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Tammy’s Story

“I was alone in the hospital, virtually untouched for 4 days. I wasn’t celebrated. I was a burden. And even though I had no parents to sing me lullabies, looking back, I know that God was singing over me.”

Tammy Nelson was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the former location of Highlands Maternity Home. Nelson’s journey, from conception to her current career, has been nothing short of ordained by the Lord.

Nelson’s biological mother, Lori*, a 30-year-old parole officer’s assistant, met and fell in love with a 20-year-old client. However, shortly into the relationship, the gentlemen began to confess of his crimes which scared Lori. Lori ended the relationship abruptly but after returning to her home one night, she was ambushed by the gentlemen. He locked the door behind Lori and had destroyed her apartment, even writing Lori’s name in blood on the apartment walls.

After heinously raping her, he stood across the room and said, “Lori, it’s time for you to die. Come give me a hug.” Speechless and in utter shock, Lori, who had never attended church or prayed in her entire life, began to silently beg the Lord for mercy as she walked across the room to, what she thought, was her death. As she walked across the room, naked and bruised, the gentlemen’s wrists were drawn together, as if he was in invisible handcuffs, and he fell to the floor in a grand mal seizure.

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Lori immediately ran out of the apartment and began knocking on her neighbors’ doors, begging someone to help her. Finally, someone let her in.

Several months later, Lori discovered that she was pregnant as a result of the rape. Scared, she went to a local church and asked if they would give her $50 to have an abortion. The pastor of the church told her that they would not pay for the abortion, but they would pay for her to get to Highlands Maternity Home to have her baby.

It wasn’t long after that, Lori found herself on a plane to Highlands in Kansas City. After only 3 days in the program, Lori gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Only hours after birth, Lori left the hospital, leaving her baby girl, Tammy, to be adopted by a couple associated with Highlands’ adoptions

Tammy grew up in a loving, Christian family and went on to become a nurse, working in labor and delivery. However, several years later, Tammy returned to the place her story began, now called COMPACT Family Services, to serve as the campus nurse where she served for 3 years.

Tammy has touched countless lives at COMPACT and has been able to connect with kids in ways that others could not. Once an orphan herself, Tammy has been able to share her story with many residents on COMPACT’s Hillcrest campus, including a little boy who was brought to the children’s home as a victim of countless abuse. That little boy developed a close relationship with Tammy and graduated from COMPACT’s Hillcrest Children’s Home and has been adopted into a loving family.

Tammy states that she still remembers the pain of being abandoned but she has clung to Isaiah 49:15-16 (NIV) which says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget you, I will not! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

Tammy is a product of the saving grace of God and the ministry of COMPACT Family Services, thanks to a church willing to invest in a vulnerable single mom in her time of need.

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Gabe’s Story

Interview with Fredrick Joseph McCoart III ‘Joe’ and Brenda McCoart, adoptive parents of “Gabe,” a young boy.

Tammy Nelson served as the Hillcrest nurse during Gabe’s time at Hillcrest. Nelson connected with and ministered to Gabe, helping him heal from abuse and neglect and find a forever home. Often cords of compassion are connected beyond a single person or moment. As such, God’s redeeming grace extends from generation to generation.

Joe, tell us a little bit of your background and how you got connected with Gabe:

Joe: “I was 61 and my wife was 52 at the time of our adoption. If you would have told me that I would be adopting a little boy at 61, I would have thought you were crazy. We have four grandkids!”

Brenda: “How we got connected with Gabe is pure divine intervention. My aunt is Gabe’s great grandmother. Unfortunately, she passed away in October of 2018. Gabe’s caseworker brought him to the funeral as he had spent a good deal of time in her care. Following the funeral, Gabe just came up to me and hugged my neck. It was like something was ignited inside of me. I didn’t know what it was but my eyes immediately filled with tears. Later that night, the Lord woke me up out of my sleep and I felt Him asking me to care for Gabe. I didn’t know what that meant but I knew I had to be there for him. I knew if it was the Lord’s will, Joe’s heart was going to have to be softened to the idea. The next day when I told Joe what I was feeling, tears started running down his cheeks and he asked what we needed to do to get Gabe in our care.”

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So, what was the process like getting Gabe to your home?

Joe: “All we knew was that we had to get this done. We drove 2 ½ hours each way to see Gabe two to 3 times a week. We would take him to dinner or just have an evening visit, but we were so drawn to him we knew we had to bring him home. It was an instant love.”

Brenda: “A few days after the funeral, we hired an attorney to get things started. We knew we were supposed to adopt him. We continually saw that it was the Lord’s perfect timing. I remember that at one of our first visits with Gabe, I asked why he hugged me like he did at the funeral. Gabe replied, ‘It was because you sang such a pretty song.’”

Joe: “Through this period of time, we just kept thinking that the adoption couldn’t come soon enough. Once Gabe was in our home as a foster placement, his Sunday School teacher told us that he had asked for prayer that his adoption would come through and come through soon. This gave us a peace that, despite all the circumstances, Gabe would be happy in our home.”

How have you seen Gabe grow since the adoption in Feb. 2019?

Joe: “Despite everything Gabe has been through, he remains very caring toward others. He’s very smart and polite. I know that Hillcrest really helped Gabe develop a strong spiritual life. He also is just so content. He doesn’t look like the same boy. He is happy. He loves family. He even started calling us mom and dad almost immediately.”

During Gabe’s first Christmas at Hillcrest, COMPACT Executive Director, Jay Mooney witnessed Gabe receiving a helicopter toy from a giving church group. He squealed with joy and then immediately turned to share his gift with another boy. Jay said, “There is something extra special about Gabe. How does a boy suffer so much and yet care so much for others? He doesn’t see himself first. He sees others.” Shortly thereafter, Jay again witnessed Gabe sharing generously during Shop-with-a-Sherriff, a Hillcrest event in partnership with local businesses and the county sheriff’s office. Children were given gift cards to shop with. They can buy anything they want so long as they buy something for another child, even if it’s just some candy. Gabe immediately took a sheriff and another boy and bought the boy a helicopter, just like his.

Brenda: “Gabe wanted his middle name changed to match his new daddy. He loves me but he REALLY loves Joe, he needed a father.”

How did COMPACT support you in your journey? Brenda: “COMPACT Hillcrest gave Gabe the foundation he has. They instilled a great deal of who God is into Gabe and it has made a huge difference. I’m so thankful for COMPACT. Without them we wouldn’t have our little boy.”

Joe: “COMPACT gave us great advice throughout our journey. Gabe is continually telling us what life was like at COMPACT. Whatever COMPACT is doing with these kids, it is making a huge difference in these children.”

How would you encourage future adoptive parents?

Joe: “So many kids need a good home and there are so many good homes out there. Keep moving forward. The process can be overwhelming, but it is so worth it.”

Brenda: “You have to know this is what you want and what God has for you. If you do, you will see that God will be with you. It won’t be easy but keep praying, it is well worth it.”

What kind of support do you have?

Brenda: “Our kids and family are very supportive. They are more than happy to do whatever they can to help. Gabe is surrounded by our family as well as our church family. Joe and I are always making new friends because of Gabe. Our world is growing, and it is all thanks to our precious boy.”

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Savannah’s Story

I was a lost, broken 7-year-old when my Hillcrest story began. No one should ever have to go through what I went through. But who would have thought that a broken, empty little 7-year-old would turn out to have a story worthy of sharing?

My journey started when I was 2 years old with the divorce of my parents. When my parents split, we moved into public housing with my mother. My mother knew that we needed to develop a relationship with Jesus, thus we were very active in our church. I even eventually joined my church’s choir. Then one day, as quickly as a summer storm rolls across the sky, the clouds of my life began to turn gray.

My mother always wanted the best for my sister and me. She promised us that she would always do anything in her power to make sure we had the best chance for success, no matter what the cost. She had big dreams and bright goals for us, but she knew she couldn’t help us reach our full potential on her own.

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Knowing she needed help, my home church told my mom about Hillcrest Children’s Home. Mom spent much time in prayer and, one day, asked, “Would you girls rather live with your father or go to this children’s home?” My sister said, “Mama, we want to go to the children’s home.” Finally, in January of 2005, with the help of our church and the DHS system, my Hillcrest story began.

At the young age of 7, I didn’t understand anything that was going on. All I wanted was to be with my mother. Sometimes I would get so angry and upset that my parents didn’t want me that I would get on my bike and leave the campus.

As time passed and I got older, my mother began to come back into my life. However, the longer I was at Hillcrest, the more I began to learn and understand that Hillcrest would be the place I called home until I graduated high school.

While living at Hillcrest, I attended Lakeside School District all the way through my senior year. Although I was at Hillcrest, I always wanted to be an athlete; I wanted to be more than “that girl that lives in the children’s home”. I joined track, volleyball, basketball, and cheerleading. As an extracurricular activity, I joined band where I played the clarinet, saxophone, and bass clarinet. I always stayed busy with my sports and academics to keep my mind off my family who, I knew, was going through a hard time themselves.

Although I was in many other sports, cheerleading became my passion. I was blessed to have a coach that was way more than a coach to me, she was my advisor, support system, and my personal cheerleader. Lakeside cheer, and all the girls on the team, became family to me.

rowing up at Hillcrest with many other children who had the similar stories to mine was an experience I will never forget. Many of the girls who were in my house eventually became family and to this very same day, we maintain a sisterhood/brotherhood bond that no one will understand or ever be able to take away. As I matured, I started to see everything more clearly and the plan that God had for my life. I began to open myself up to the staff and the different house parents on campus, from “mom” and “dad” to “nay-nay” and “Papaw”.

I graduated Lakeside High School May 2016. I had a 3.45 GPA and I was top 50% in my class. I was also offered cheerleading scholarships from 3 different colleges. I wanted to continue the passion I had for cheer, but I also wanted to start thinking about my future and what and who I wanted to be. After touring campuses back to back, I made the decision that in August 2016 I would start my freshman year at Henderson State University.

When my mother was a little girl, she always knew what college she wanted to attend. Unfortunately, she never got the chance to attend her dream college which was, in fact, Henderson State University. Because my mother never got to attend Henderson, she helped put me through her dream school and it always brings such a smile to her face.

I am now a senior at Henderson State University, and I am graduating May 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services/ Social Work and a minor in Sociology. I am an active member of a Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and an active member of the Black Student Association. My plans are to get my Masters in Social Work and become a Child and Family Mental and Abuse Substance social worker to help kids, just like Hillcrest helped me.

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