wheeling Housing Authority, completed an application, and moved in soon after. As part of living at Garden Park Terrace, Jerry and Nancy had to complete community service. Jerry was able to secure a position across the street at a free health clinic, while Nancy worked within their apartment building.
Within two months, Jerry was appointed Treasurer of his housing complex and served in that capacity as a volunteer for the next ten years. He also took advantage of a job training program offered by his housing authority, and was soon working at the transportation desk for family services, dispatching vans to seniors who need assistance going to doctor appointments and the grocery store. After one month, Jerry was hired as a full-time employee.
Life for Jerry would soon hand him another obstacle. Two years later, Nancy fell and broke her pelvis and Jerry had to quit his job to help her with therapy and her daily needs. While she was on the mend, he applied to be Resident Commissioner, which did not go through. In 2005, he applied again and in April 2006, he won the appointment. Jerry still serves and was elected to Board Chair four years later, a position which he still holds today. Jerry also works 20 hours a week as the bookkeeper for Workforce West Virginia.
Public housing not only provided Jerry and his wife a place to live while they went through a rough period in their lives, but it offered job training and volunteer opportunities, giving Jerry a chance to re-enter the workforce and establish a sense of normalcy again.