HOPEWELL, Va. -- As Kathryn Thompson sits inside the Thomas Rolfe Community Center in Hopewell, she would have never pictured herself here 20 years ago. As a 21-year old, Thompson found herself in tough times, homeless, and with no place to go.
"I could not see that far back then, it was like just get through the day," Thompson said. "I just remember praying one day, God, give me a free place to live just so I get could myself together."
Eventually Thompson, who was a single mother at the time, got into St. Joseph’s Villa's Flagler Program.
She said that program, and her counselor Shelly Hall-Marrow changed her life and got her to where she is today.
Thompson eventually got a job with the Hopewell Redevelopment Housing Authority, working with low-income families. Helping others had always been her passion.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and Thompson has now helped launch a new non-profit called STORY from the Hopewell Redevelopment Housing Authority.
The non-profit stands for Southside Transformation Opportunities for Residents and Youth. Thompson said the goal is to focus on helping families who live in high poverty areas in the Southside Region.
Children in low-income communities don’t have access to the same opportunities as those in middle or upper-class families, Thompson said.
With STORY, Kathryn said she wanted to help others rewrite their story.
"I definitely have a passion for helping people that need second chances, that need to be shown a different way," Thompson said.
A different way like she was shown as part of St. Joseph Villa’s Flagler program.
Thompson said it was important to give back to those in the community.
"They have so many people come in and break their trust," she said.
Thompson and her employees started an afterschool program for elementary school children who live in the city of Hopewell. It’s called the ML2 After School Program
"All in all you have the chance to help someone have a better life, have their children have a better life," she said.
However, as a new non-profit, Thompson said the organization was in desperate need of funding to continue to help the children and families.
STORY is extension of resident services program in Hopewell. She said it was created because housing authorities are limited in funding services, which is why funding for this non-profit was so crucial.
“We’re starting first in Hopewell, we’re very small staff but we would like to branch out to Petersburg and Colonial Heights, and eventually Southside region," Thompson said.
She said many of the students tend to be a grade or two behind in their skills, so the goal is to work with them and try to get them caught up through different activities.
"It’s like no one figured out how to break the cycle of poverty, so if we can reach the kids then that will draw the parents in and we can work with the whole family," she said.
The pilot phase of the non-profit has been funded since last year, but Thompson will be having an open house in October to officially kick off the organization.
That will take place at the John Randolph Foundation on October 19 at 9 a.m.
As for Kathryn, she’s been on a mission to help find her counselor from when she lived at the St. Joseph’s Villas.
Thompson said she wanted to thank Shelly Hall-Marrow for everything she taught her.
So far, Thompson has not been able to get in contact with Hall-Marrow.
She hopes someone in Central Virginia may know Hall-Marrow and help them connect.
Meanwhile, Thompson is looking forward to this new chapter in her life, and making an impact on those in the community.