Leap of Faith: Large family thrives at Booth Family Center
Aylissa Kerr, 10, likes to go to the office at Booth Family Center to do her homework.
There, the artistic, chatty fifth-grader gets some quiet away from two younger siblings in her family’s motel-sized room. She also gets help with math from Salvation Army Social Services Director Sarah Eastberg, who supervises the shelter for homeless families just west of Grass Valley.
Sister Alexis Nulty, 12, recently won two Hour of Code awards for computer programming projects – she’s the numbers kid and athlete in the family. For the video game Minecraft, Alexis coded new movements for a character that places blocks and destroys them; for the game Flappy Birds, she programmed the birds to fly through little tubes.
Both girls are thriving at school, thanks in part to the stability that Booth Center gives their lives.
Booth Family Center “has been the stability for me,” too, said mom Brittany Kerr, 30.
“I’ve slept in my car,” Kerr added. “There’s no way of being able to do anything when you’re in that… It’s just survival mode.”
Thrive mode is more her style, and Kerr takes advantage of services offered by Booth Center and Hospitality House to build up “my self-sufficiency,” she said.
At Hospitality House, she praised the “fresh food” served three times daily and kindness shown among guests. She earned her state ServSafe certification for food service and finished the shelter’s culinary program.
“The cooking class empowered me to go out and look for a job,” Kerr said, after being a full-time mother and nomad for 12 years. And, she dreams of having a juice truck serving organic concoctions.
Booth Center offers stability
Through services and connections at Hospitality House and Booth Family Center, Kerr learned CPR and mental health first aid, attended child development classes, signed up for state assistance, got vouchers for clothing at local thrift stores, learned how to write a resume, got legal advice, attended inspiring talks about self-confidence and found relaxation through yoga and meditation. She volunteered with children at a local nonprofit and recently started working at another that helps women.
Now living at Booth Family Center, she considers director Eastberg “an extra parent… who can help me when the kids need help with school work, or when I’m stressed, like a therapist.”
The process of learning about herself “has been liberating,” Kerr added.
The support she has received through these two organizations is all she has.
Kerr is from Florida and grew up in a family beset with mental issues and addiction. She lived for a while in California and returned in May 2015, when alcohol abuse landed her husband in prison. He’ll be out soon, and Kerr looks forward to a new life for her family.
Until then, Kerr tries to ensure her children’s health, stays focused on the positive and repeats her gratitude for the many resources available in Nevada County.
And, she has one more helpful quality.
“I don’t give up,” Kerr declared.