After the death of her son, Velma Jones turned to SER to reinvent herself and heal. While participating in paid on-the-job training, Velma donated her paycheck back to SER.
“My name is Velma Jones. I'm from Detroit, Michigan [and] I've been [in Houston] since August. I moved here because I needed a change. My son, who had Down-syndrome, was 42 years old when he died. It's just been me and him for the last 25 years… And when he died in April, it's like my guts had been kicked out. I knew I had to do something. The devil wasn't going to get no victory out of this, by me sitting down in a state of depression.
From age sixteen to sixty one I've been taking care of someone. I've never had it where it was just me that I had to think about. So I looked at it as an opportunity to find out who I am besides someone's mother.
I picked up and moved to Houston. I'd never been here before and I thought that's what I wanted to do. But you know, the Lord always has an ultimate plan. He'll let us think that we're doing what we want to do, but his plan is in work all the time.
I didn't really know about the SER program in Michigan. But once I got here, I contacted SER, and they said there was a program for the seniors. But when I went for that program, I didn't qualify because of my income. So I went to another information meeting, where Jimmy [Perez, SER Community Navigator Lead] was discussing the different programs. And he said "well, you still can get involved." So I didn't get discouraged. And then there was another information meeting there at the SER office involving being prepared for interviews. So I went, and at that one I got the information about the Houston Food Bank and the SER [Serving for Success] training program. So I went to that meeting, and I met Amy [Burnette, SER Serving for Success Workforce Development Lead]. She was saying that the program was going to start soon. And I was really interested in it. They told me that [Serving for Success] would start on September 26th.
That very day my healing began. Because my situation was totally different from everyone else's there. But, the Lord uses the hurting to heal the hurting. I was just so blessed by Mr. Rickey [Davis, SER Workforce Development Lead] and Ms. Amy.
I knew I was supposed to be there… I wasn't there for the pay. I was there because I needed that. I needed something. I didn't know what it was, but it felt so right being there, you know. And Mr. Rickey made the class the class so exciting. There was laughter! I hadn't laughed in two or three months. That's when the healing actually began with me. And I couldn't really talk about my son when I first got there because every time I would talk about it, I would be in tears. But after a few days, I found myself talking about it, and I wasn't even crying anymore. I'm just thankful for the program being there for me. Like I said, my situation was different, but I was hurting. And I thank SER for being there.
I started the [Serving for Success] program, went through the two weeks of classes with Rickey, and then I was placed with the Keegan Kitchen of the Houston Food Bank, and I absolutely love it. I love doing the interacting, greeting, and welcoming in the people who come in for service.
I'm a receptionist in training. I was told that it was only for five weeks, but whether it's for five weeks or a long time, I'm willing to be there as long as I'm needed. And that's why I felt like I should give back the first paycheck. But I'm not only giving back the first paycheck - I'm giving back the whole five weeks of pay.
I worked for a motor company for 30 years, and I retired in 2006. So from 2006 until this April, it's just been me and my son travelling and enjoying life. So I haven't been in a work situation in a real long time. But this was like nothing I had ever done before, but I absolutely love it.
I'm just taking it day by day. My purpose was to come here to reinvent myself. Because like I said, I've never had it where it's just me to take care of or think about. I really can't speak any further than that.
Thank you SER for being there. I appreciate you all.”