KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A partnership's Little Free Library could lead to big changes for families in Osceola County.
- Little Free Library comes to Osceola transitional housing center
- Yadira Perez was addicted to drugs, forced to evacuate Puerto Rico
- Thanks to nonprofits, she and daughter are making a new life
Yadira Perez now lives on Determination Way but symbolically speaking, she used to be in the middle of Hopelessness Road. She has been in and out of jail, was addicted to opioids and recently was forced to evacuate Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
But her most difficult task has been raising her 6-year-old daughter on her own.
"I went through a really hard journey with methadone, but thanks to the help of God and this nonprofit, I can sit here in front of you," Perez said in Spanish.
Helping Others Make the Effort (HOME), under Aspire Health Partners, is a nonprofit in Kissimmee that has taken her in. With their help, Perez has been clean for almost a year, found a job and is receiving counseling.
"When you're a part of giving someone their basic need of housing, what bigger reward is there in life? And it's not just the moms," said Kyra Lynch, the program director for HOME Aspire Mental Health Partners. "For every mom, we average 2.5 kids, so we have 24 moms but 52 kids on campus. That is where the passion comes from."
Most of the children temporarily staying at Aspire have had rough upbringings. Perez said her daughter Destiny has been having a tough time in school while dealing with the trauma of what they left behind on the island.
Now, a Little Free Library put up at Aspire by Camp Ohana, another nonprofit in the area that helps at-risk children, might make a difference.
The 2-foot-by-2-foot mini library was designed by local artist Christi Kapp. The drop box will run on an honor system — take a book, return a book.
"It makes me learn and it makes me read, and I really like books," Destiny explained.
According to the National Education Association, children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school.
"We try to pass that on, the love of helping kids in lifting them up," said Connie Simon, the program director of Camp Ohana. "Especially when they are most in need and one way is reading."
As Perez takes the time to read with Destiny, she, too, has started a new chapter in her life. Perez now has the way and determination to keep on turning the pages.
"In this moment I don't know where I would be? I would probably be in the streets with my daughter," Perez added. "Lost. Or maybe even dead. I don't know. That is why I am so thankful for this second chance."
More of these Little Free Libraries are being worked on to open up in Osceola County within the near future.