That’s how Melissa envisions her fate without 2-1-1. For those who don’t have anyone else turn to, those three digits are a lifeline. Tears of gratitude flow as she tells about the call that lifted her out of the fear and uncertainty she never could have predicted as this year began.
Melissa loved her job as a Trader Joe’s crew member. Setting up store displays, handing out food samples, and “doing anything else that needed to be done” for seven years allowed her to contribute to a 401(k) and retirement plan. Taking a chance, she cashed those out, left Trader Joe’s, and fulfilled a lifelong dream of starting her own business. Melissa Lynn’s Permanent Cosmetics specialized in cosmetic eyebrow tattooing.
However, as business slowed, she returned to Trader Joe’s to have more income stability as a single mom and briefly stayed in her mother’s one-bedroom apartment. Three generations made the best of it. “We blew up an air mattress every night to sleep,” Melissa says with a chuckle.
This year started full of promise. Then, schools closed.
She had little choice but to quit her job to stay home and care for her 10-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. Melissa collected unemployment, cleaned houses, and supplemented with child support payments. It still wasn’t enough. Helplessly watching income dry up over the summer, a fateful encounter in August with another Edmonds mom changed everything. “She told me about 2-1-1 and food assistance, so I could get an EBT card.”
Brandi, who Melissa calls an angel, was on the other end of the line. Brandi quickly connected Melissa with Sue, a Fair Housing Counselor who specializes in landlord-tenant relations at the VOA Dispute Resolution Center, and Sue was able to secure three months of housing, seeing Melissa’s family through to the end of this year.
Melissa has now extended her home to her mom, and three generations are still making the best of it. Looking forward to post-pandemic life, Melissa will emerge as a lash technician and hairstylist, making people feel beautiful and confident once more. Volunteering is also in her future, extending a hand to single mothers facing similar circumstances, paying forward the generosity she received through that late-summer call to 2-1-1.
Instead of despair, “You have hope,” she declares. “You have options. You have people to help you. Just make the effort to reach out.”