Toni Lambert. . ."How it was, What happen and How it is now
I was born and raised in North Dallas Housing (Roseland Homes) with my grandmother Rosie Lambert, my brother Lloyd and oldest sister Lisa. I had a pretty good life. I was the youngest in the family, granny’s pride and joy, so I got what I wanted most of the time. I was raised in church, an “A” student in school and happy at home. Growing up in the projects (as we called it) was not bad for me. My granny had a nice and comfortable home for us. We always ate very well, many gifts for Christmas, new clothes for Easter and a host of friends, but something was missing.
When I went to the third grade it was brought to my attention that my granny was not my mother. My mother was not around until I turned 7 or 8 years old. I didn’t have a relationship with her (my mother) growing up and didn’t know my father. My granny was my everything and she gave me all the love I needed so I didn’t question my parents whereabouts.
When I got in my early teens the community started to change with drugs and violence becoming more prevalent and accessible. I started to visit my mother periodically and her lifestyle was totally different from what my grandmother had taught me.
At the age of eleven my mother introduced me to marijuana. Since she smoked it I figured it was alright. Marijuana made me feel mellow and laid back. I even started to steal it from my mother when I got the chance. I smoked more and more until one day I was introduced to crack. It took me fast and I had to have it daily.
My grandmother saw the change in my attitude and behavior but there was nothing she could do. I dropped out of high school and my life started spiraling downward. I found myself stuck in the dope game.
I began to spend more time with my mother because this was the type of lifestyle she lived. For fifteen years, I wondered the streets aimless with no direction. I began to participate in activities that were against everything taught to me as a child, activities that were against the law.
I made a lot of bad decisions that follow me to this very day. Through everything that was going on in my life I got pregnant and had a son, Jeremiah. I took him to my grandmother to raise, the same way my mother did me and I kept moving.
There were a few helpful organizations that came through the community from time to time but they faded fast.
Central Dallas Ministries came into the community at my lowest point. I had hit a bottom emotionally, physically and spiritually. There was a lady by the name of Marva that reached out to me. She saw something in me that I didn’t. She made me feel that there was hope and that change in my life was still possible. Central Dallas Ministries Cyber Spot had a program that helped people get jobs and Marva referred me to them. She told me that when I was ready to do something different with my life to let her know and she would help me.
I knew deep inside that I could do better but the shame and guilt kept me roaming. My family loved me and my grandmother prayed for me all the time. I was so tried of using drugs but I had lived this way for so long until I didn’t know any way else to live. I had no skills and no education because I dropped out of school in the 9th grade. I was so sick & tired of being sick & tired that I went and signed up for the Job Readiness program through the Cyber Spot. I also signed up for the computer course they had available at the time. I volunteered at the Roseland Food Pantry and started on the road to change. The seed had been planted!
I had a few set backs or relapses but I kept striving to be a better person. I was pregnant with my second child and I didn’t want to follow my mother’s footsteps by not raising my own children. I needed to find a stable place to live. I could have stayed with my grandmother but that was the area I used drugs in and I needed a fresh start. I remembered a place I had gone to for refuge before, so I went back to them and they took me in.
Due to the information learned in the computer class taken at Central Dallas Ministries Cyber Spot I went and enrolled in community college to get more skills. When I needed help in any area, the services available through Central Dallas Ministries was there. I was able to do my home work in the computer lab and take my sons with me. Food was available for me and my sons through Roseland Food Pantry.
I moved from Roseland into an apartment first and now I am a home owner with a 3 bedroom with 2 full baths. I have been clean and sober for 8 years and the mother of 3 sons, ages 10, 8 and 22mo. and we have 2 puppies. Currently working on my Bachelors Degree at UNT, I have continued to do volunteer work with Central Dallas Ministries in Roseland Town Homes. Through my association with Central Dallas and Marva Epperson-Brown I am now working with them through the AmeriCorps Program.
AmeriCorps has allowed me to give back to a community that I love so dearly. Now seeing the community from another angle, I have the privilege of knowing and sharing first hand the needs of this community. Marva and Central Dallas Ministries has been one of the inspirations for me working to obtain my degree and reaching for the stars. My major is in Human Service and Non Profit Management.
The mission statement & the philosophy of Central Dallas Ministries are truly exhibited through their employee (Marva Epperson-Brown) and through the actions and attitude of the organization as a whole.
I am forever grateful to CDM for being a part of my life.