Jazmin is a lovely blonde-haired, green-eyed 27-year-old who wears glasses that are currently superglued back together, a testament to her rambunctious 18-month-old. As we sat and chatted her phone was continually buzzing which she laughingly told us was due to said 18-month-old bringing it to her in the shower the night before. “He’s so great. He’s such a daredevil. He’s so fun and so smart. He’ll see me cooking and go get in his chair and wait for me to bring him his food.” She is truly in the throes of motherhood and she couldn’t be happier.
Jazmin grew up in a broken home with a mother in full-time addiction. She was in and out of foster homes and began using drugs at the age of 13. “I had two kids by the time I was 21 and I ended up losing both of them. From there everything got worse. My addiction got really bad. I didn’t care about anything anymore.” Eventually she became an IV meth user and was slowly destroying her body.
While she was pregnant with her third child she began hearing about The Lovelady Center. Her friend told her that it was like “college for Jesus.” She spoke with Executive Director Melinda MeGahee several times about coming but wasn’t quite ready to walk away. “I kept hearing God say, ‘Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice – the sacrifice will be worth it’ even though I didn’t know it at the time.” Her friends all pitched in to get her enough money to make the trip from Florida and she arrived at Lovelady in December of 2021.
The many smiling faces that greeted her at Lovelady initially confused Jazmin as she couldn’t begin to imagine what was making them so happy. But her faith, which she said never left her even during addiction, began to grow and her renewed relationship with Jesus soon gave her the same joy she had at first distrusted.
But something was still missing. Her then six-month old son was in state custody in Florida and she desperately wanted to get him back. Melinda arranged with the Florida Department of Children and Families for Jazmin to make monthly trips to Chipola, Florida to bring Nicholas back to The Lovelady Center for the weekend. From August of 2022 to March of 2023, the Lovelady transportation department would make the 536-mile roundtrip journey to retrieve Nicholas on Friday, bring him to Birmingham, and return him to Florida on Sunday. They travelled a total of 4,288 miles and over 70 hours to bring restoration to this mother and child. In March of 2023 she got the call she had been waiting for. Nicholas was staying with her at Lovelady for a weekend visit and DCF called to say that she didn’t have to bring him back. He was finally and permanently hers to keep. “It felt like everything was completed. I was so happy.”
“I couldn’t have done it without Lovelady. They gave me the mental and emotional support and the opportunity I didn’t have. I wish I had known about this place a lot sooner.”
Jazmin credits the Lovelady counseling team with walking her through her grief and trauma to restore her hope and perspective. “There were things I couldn’t talk about without crying when I got here. I had a lot of abandonment issues.”
Like all of the Lovelady clients, Jazmin participated in the job readiness program which offers each woman job training within The Center’s various departments. She worked at Lovelady Manna, Special Projects, and Intake while still within the program. “I learned life skills through job readiness. Before I came here I couldn’t hold a job. The schedule that we’re put on has helped make life a lot easier for me. It taught me responsibility and showed me how to hold a job.”
As a graduate, she has a full-time job at the Irondale Thrift Store sorting and pricing merchandise. Her fellow employees there have become like family, even offering to outfit her with everything she needed for her baby. “When I moved into our graduate housing at Community Gardens, DHR needed to do a home study and my boss gave me everything I needed. I didn’t even have to ask. They just offered.”
Community Gardens is an apartment complex less than a mile from The Lovelady Center that is used exclusively for TLC graduate housing. “Community Gardens has been great. It’s a great community and good for our kids. We look out for each other. It’s been an easy transition from here to there. Lovelady still helps me even though I have moved out. Most of the complex is fenced-in and secure and is perfect for playing children.”
As Jazmin reflects on the new life that she has been given through The Lovelady Center, her beautiful green eyes tear up as she conveys her gratitude, broken glasses and all. “This life that I’m living now is one I didn’t think I would be able to have. It’s a good life. Coming to Lovelady was the best thing I ever did.”
When asked what the one thing is she wants everyone to know about Lovelady, she says, “Lovelady is a choice you will not regret whether you’re a client or a donor. I’m happier now than I have been my entire life. I never thought that I could be who I am now. And I’m still going.”