The Manning Story
“This was never my house. It's for them.”
“My kids are my story.”
You only have to be with Mary Beth a few minutes to realize what she said is true. CJ and JJ are the center of her universe, and everything she does is for them. When it was time for Mary Beth to pick the site for her Habitat home, she let the kids have the deciding vote. Their home will be built in the same neighborhood as CJ and JJ’s day care and elementary school, and they ask every day if they can go by and see the progress. Of course, Mary Beth says yes.
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“This was never my house,” she said. “It’s for them.”
It’s important to Mary Beth to give the boys top priority because there was a time when they weren’t.
“Four years ago they weren’t first,” Mary Beth said. “Drugs were first.” The drugs had so much control it got to the point that she ended up with no electricity. JJ was just a couple of months old.
Suddenly, she’d had enough — of the drugs and the abusive relationship. She packed up the boys and they left.Mary Beth remembers the night she finally broke free. They were living at the Stay Lodge. She had just gotten paid and paid for the room, about half her paycheck. Then she and her boyfriend had gotten high, and they had fought.
“I had to be in control and not let the drugs be in control,” she said. “It was mind over matter. I told myself ‘I don’t need this. I don’t want this. I want better for my kids.’”
She’s been clean ever since.
The road was hard, but Mary Beth was determined. She and the boys stayed with neighbors, friends and at the Salvation Army. With help from AIM, she finally got an apartment of her own, but she doesn’t feel comfortable letting her kids go out to play there, and the kitchen is so tiny she can barely stand in it.
“I want my own house,” Mary Beth said. “I want to pay it off before I’m 62. I want something for my kids.”
That goal drove her when she found out about Habitat — the day before housing applications were due. Mary Beth got off work at 7:30 a.m. and ran around town till 2 p.m. to get everything together.
Since she was approved, she’s put in sweat-equity at the ReStore and on two Habitat homes. She also took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University twice and realized she needs to save money. “It’s hard!” Mary Beth said. “I have a tiny kitchen and I’m always eating out.”
Her kitchen has just a small stove and a mini fridge, and Mary Beth can’t walk in without bending down. When she chose the floor plan for her Habitat home, it was the one with the most room to cook and eat.
“I don’t know how I’m going to act having a real fridge after three years,” she said.
CJ and JJ will get a lot more space, too. They’ll be able to have their own bedrooms, but Mary Beth won’t be surprised if they want to share. “JJ wants to do everything CJ wants to do,” Mary Beth said. “They’re inseparable.” Plus, she said, they’ve been asking for a big playroom, which one of the bedrooms could become.
“I can’t wait to see the steps that go into building a house,” she said. “I’m antsy and excited. Wow! It’s really hitting.”