This is one of a series of stories about the nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.
Carole Bonnerwas facing numerous medical bills for lung cancer treatment and could no longer stay in her home. Cancer free five five years ago,she continued to be daunted by bills.
In 2011, she ran across a brochure for Partners in Housing, a local agency that provides self-sufficiency opportunities, case management and counseling, among other services.
"It had everything you would want," said Bonner of the housing. She and her son each got their own room, and the agency helped provide furniture or household items.
"Nobody really knows that you're in this program. You blend in like everybody else," Bonner said.
Her son, 15, benefitted from Partners in Housing's life skills and financial classes - first job, a budget, setting up a bank account.
The pair also benefitted from counseling and computers to print coursework.
"It gives them encouragement and gives you encouragement to open up and be able to express yourself without someone judging you," Bonner said.
A full-time librarian in Harrison School District 2, a job she got about six months before entering the housing program, she paid 30 percent of her income to housing.
"There are resources and people that can help you get back on your feet and you don't have to feel isolated because of your situation," Bonner said.
She left the program in early spring after about 18 months, though she periodically goes back to talk with donors. "It's not something tangible that you're investing in. It's that intangible thing - it's hope."
In August she started online courses through the Institute of Integrated Nutrition to be a health coach, something she does on the side. Soon she'll begin online school through the University of Maryland.
"You are not defined by where you are right now. You keep moving and keep trying, better days are ahead."
Make a secure donation at www.fillanemptystocking.org. Call 476-1673 to make a credit card or stock donation. Make check payable to the Empty Stocking Fund and mail to P.O. Box 910942, Denver, CO 80291-0942. Like us on Facebook at EmptyStockingFund or follow us on Twitter @esfsprings.