Paying hope forward
Pictures of Hope comes to Lambuth Family Center in Denver.
By Caramie Petrowsky –
Nearly a decade ago, Lt. Tanya Pemberton and her daughter, Brittnie, participated in a program that changed their lives. At the time, the Pembertons resided at Door of Hope, a Salvation Army transitional living center for women and children in San Diego, Calif. Pictures of Hope, a nonprofit that introduces children to photography and encourages them to take photos of their hopes and dreams, came to the center. Brittnie, then age 9, took part along with her mother. She snapped a photo of the San Diego State University (SDSU) sign and wrote, “I hope to get a scholarship.”
“I think she spelled it ‘schoolership,’” Tanya Pemberton said.
At the time, Brittnie felt helpless and hopeless; her family “was broken,” she said.
But a month later, her dream came true. Around Christmas, the San Diego State Alumni Association reached out and offered Brittnie a full-ride scholarship as long as she maintained a B average, graduated from a California high school and was accepted to the college on her own accord. She met all three requirements and is now a sophomore studying neuropsychology at SDSU. She also works for the alumni association, so “she can give back,” Pemberton said.
The program, along with The Salvation Army ministry, deeply impacted the Pembertons. Tanya and her husband, Timothy, became Salvation Army officers and now lead the Aurora (Colo.) Corps. Over the years, Tanya Pemberton kept in touch with Linda Solomon, founder of Pictures of Hope. She reached out to Solomon earlier this year, asking her to bring the program to Denver. She wanted to pay the experience forward and give other homeless children a chance to participate and visualize their dreams.
“It changed [Brittnie’s] life and it’s still changing her life,” Pemberton said. “I wanted other kids to experience the same kind of hope that my daughter experienced when she got to take part.”
Solomon agreed and found a sponsor—Skinnytees—willing to pay for the program to come to Colorado.
On Oct. 10, more than a dozen children, ages 7 to 14, gathered at The Salvation Army Lambuth Family Center in Denver. The youngsters wrote down their hopes and dreams: to help animals, to become a football player, to be a mentor someday.
After a short photography lesson from Solomon, the kids headed out to take photos. Mentors from the community, including two Aurora police officers, were paired with each child. Brittnie flew in for the day from San Diego to be a mentor.
“When she found out they were coming here, there was no hesitation; it was like ‘how am I going to get there?’ She immediately wanted to take part,” Pemberton said.
Unsurprisingly, many of the kids took photos of houses, because they dream of living in one again.
Along with children living at the Lambuth Center, four kids from Aurora whom Pemberton ministers to each week took part. These children currently live in run-down motels on Colfax Avenue, surrounded by prostitution and drug use, and often just a step away from becoming homeless, Pemberton said.
“We have 128 students in the Aurora Public School system going through this right now,” Pemberton said. “It’s this cycle they’re stuck in; their parents can’t get out of it. It’s happened to so many families.”
Pemberton and Solomon wanted to impart a simple message to the young people.
“You have to give kids this opportunity to express their dreams and teach them that their dreams matter and their lives can be changed forever,” Solomon said. “Through hope and through the opportunity to express hope, lives can be changed.”
From hundreds of photos taken that day, Solomon chose the best image from each child, and prepared them for an unveiling at The Salvation Army Aurora Corps on Nov. 11. The photos were printed on Christmas notecards, which are available for sale. All proceeds benefit the Lambuth Family Center, and ultimately the children who cling to hope in the face of adversity.
Pictures of Hope cards can be ordered at lambuthfamilycenter.salvationarmy.org, or call 303-860-5459.