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It was God, the support of a pious community and her young children that rescued Kristy Talley from a dark past.

“I mean, I’ve gotten sober before, but not with God in my life, and just this community here is all about God,” Talley, of Cambridge, explained about how her life changed and she stopped using drugs. “There’s no way I could have done any of this without God.

“If I didn’t have my children, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” she continued. “My children are my everything and I would do anything and everything for them. I feel blessed to have them. I feel very lucky.”

Talley and her three children used to live on a reservation in Hinckley for about five years. She was in a tough relationship with her ex-boyfriend who abused her in the house, she said. One day when he hit her again, Talley’s mother helped remove her and her children from the violent situation.

“And my sister told us about this New Pathways place. And I had been on drugs too. I’m not gonna lie,” Talley said.

Although drug use was an issue in the relationship, Talley made sure to take care of her children first, she said.

“The kids always had everything they needed first; it was more like I was just stuck in a bad situation. So it was there. And so I did it,” Talley said about the drugs her ex-boyfriend had available. “And I thank God every day of my life that I wasn’t one of the women who lost the children.”

At one time, someone threatened to call social services about Talley’s drug use to look into the household situation and environment her children were in. That served to make Talley stop doing drugs, she said.

“I quit using the first time was because I wasn’t going to let anyone take my kids away from me,” she explained.

Help from New Pathways

Around Oct. 9, 2019, Talley connected with New Pathways, a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge that provides shelter and support services to families with children from central Minnesota experiencing homelessness. They work with families from Isanti, Chisago, Pine, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties.

New Pathways also provides support through its Day Center in Cambridge where families receive shelter during the day, as well as case management, skills training, personal care items, internet access, and laundry and shower facilities. It provides shelter for homeless families in the evenings by partnering with area churches, where meals and sleeping accommodations are provided to each family.

There she worked on her sobriety, she said. The program helped her family with vouchers, clothes, toilet paper, trash cans, dish racks and more.

“Everyone was so loving and so caring, and they just provided us with everything we could possibly need,” Talley said. “It was wonderful how they made dinners for us every night. And the volunteers there who hosted us at the churches, they would just make us feel so loved and went above and beyond I feel what they needed to do to take care of us and be there for us and help us all get closer to God and build our relationships.”

After being with New Pathways for about 38 days, Talley was hired in November to work for McDonald’s in Cambridge. So she decided it was time to move the family out of New Pathways. They then transferred to receive help from Lakes and Pines Community Action Council, a charitable, educational, private, nonprofit organization. Through this organization’s assistance, Talley and her children have been living in an apartment in Cambridge since Nov. 15, 2019, she said.

“They help ... set up goals to help me reach these goals each month, and then it’s to help build to get me sufficient on my own,” Talley explained about Lakes and Pines.

After about three months of working at an area business, Talley began experiencing a knee problem, an illness and had a tooth removed. After some time, the restaurant let her go, she said.

“And then I filed for unemployment. And then they took me to the court about it,” Talley said. “And then the judge was like, ‘Well, you know, this is ridiculous. Your policy stated that you’re not allowed to come to work for 72 hours after being sick. So she was sick. Why are you giving her write-ups?’ And then they granted me the unemployment.”

When March 2020 approached –– during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic –– Talley helped her children with distance learning. It was a blessing in disguise for her to have free time during the pandemic, she said.

“I got to be their teacher and experience and watch my kids grow and learn together. It was really beautiful,” Talley said.

Helping Native American elders

Talley obtained a certified nursing assistant degree during the latter parts of her teens. She used that degree and took care of the Native American elders of the Band in Hinckley many years ago, she said.

Talley also has fond memories of living and working in Hinckley.

“I had some good times ...,” she said. “I really love taking care of elderly people and hearing their stories and all the wisdom. … They got a lot to tell. I really love and enjoy taking care of them. So I think ... that’s something I would like to get back into maybe.”

Impactful friendships

Through her involvement with New Pathways she’s met and established positive friendships, Talley said.

“It has been a journey. And I know I would never be here — I would never be doing the things that I’m doing right now if it wasn’t for the New Pathways, for sure,” she said. “Going to the homeless shelter helped save my children’s lives.

“There’s a host named Pam. … She’s Christian and she is just so powerful, like you could feel the love radiating off this woman,” she continued. “I love her to pieces. We talk all the time.”

Talley also became friends with a couple named Paul and Rita who have shown her that same love, she said.

“It’s indescribable, from people you don’t even know,” Talley said. “I didn’t even know that people could love you like that.”

The couple have shown their kindness by inviting Talley and her children to their summer lake house, barbecuing, going in the water and having fun together, she added.

Current relationship

Talley is now with a wonderful man who loves God and her and her children, she said.

“We are happy,” Talley added.

They both attend Alpha meetings on Mondays hosted by Lakeside Christian Church. The event is centered on exploring the Christian faith through a series of conversations about life, faith and meaning.

“(It’s) about Jesus 101,” Talley said. “We do dinner and then watch a video and break into two groups and discuss the video and pray.”

On Thursdays, Talley’s partner attends a recovery group at New Hope Church called HopeRecovery, a faith-based support group for recovery of any addiction, she said. He also runs the Crystal Meth Anonymous support group at the River of Life Church.

“The church actually trusts him with a key to the church to run the meetings,” Talley said.

Forgiveness

Talley said that she has learned to forgive everyone who’s hurt her in the past.

“It just makes me feel free and so much better inside,” she said. “Because you know what’s happened, happened. I can’t change it. All I can do is move forward and grow from it.”

Every morning Talley and her children pray, she said.

“We will pray for our attitudes and for God to bless everyone and watch us all and guide us and protect us all.

“And I never worry about anything anymore,” she continued. “I will always, whenever I’m scared or feel worried, ... I pray. I pray all the time. For everyone for everything that I can.”

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