Thirty years ago, she was living under a bridge with her one-year-old daughter. She would line her daughter’s diapers with leaves to make them last longer.
Now, she is committing her entire life to making sure the children in her community are never in that position.
The building is 200 Fuller Street.
Residents of this community can see it from Oak Avenue, just yards from First Baptist Church and our beautiful downtown courthouse. It’s a building I’ve passed by countless times on my way to The Bookworm Box.
Until today, I had no idea the kind of humanity I would find behind the front door.
Letitia Conliffe has created what she calls a “safe haven” for our children. Lil’ 4’s is a location where kids can walk through the door after school and find a hot meal waiting for them, a computer room to do their homework, mentors to help them succeed in school and activities to keep them busy. Up to fifty children ranging in age from five to seventeen utilize the free services Letitia and her three volunteers provide.
“Some of these children have no lights or water at home,” Letitia said. “This is the only place they can find a hot meal if they want to eat.”
I had the honor of visiting this afternoon with Letitia and the two volunteers who help her run Lil 4’s, Sandra Cummings and Marva Alexander. It absolutely took my breath away to see what these three women are doing for the children in this community, while taking nothing for it in return.
When I asked Letitia who purchases the food for the children so that they may have meals every night in their makeshift dining room, she said, “I do.”
When I asked her who pays the $500 monthly rent on the building so that they can offer this safe haven to the children, she said, “I do.”
When I asked her who pays the electric bill, she said, “I do.”
But if you ask her how much money she has in her purse? “About fifty cents right now.”
Letitia and her two volunteers use their own gas in their own vehicles to transport these kids to and from school if they need rides. Letitia uses her own home to cook up Sunday dinners. And even on Saturday’s you’ll find about twelve kids running around her house because she can’t help but open her door to every child in need.
And the kids look at her like a mother. “Some of them want to be here so bad, they walk all the way from Helm Lane just to have a hot meal and someone to sit down and do their homework with them. Some of these kids have special needs. Most of them come from broken homes. They all have their own testimonies.”
Letitia moved to the Fuller St. building in February when she was granted 501c3 status from the IRS. Before that, she helped these kids with any means she had at Pacific Park. She receives no grants from the Government. The only way she pays for everything is from the sporadic donations from churches in the community or people who meet her and are moved by her story, like the manager of Saputo. He met Leticia and heard her story, then showed up with a donation the next day. Or our city manager, Marc Maxwell, who offers donations and even brought the children homemade cookies recently.
Walking through their building, I was surprised at how much they had, but even more surprised at how much they don’t have. They were boiling about 40 hot dogs on a portable skillet when I arrived because they don’t have a stove.
Letitia sometimes washes these kids clothes at her house because they don’t have a washer and dryer at the facility. There are late notices coming in because Letitia is having to spread things so thin just to pay the $500 monthly rent and basic bills such as electricity and water. Not to mention everyday items that are needed like toilet paper, paper towels, plastic ware, food, clothing, etc.
Marva, a volunteer at the center, says it’s not only the children Letitia dedicates her life to. It’s everyone. Letitia heard Marva was going through a rough time and her electricity had been cut off. Letitia showed up at Marva’s door with food from her own fridge and money out of her own pocket to pay her light bill. When Marva was telling me about it, she got a little choked up, explaining how much she and the children appreciate Letitia. When the children are struggling, Leticia makes sure they don’t feel like they are struggling alone, or that the things they face are impossible.
“She makes a struggle look like a bump,” Marva says. “She always says, ‘We’re’ gonna get through it. It’s always, ‘we’ and never ‘you.’”
Letitia has done so much for the children; I couldn’t even fit it all in my notebook. She does it because she wants them to stay on the right path despite all the odds that are against them.
Sulphur Springs and the surrounding communities are full of giving, good-hearted people. It’s what Sulphur Springs is becoming known for. A community that comes together like no other to help their own.
I would love to see this community come together in a way that would take some of the stress off these women’s backs. I would love to see donations come through that will benefit these children not only in their everyday lives, but in their futures. There are many things this organization is in need of but a monetary donation is first and foremost what will help these kids the most. If you can give $5, that would buy a meal for many of the kids after school. If you can give $10, it could pay for the gas Letitia needs to make sure they get out of bed and go to school. If you are in a position to give more, please do. Every penny you donate will be utilized in the best way possible.
Letitia isn’t asking for a lot. In fact, she didn’t ask for anything. She just wants people to know that there are kids in this community who need a safe place and she is doing her best to provide that. And if you would like to help her provide them that haven, she does need the help. Whether that help comes in the form of volunteers or motivational speakers or monetary donations, she just wants to be able to continue to do what she’s been doing for years. She wants to help put a smile on a child’s face and give them the confidence to set a goal for their future.
If you might have an item to donate, call Letitia on her cell phone at 214-809-1908 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope we can come together to help reach one or more of these goals and there is no better time to be reminded of that sense of community than before Thanksgiving.
Our hope is to raise $10,000 to help ease the stress of these three women who are paying for everything out of their own pockets. If we somehow surpass that goal, I’ve set steps to show what the facility is in need of.
Goal #2 – $35,000 to help purchase a van so that Letitia can provide more and better transportation to the kids who need it.
Goal #3 – $50,000 to help purchase the van and pay for the utilities, as well as provide the facility with repairs that are needed.
Goal #4 – $85,000 to purchase either the building they are in or the larger one down the street. This will eliminate the $500 rent payment and free up that money to feed the children and provide them with more school supplies and services.
Goal #5 – $100,000 This would be a dream come true and would be enough money to make major changes/additions in order to better the lives and futures of many children in Sulphur Springs.
Let’s do our best to try and smash one of these goals! For every $1,000 we raise during the first five goals I will meet it with a personal donation of $100.
Let’s show these children how much this community cares for them. And let’s help Letitia feel like the struggle of keeping these doors open to our kids is nothing more than a bump.
Click on the link below to donate: