After the Grant: Holy Ground

Nyree 1

During the 2023 season alone, Lost Tree Foundation made 69 grants to meet our mission of building stronger communities by significantly improving the lives of our neighbors in need. But what is the real impact of our grants, and do they help the recipient agencies achieve their goals? How do they make a difference in the lives of the people those agencies serve?

We recently visited Holy Ground’s Waltz Family Campus in Lake Park, one of two residences the organization operates. Holy Ground’s mission is to shelter and mentor unhoused, pregnant, or parenting young women and their children living in Palm Beach County who are willing to make positive changes in their lives. Essentially, it serves young mothers experiencing homelessness.

Lost Tree Foundation has funded Holy Ground since 2018 with grants totaling nearly $114,000. As a capital funder, we were able to help them undertake renovations at their most recently acquired property which has 7 units. We funded upgrades including new kitchens and bathrooms.

Environment matters,” says Executive Director, Michelle Haimowitz. “I want our residents to have the kind of housing they deserve and which they can be proud of. Most importantly, it has to be a stable, safe and healthy place to raise children.” She further conveyed that capital funding is crucial because the property takes significant wear and tear; like any family home, it needs constant upkeep.

The women who find their way to Holy Ground need support as they stabilize their lives and the lives of their children not only with subsidized housing (crucial in light of the recent housing crisis) but with wraparound services like career development, access to further education, help navigating social security, healthcare, hunger relief benefits and assistance with afterschool childcare. Holy Ground provides all of these opportunities. There is even an education center called the Learning Tree on campus, operated by passionate volunteers. Michelle says their policy is always about trust and giving their clients the benefit of the doubt. “We ask our clients what they need. We don’t assume. We don’t direct. We listen. For me, that’s what’s missing elsewhere. Our women have dreams and plans for themselves. They just need help and perhaps some practical guidance in realizing those dreams.”

Nyree* is a client of Holy Ground. She has been renting an apartment on the campus for about two years. Her next goal is embarking on the agency’s home ownership program, something she wouldn’t have believed possible for herself when she separated from her partner and the father of her two children (a son aged 3 and a daughter aged 7) due to difficulties within the relationship.

When Nyree found Holy Ground, she was in a low place. She had suffered the loss of her precious sister and the deaths of several other family members. It was one blow after another, but Holy Ground and the apartment she now has gave her hope for herself and the breathing space she needed to regroup, think and plan out her future. Nyree attends Girl Talk, informal group sessions held for the residents of the Waltz Family Campus, and Life Skills classes through which she tackled getting her drivers’ license. Nyree has the assistance of a case manager and a therapist she can call if she feels overwhelmed. She’s worked hard towards her goal of getting a car and she loves the freedom it affords her.

Since connecting with Holy Ground, Nyree’s life has taken off. What she has achieved for herself in that time is astonishing. “I always had the drive within me,” says Nyree. “But the steps were hard. I kept having my path blocked.” She entered a culinary program via a scholarship Holy Ground secured for her. She now works as a chef at a local golf club. She’s been promoted several times and has been selected by the head chef to work at banquets. Having reliable childcare available to her allows Nyree to take advantage of these opportunities, which are often in the evening.

She isn’t stopping there. “I would love to get the credentials to become a proper butcher. I enjoyed that class in school and I was really good at it. I think there will always be work for someone with those unique skills.” Having new granite tops in her kitchen and new cupboards gave her a real boost. “You know you’re doing great when you have a microwave above the oven and not taking up space on your counter. Now I have a place for everything in my kitchen. I can see everything, and I can make all my meals properly.” What’s her new favorite dish? “I recently tried duck confit and that was good!” she says.

Another highlight is the sparkling new tub in the renovated bathroom. “My daughter and I fight for tub time. She knocks on the door when I’m soaking, asking when it’s her turn,” Nyree laughs.

She’s especially thrilled with the opportunities her children have because of Holy Ground. Her son is a ball of energy and sporty like his dad, and her daughter is a real little entrepreneur. “I want to be her so badly!” jokes Nyree. “She has all the confidence and determination in the world. I wasn’t like that as a kid. I didn’t believe I was supposed to get ahead. Being behind was normal for me in school. I worked hard on myself to get over that but [my daughter] already has the confidence. She puts in the work to teach herself. She’s always asking to spend extra time with Miss Pat [at The Learning Tree].” Nyree adds that her daughter is especially proud to be the only one in her class to know all her times tables. “She’s already on her way. Nobody is going to stop her.

Our role is to provide safety and support to our clients so they can get themselves where they want to be,” explains Michelle. “Yes, there are tough days working in an agency like Holy Ground, but when I see Nessa, who is a pure force of nature, I can sleep at night because she’s a person we’re helping. We’ve helped connect her to her dreams.”

The investment Lost Tree Foundation has made in the Waltz Family Campus has provided improved, stable housing for 11 other women like Nyree this year alone. The fresh upgrades the Foundation paid for have transformed the rooms of the campus and helped the clients feel valued and deserving of the good things everyone enjoys. “Our clients are the illustrators of our program,” says Michelle. “These great women know where they want to go. We’re just one important steppingstone that helps them get there.

We sincerely thank the following Lost Tree residents who have served as site visitors to Holy Ground in recent years: Tuck Bradford, Debbie Daberko, Anne Harrison, Bill Kelly, Maureen Kenny, Patrick Kenny, Irene Shaw, Liz Sokol and KK Sullivan.

*Nyree’s real name has been used at her request.