Help Keniece Help Her Young Brothers
Organized by: Leif Ueland
This is a chance to directly help a couple children who are part of a community that you might only know about from stories in newspapers, but have on some level likely wished you could do something for—kids growing up in crime-ridden neighborhoods, raised by parents consumed by drug addiction and mental illness, alternating between in squalid homes and homeless shelfters, while receiving an intermittent, fractured education.
This is a hopeful story, though, with an unsung, anonymous act of everyday heroism at its center. In August in Minneapolis, a mother tried to stab her husband and then turned on the police when they arrived. The attack was surely driven by untreated paranoid delusions and decades of drug abuse. With the mother in jail and her husband on the streets, two of her kids, eight-year-old and thirteen-year-old brothers, were in need of a home.
Keniece, their 23-year old sister who lives in Chicago, took them in. When the mother was out of jail shortly thereafter, and the boys expressed their fear about going back, sharing how bad things had gotten, Keniece decided to stand up to the mother—a woman who is in reality every bit as intimidating as would be suggested by the stabbing—telling her that enough was enough, and the boys weren’t coming back. She would raise them.
This isn’t an easy thing to do. Keniece is a kind-hearted, hard-working, young woman who describes herself as a simple person and who is understandably wrestling with the aftermath of her own flawed childhood, one very much like what boys the boys had been experiencing, which, in Keniece’s case included being effectively on her own at 13. Prepared for life in this way, one disadvantage after another, means daily life for Keniece herself is far from easy.
And Keniece was already raising her own sweet three-year-old daughter on the small income she makes working the nightshift stocking shelves at Target. But Keniece was so taken with what good, sweet boys her brothers were revealing themselves to be, that she was determined to do the right thing.
Keniece now has the boys in school. She does her best to help them homework every day, though the schoolwork for Keniece can be a struggle. She cooks dinner for them every night. When there is trouble at school, she goes to the school to stand up for the boys. While the boys are at school, she takes care of her daughter, cleans, shops for groceries, and takes the steps to improve things, starting with working to get guardianship so she can get them health insurance.
As things stand now, Keniece can make it work, if she doesn’t sleep. Really—foregoing sleep, or just sleeping intermittently while her daughter plays. So, she schedules back-to-back overnight shifts at Target, and then a night off so that she can sleep. She is exhausted, and doesn’t know how long she can keep it up, but she is proud of what she has managed so far and she just loves the boys, so don’t seem to be any other options.
Keniece is a hero. Though she would never say this, and is not one to complain, life really hasn’t been fair to her; the way Keniece is responding is by giving her all in hopes that her young brothers might be somewhat spared the chaos of her childhood.
My wife and I have known Keniece since she was a girl, living around the corner from us in North Minneapolis, and we are very proud of what she is doing. We have also been moved by the degree to which others—when they have heard about Keniece and the boys—have said they want to help. This includes a family who lives down the street from us who stunned us by writing checks for $700 to help Keniece and the boys, money that made it possible to attend an idyllic Y day camp at the end of summer while there mother was in jail. And there have been many others who have given clothes, books and toys.
Which bring us to this CrowdRise fundraiser. We want to encourage Keniece and increase the chances for her success by making the situation a bit more sustainable. The money we have established as our goal—which we will pay out in monthly installments—would give Keniece a six-month window during which she could cut back on her night-shifts, get more sleep, and pursue her goals of obtaining health insurance (and any other aid the boys are eligible for), searching for an apartment in a safer neighborhood (they are currently living in the Chicago’s top-ranked most dangerous neighborhood), and enrolling the boys in better schools for next year.
A financial donation of any amount would be appreciated. Giving $20 effectively buys Keniece a couple hours of homework time. If just 125 people give $40, we will hit our goal (after our donation and the donations others already given). But if anyone has the means and spirit to take us far beyond the goal, we certainly encourage it. We have known these kids since they were babies and know how special they are. In the dream scenario, there would be money to really change the boys’ trajectory and send the boys to a private school where they would thrive, followed by college, which of course in today’s world means many, many thousands of dollars.
But even just letting others know about Keniece and her brothers would be a huge help, so please share through Facebook, email, or word of mouth. Another way to help is to offer Keniece encouragement, whether in the comments section or by email. And we also just sincerely appreciate your time in visiting this page, learning about Keniece and her brothers. If you are new to crowdrise—as we were—and you end up seeing some other cause that you want to help instead, or end up creating your own fundraiser, that, in the grand scheme, would be meaningful, too.
Finally, if you want to more or have questions, please feel free to contact me. And a p.s., the boy who is pictured is Keniece’s 13-year-old brother, pictured back when he was not one, but showing the sweet soul that hasn’t changed in the years since.