The Gibson Family
“When the nurse told us we could take our daughter home, I burst into tears and asked her how they could trust us with another human life? I knew from my childhood what I didn’t want to do but had no idea what to do. That is exactly what Relief Nursery helped us learn.” -Melissa Gibson
Melissa and Joe Gibson are spending this particular Sunday afternoon painting their living room in their new house in Oklahoma but take a break to share their memory of Relief Nursery. Melissa excitedly shares her experience with Relief Nursery 13 years ago and passion chimes through. Relief Nursery truly inspired a love for helping families, planting the seeds for Melissa’s future career.
Melissa and Joe grew up in unstable homes. Joe’s mother struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of prison. Joe didn’t meet his father until he was 18 years old. Melissa’s mother struggled with mental health issues, which made it hard for her to care for three children. Her father was an alcoholic who abused her mother, which often prevented Melissa’s mother from getting healthy.
Melissa and Joe moved in together when they were only 16 years old. 2 years later they became pregnant with their first daughter Amaya. When the nurse told them they could take Amaya home, Melissa opened up about her hesitations and the fact that they had no support system. “We felt alone with no experience,” Melissa recalls. She expressed that they really wanted to get this right for their daughter and the nurse referred them to Relief Nursery.
Sharon was the Outreach worker who first visited Melissa and Joe at home. Both remember Sharon fondly and say she was one of the first adults who genuinely cared about them. “She was a constant source of encouragement and cared about our successes,” Melissa says. Sharon helped them learn what to expect and took the time to explain things. She helped them learn how to set goals and more than anything she was always available. Melissa was excited to have someone she could ask about developmental benchmarks. Was a certain behavior normal? They finally felt like they had a support system they could count on.
At that point, Joe was working full time and Melissa was going to school at LCC. Melissa said Sharon made her feel confident enough to continue on to the University of Oregon to get her bachelor’s degree and even helped her get an Auxiliary Board scholarship to pay for her books. During the holidays they were sponsored by Relief Nursery and this was the first time anyone had ever given them gifts. To this day, Joe and Melissa are still overcome with emotion by what a huge difference this simple act made in their lives at that time.
Amaya was now in the Therapeutic Early Childhood Program and was thriving. Melissa said that Relief Nursery gave Amaya a foundation to love learning and feel safe being creative. To this day she loves learning and exploring new creative outlets. Joe and Melissa were also taking part in the parenting education program and attending playgroups. They both said this was instrumental to them expanding their support system to include other parents going through similar experiences. They began feeling confident they were doing a good job raising their young family and for the first time they no longer felt alone.
Amaya is now 13 and on the honor roll at school. She plays basketball, softball, and archery. Melissa graduated with her degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Oregon and became a teacher at Early Head Start of Lane County. Melissa is now a parent support specialist for the Community Development Support Association (CDSA), an early childhood nonprofit in Oklahoma. Her goal is to build resiliency in the children and families she works with because of how her own personal experiences have changed the course of her life. Melissa said she still uses many of the assessment tools she learned from her time with Relief Nursery.
The Gibson family has come so far and they attribute that success to the start Relief Nursery gave them. Not only are they thriving but they’ve dedicated their lives to empowering other families with the information they’ve learned. This is truly a beautiful story of resiliency.