City shelter, others help new mom to get fresh start

VERGENNES — At just three weeks old, tiny Hunter holds the distinction of being the youngest resident of the John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes.
He doesn’t realize he and his 28-year-old mom, Sammie, don’t have a home of their own.
But Sammie plans to change all that, and she’s getting a big lift from John Graham Housing & Services (JGHS), the nonprofit that runs the Vergennes shelter and five multi-unit apartment buildings in the county.
Sammie, 28, is originally from Burlington. She got involved with some people who became bad influences on her life, leading to a tailspin that she prefers to keep to herself. Let’s just say Sammie found herself in Addison County around a year ago with few resources and no place to stay. She is not close to her folks — literally and figuratively — and had no place to sofa-surf.
So she knocked on the door of the John Graham Shelter, which has thrown her a critical life preserver as she works toward a better life for herself and Hunter.
“I don’t want Hunter to go through a roller-coaster life like I have,” Sammie said last week as she gently cradled the little sprout from which she hopes a better future will bloom.
She was unaware of her pregnancy during her early weeks at the shelter. She was somewhat alarmed upon learning the news. It would be another mouth to feed when she couldn’t feed her own.
“I was really scared, at first,” she recalled. “I didn’t know if I was ready.”
But Sammie said she found confidence thanks to support at the shelter — not only from staff, but from other residents with whom she shared her pregnancy experience.
Then came the ultrasounds and the anticipation.
“(Hunter) won,” she said with a smile.
A new life flickering during a time of despair.
A glimmer of hope.
Another catalyst for motivation and self-sacrifice.
Sammie spent more time exercising and eating right — things she said she might not have done were she still homeless and surrounded by the “wrong people.”
She was referred to the Addison County Parent-Child Center, which gave her information on how to bring her baby into the world.
When it came time to have Hunter, one of her shelter-mates accompanied her to Porter Hospital to provide support.
And another of her former shelter-mates — now living in an apartment — will serve as Hunter’s caregiver when Sammie returns to work at a Vergennes food-service business in a couple of weeks.
Like other John Graham Shelter residents who are employed, Sammie maintains her sense of optimism by holding a job.
She knows it will be an uphill climb, but she wants to pay it forward.
Sammie has earned her high school diploma and wants to continue her education so she can become a drug addiction counselor.
“I want to help other people,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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