About this series
Over the two-week holiday period, The Times will profile residents who have put their lives on track with help from local agencies.
Family Promise of Hall County
What: Helping homeless families find steady work and affordable housing while providing temporary shelter and counseling
Where: 946 Lanier Ave., Gainesville
More info: familypromisehall.org or 770-535-0786
But through personal willpower and a helping hand from others, particularly Family Promise of Hall County, the Gainesville woman is starting to see the dark clouds part.
For the first time in a long while, “I feel comfortable,” Holbert said.
The 29-year-old’s story begins in her native West Virginia, where she was taken into state care from an abusive home at age 12.
For the next six years, “I was basically in and out of group homes and child shelters,” Holbert said.
In 2011, she was arrested on a marijuana charge and lost custody of her sons, Jeffrey, 8, and Jayden, 7, to her boyfriend’s mother.
“He told me if I didn’t marry him right then, he was going to make sure I didn’t get my children back,” Holbert said. “I didn’t love him, but I did it for my children, because I wanted them back.”
She got her two sons back in February 2012 and two months later, she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge.
Even though life was straightening out legally for her, the home life wasn’t good.
“I moved to Georgia to get out of the relationship,” Holbert said. “I had to get away for my children.”
She and a friend ended up in Cartersville, but they parted ways after a fight. Her divorce from her husband was finalized in 2013, and she later started dating a Gainesville man.
Turns out, “he was verbally and kind of physically abusive,” Holbert said.
The situation would go from bad to worse, as the boyfriend’s mother called authorities saying Holbert had drugs in the house the couple shared.
Police searched her home but turned up nothing, Holbert said.
At that point, the Department of Family and Children Services advised her to leave the house, helping her to get help and temporary shelter from Gateway Domestic Violence Center in Gainesville.
Gateway eventually linked Holbert with Family Promise, a Gainesville agency that helps homeless families find steady work and affordable housing while providing temporary shelter and counseling. The agency teams up with area churches to provide shelter on a rotating basis.
By this point and even before, Holbert said she knew something needed to change in her life.
“I realized I needed to get a job and try to get back on my feet,” she said.
That was reaffirmed through Family Promise, which is based at 946 Lanier Ave., off Thompson Bridge Road.
“It was a little tough going church to church and the kids would get frustrated, especially on Sundays,” when the family would have to move to another church, Holbert said.
But the experience still offered something that had been missing in her life — stability.
She wound up working full time at McDonald’s and finding a modest place to stay in public housing. Her sons are doing well at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, she said.
“I know going back to West Virginia is not an option,” Holbert said. “I know too many people up there, and it would be easy to slip into the (old) lifestyle. I don’t want that for my kids or myself.”
Amanda Bailey Ayers, program manager at Family Promise, said Holbert is a “good example” of people they try to help.
“Our focus is families with kids,” she said. “We’re really looking to work with people who are ready to make a change. Misty … knew she was ready to have a stable life for her and her boys.
“She wanted to do whatever it took to make that happen. That’s what stood out to us about Misty — her heart and desire to be a mom for her kids.”
And Holbert believes in the program that helped her back on her feet.
“It is beneficial, if someone really wants to do it, if they really work at it and give it a chance,” she said.
Holbert is now setting goals for herself, even though she hasn’t tagged any dates to them yet. She wants to go back to school, earn her GED and become a medical assistant.
But chief among her dreams “are to get a car and become more independent, not rely so much on (public) transportation,” Holbert said. “I want to do more things with my kids.”