Foster mom, grandparent, special needs parent gives back during difficult times

Sometimes those most inclined to give back are the very same who need help the most. That’s the case with Sherlie. 

After retiring, Sherlie moved to the metro Atlanta area in 2006 with her four children: one biological son, one son she adopted from foster care, one daughter she fostered – who she brought in at age 17 – and the son of her daughter who Sherlie raised as her own.

Both her biological son and her foster daughter have special needs, and the son Sherlie adopted from foster care has medical problems they didn’t know about until he was a preteen. 

“When he was 10 or 11, we found out he was born with a rare thyroid condition. He’ll be on medication for it the rest of his life,” Sherlie said. “He just graduated, but he can’t work a full-time job.”

Along with the challenges of daily life – including health issues of her own, like high blood pressure – Sherlie cared for her aging mother until she passed away a year and a half ago. Most of her time is spent caring for the needs of her dependent adult children. 

The 73-year-old is also helping to raise her daughter’s second child. 

I always pray for strength. I want to live as long as God wants me to live, but I want to be in my right mind and good health,” she said. “I have these adults who will be lost [without help], and I have to be their advocate: making sure they go to the right doctors, dentists, programs for them and everything.

With all of these challenges – and no longer receiving monthly financial support due to the age of her foster children – making sure there’s enough food in the house has been a struggle for this retiree for years. 

“Everything is so expensive now,” she said, “but I try to keep the mortgage and bills paid. I’ve talked to a lawyer about leaving my house to the kids so they have a place to stay. I don’t want them to end up on the streets.”

It was at another food bank that Sherlie heard about StreetWise around two years ago. And the extra padding in her monthly budget has made a difference.

“They give you so much nice stuff. But you don’t feel like you are begging. You don’t feel like you’re not worthy when they give you stuff,” she said. “When I came with all of my kids in the car one day, the volunteer even told me to ask for some extra when I came through to get my food.”

With her busy schedule and giving heart, Sherlie often finds herself worn out.

When I get to sit down, I just be falling into the chair. Oh my goodness, I’m so tired,” she said. “Sometimes, I sit in my bed and say, ‘Lord, why did I have to carry this cross?’ But God said, ‘Why not you?’ 

“It’s the love of Christ in me that helps me to do what I’m doing. And I thank God that I’m able to be a blessing to others.”

Sherlie also felt led to give back a donation the last time she visited StreetWise. 

“I said, ‘Lord, when you bless me with any extra, I want to sow back into them at [StreetWise]. What can you give or receive with your hands closed?” she said. “I decided to give a donation to StreetWise last month, and it was just a blessing. Whatever donation I give, it doesn’t match what they give me. But I’m gonna have it in my budget to try and give a donation whenever I come.”

The generosity of StreetWise’s donors is carried forward – not only by providing help to clients like Sherlie, but also to those friends and family members who clients know are in need, too. 

“Because of StreetWise’s help, I’ve been able to stay in my home, pay my light and gas bills, and supplement our meals,” Sherlie said. “And when I get things from the market, I never get anything I won’t use. But if I end up not able to use something, I always give it to somebody else.”

In her interactions with StreetWise volunteers, Sherlie has consistently found encouragement, reminding her that there are people who care about her and want to help. 

“Everybody that I’ve met at StreetWise has such a sweet spirit; they just seem to be happy and excited about being able to come there. And they’re sincere. Some places you can go and you meet people who their heart isn’t really right; you have to take what they say with a grain of salt,” she said.

“The volunteers at StreetWise – I just feel like they’re God sent. One day, I’m hoping and praying that before God calls me home, I can volunteer at StreetWise.”