Rickey has learned many trades throughout his life. He has farmed land, worked as a mechanic, built houses, and restored old cars; he even ran his own cement business. “There was only one thing I couldn’t do,” Rickey said, “read.”
It is hard to imagine what it means to be fifty years old and not know how to read or write. “The more I look at it,” Rickey said, “I guess I been lucky ‘cause of the kind of jobs I done had.”
Rickey grew up on a farm in Louisiana. His father needed help to run the farm and had Rickey work instead of going to school. When he got older, Rickey took on more labor work with his father and uncles. For many years, Rickey continued working in various trades with friends and family all over the country. It was easy for Rickey to find jobs that do not require reading and writing skills in Louisiana.
The aftermath of the divorce found Rickey in pursuit of a fresh start in Colorado. Rickey knew that if he truly wanted to thrive in life, he had to learn to read and write. He had already been going to Client Services for help filing paperwork, among other things. That’s where he met Jennifer.
When Jennifer began volunteering at the Marian House, she enjoyed her work so much that she continued to volunteer for over seven years. One afternoon, Jennifer had an experience that changed how she would choose to spend her time as a volunteer. “I heard this guy with this paper, just exasperated. I said, ‘Is there a problem?’ and he began to express how he needed help filling out this form. So I helped him, and he was very frustrated. And it wasn’t long before I figured out he couldn’t read as well as he would like to.”
Jennifer had previously helped Rickey in various ways at Client Service. After she discovered he could not read, she felt called to be more involved. Client Services connected Rickey with the Pikes Peak Library District for tutoring. However, Rickey was still frustrated, so he called a person he knew he could trust – Jennifer.
At first, Jennifer expected to simply help Rickey with the homework that his tutor from the library assigned. Eventually, she found herself teaching Rickey full-on reading lessons twice a week to supplement his weekly lessons at the library. She had no experience as a teacher but felt that this was where she belonged: “I’ve pushed really hard because Rickey is really intelligent, and we’ve moved in leaps and bounds over the last month.” After only one month of tutoring, Rickey was reading his first book.
Jennifer and Rickey schedule a time to meet in the conference room at the Marian House so they could have a quiet place to work together. Jennifer takes the time to help Rickey improve his spoken language as well. When Rickey talked with his aunt on the phone, she noticed that his speech had improved and said that she was proud of him.
Rickey explained, “Everything I ever did, I always finished. So I know I’ll finish this.” Ultimately, Rickey plans to start a trucking company to travel across the country. He hopes that, eventually, he can even go to college. “That’s the difference between Rickey and many people,” Jennifer stated proudly, “He’s already got a goal to start his own business. That’s huge!” Thanks to the Marian House, Rickey was able to connect with Jennifer, who was willing to provide the individualized attention that he needed. “This is very empowering,” Jennifer said, “It just proves how invaluable the services are that the Marian House can offer. Someone walks in the door, and we have a volunteer here who will notice that someone needs more than a pair of socks. It’s so much more than that. I’m so glad that I’m in this position. This is an invaluable program.”