It started with a door knock in 2010, over at Challenge House #2. I opened the door, and there she stood: sleek, bashful, determined: “I need help with math”. 6 years later she has a job, and is about to graduate from our community college!
Fast forward from that door knock; we just had breakfast-lunch at Waffle House—she picked it! —and left with a take-out box that will provide another meal. I was glad about that! She was 14 back then; 20 now. Her skin-tone is so dark compared to mine, and our ages separate us by nearly 50 years, but so what! God’s love and grace always work both ways, and there seems no distance between our souls. We talked so easily–but back to that knock.

We got her help with the math-challenge ; probably more importantly we began relationship. It’s supposed to work this way—-the “dots” get connected, and every person matters. I left Challenge House #2, and the next Ambassador, Leigh Ann, got to watch Tara grow.  Later, Tara ended up spending time at nearby Challenge House #5, where she again felt welcomed.

During this timeframe, as Tara moved forward toward high school graduation, she twice attended the Challenge House signature summer program: AT&T (Attitude Training & Teamwork). She made it through the first week “Boot Camp” (about work-over-welfare) both summers, and both summers worked the week after Boot Camp at Mansfield Animal Hospital, where she helped Dr. Johnson. “I love animals” she always told us!

Our AT&T program takes the grant money and pays the students; instead of the presenters. What a concept! Both summers Tara earned $150 checks because she displayed such a positive Attitude, such a willingness to be Trained, and interacted perfectly with her Teammates (in the classes) PLUS her mentor-time under Dr. Johnson was “as good as it gets”!

She graduated high school, and Challenge House gave her a small graduation gift ($20 bill and a thin-book entitled 50 Skills To Help You Succeed in Life). She smiled so beautifully and was so grateful!

A few weeks ago my cell phone rings: “This is Dr. Davie with Westuck Veterinary Hospital; a Tara Quarles has put your name down on her reference listings. What can you tell me about her”? The rest is history! She now has her part-time job in a field of interest instead of the Dollar Store, and she plans to graduate the local college in May with 63 credits (Animal Science her major)!

Her plans are to enroll at Murray State next Fall, and continue her studies while playing in the Racer band!  Tara’s mom died in 2015, and she lives alone now—but with the same focus and determination that led her to knock on the door at Challenge House #2 those 6 years ago. Her high school band director, Mr. Lovell, and her church, Northwest Baptist, both mean so much to her. Challenge House may be just one little “dot” along her upward path, and for that we say, “To God be the Glory/Great Things He has done”!