CINCINNATI, Ohio (July 9, 2021) - Kim Chenault, 41, was getting by. She worked as a licensed practical nurse, making rent payments on a Cincinnati-area apartment and supporting her family, including her three adult children and her 8-year-old son.
But she was only one bad break from financial turmoil. One morning in January 2020, an adult son was cooking, and food on the stove caught fire. Flames quickly spread; the family evacuated.
"There was nothing salvageable," Chenault says. "I thought I was defeated."
In the aftermath of the fire, Chenault says rental company officials directed condescending, rude comments toward her, which led her to make a vow: "I'm going to buy a house. Nobody's ever going to treat me like this again."
But she had major hurdles to overcome. "I didn't have a dollar saved," she says. "I was living paycheck to paycheck." What's more, her credit score was poor. And although she had renter's insurance, the payout was slow to arrive. She and her family moved in with her brother.
At that low point in her life, she unexpectedly received a call from New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn. Project Lift, operated by United Way of Greater Cincinnati, is a public/private partnership designed to remove barriers so that families can achieve financial stability. The church is one of 22 Project Lift sponsor organizations.
"To this day, I don't know who put them in my life," Chenault says. "It was like a miracle. That's how I looked at it. From that day forward, it's been nothing but blessings."
"She said she wanted to be self-sufficient," says M. Vickie Williams, who coordinates Project Lift cases for New Prospect. "She needed help, and she was very grateful for the help we gave her. We did lift her up."
Chenault, who had no previous connection to the church, was struck by how caring and nonjudgmental the people were as she explained her goal to own a home. Project Lift initially provided her with a grocery gift card and later helped her stay current with her car loan, insurance and other expenses. Project Lift provides such short-term assistance because it's critical in helping people like Chenault get back on their feet.
Her financial burden lessened when both her adult sons got jobs, became self-supporting and moved into their own apartment. Meanwhile, Chenault worked, saved money and took steps to repair her credit.
In July 2020, she was approved for a home loan. By then, she had decided to move to Georgia, where she has family. She closed on a house four days before Christmas.
Soon after, she departed for California on a three-month traveling nurse assignment. In Long Beach, she worked six 10-hour shifts a week at a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination site. "I worked hard. It was a lot of sleepless nights." But the income helped further stabilize her financially.
Now back working in Georgia, she lives with her 8-year-old son in a home of their own.
"I sit outside my house sometimes and drink a glass of wine. Now, I really enjoy the fruits of my labor. At 25 years old, I didn't even want to own a house. But it's an amazing feeling to know my kids will always have a place to come," she says.
"I wouldn't ask for a better life right now."
For more information about Project Lift or to apply for assistance, visit uwgc.org/projectlift.