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Frank Valdez

Neighbors Hub Manager, Elevate Branson

The journey to Branson and connecting with Elevate

 

I grew up in California until I was like 20 years old. I grew up in a single-parent home, for the most part. I grew up on the streets, you know, I was thugging and bugging, as they call it, since I was like 12 years old. And when I was 20, I decided I wanted to start a family, but knew I couldn’t do it with where I was at and the life that I’d been leading, so I moved out to the Midwest in ’96 and got in with Sonic Drive-In and started managing them.

 

Throughout the years they just started slowly moving me from store to store, state to state. It was kind of like how my mom would have to find me, she’d just figure out what state I was in last, and she would just call every Sonic Drive-In from that point forward, moving whatever direction I was going.

 

In 2016, I ended up a single parent - yeah, 2016 ended up a single dad and lost everything. I went from making $75,000 a year to making $6,000 the following year, so we lost the car, lost the house, lost everything. Me and my daughters ended up in the extended stay hotels here in Branson, and that was when I first got in touch with this group, Elevate.

 

They were doing Thursday deliveries. They delivered sack meals to the extended stay hotels, and they built a relationship with my daugthers. I’ve never been much on faith, you know as far as having faith or anything of the sort, with my lifestyle – just didn’t make sense. But they built a relationship with my daughters and slowly but surely, with me.

 

I started coming to Elevate probably three years ago, and took their Elevate work program and learned some things that I didn’t know. You know I’d been managing a 1.5 million dollar businesses half of my life and realized I’d never filled out a job application, or done a resume or interviews. So it was interesting to know how much I really didn’t know, considering the business that I had been in for so long.

Climbing out of the hole

 

Slowly but surely we started getting out of the hole. You know, once you get in the extended stays it’s really hard to get out. It’s really easy to get into because it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, as far as what you pay, but getting out is real difficult as far as saving enough money to make the deposits and whatnot for the permanent housing. So it was about 2 ½ years before me and my daughters got out of the hotels, but we’ve been out for a year and a half now and just still going strong.

 

I started here at Elevate Branson in the last week of January 2021. I did a little pizza and salad bar, but what we’re going to do is use it as another catapult off of the Elevate work program, so that people who want to go into the food industry, whether beginning or going into management, whatever they can come work with me for so long, and we’ll pay for their ServeSafe training.

 

It’s just an opportunity to pay forward what these guys have done for me and my daughters.

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Health conditions from living in temporary housing

Different extended stay hotels were definitely better than other ones. I stayed in four or five different ones in the two-and-a-half year span because some were just so rough that they were getting shut down while we were living in them - whether it be due to mold or just unsanitary reasons.

 

I know that my daughters' respiratory systems were definitely affected, whether it was my room in particular or the whole hotel, they just didn’t

breathe as good. They were always congested, they were always sneezing, so they didn’t sleep well. They always had rings under their eyes and had a hard time focusing at school.

 

I’ve never taken care of my health, so I don’t know that I really noticed a difference for myself as much as I did for them.

 

By the time I was in the extended stay hotels, I thought that the girls were too old for WIC, or at least my youngest one was. And I thought that once they were over one years old it was a done deal, so I just never really looked into it and didn’t find out about it until it was too late

Learning to ask for help and maintaining pride and self-worth

 

I’m glad to be part of Elevate Branson and what they do - not handouts, but hand ups. I’m a prideful person. I’ve worked for everything I’ve ever had in my life, so asking for help has not been easy for me. If it hadn’t been for my girls, I never would have.

 

But these guys have walked me along the path that it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to need help. But I love that they want you to earn it, because it gives you a sense of pride and self worth. I think more organizations should follow that route, rather than just giving free hand outs. It's not really giving anybody a reason to step up and step out of their situation.

Frank Valdez

Neighbors Hub Manager

Elevate Branson