Chance meeting helps mom find hope in Louisville

By: David Yarmuth

With only $100 to her name, three children in tow and a fourth on the way, Kellie Burton left her home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to escape what was a mostly troubled life and headed to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2017.

She was hoping for a fresh start, getting to know the father she barely knew and put behind years of neglect and disappointment. But her fortune didn’t change the way she had hoped.

She suffered both physical and mental abuse from her future ex-husband; a man who served jail time for domestic violence. All the while, Kellie was immersed in a world of despair, unsure of how to get out from under the abuse and give her children a safe, secure place to grow up.

With no outside support to lean on, Kellie began to drink just to ease her pain. After what would be the last time she was assaulted, Kellie took her children to a local hospital just to get away; giving her time to think and pray that God would answer her prayers.

Little did she know those prayers would be answered that day in the form of an angel – a Salvation Army officer. Major Lisa Good, a corps officer in Louisville’s Portland Corps, was also in that emergency waiting room with her husband Mike. “She came over to console me and I just broke down crying and told her I was in desperate need of help,” Kellie said.

Major Good made a call to the Center of Hope and quickly secured a family room in the emergency shelter, giving Kellie a peace of mind she and her children desperately needed.

“For the first time I really felt like I could just breathe and not worry that my abusive husband was breathing down my neck and scaring my children,” Kellie said.

With help from Jeannie, her caring and dedicated case manager, Kellie and her children transitioned from emergency shelter into The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program.

Pathway of Hope is a national initiative to help families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty through strength-based case management, community collaboration and data-driven support. In Kellie’s case, it helped her break a cycle of crisis and achieve hope, stability and eventual success through self-sufficiency.

“Jeannie helped me identify small achievable goals from the start, which for me, was getting my kids in school,” Kellie said. “Once that was taken care of, I was really motivated to stand on my own two feet.”

Kellie quickly got herself a job at a local Kroger, which she loves, and her kids are excelling in school, with two of them Honor Roll students and succeeding in Advanced Placement classes. Their family bonds, says Kellie, are stronger than ever.

“We have movie nights, we go out once a week and my kids are finally comfortable where they can confide in me with whatever issues they’re dealing with,” Kellie said.

Kellie and her kids are in their own home now and working diligently to stay the course as prescribed on her Pathway of Hope plan, a pathway she admits she would not have taken without the help of The Salvation Army and someone who cared.

“Anybody can do what I did, but they have to want to make their lives better, and I did. My children often remind me that I’m a strong woman and that they’re proud of me; that’s all the motivation I need to keep going.”

David Yarmuth is director of community relations for The Salvation Army Louisville, Kentucky, Area Command.