Why I LIFT: Kelli’s Story

By LIFT on January 25, 2018

Categories: First Person Perspective, Our Work, Real Stories


Nothing can stand in the way of a mother and the love she has for her family – especially when it comes to Kelli, one of our most resilient parent members from LIFT-Chicago. As one of LIFT-Chicago’s inaugural parent members, Kelli played an important role in shaping LIFT’s revamped coaching program. Outspoken, tenacious and unwavering in her resolve, we sat down to chat with Kelli and learn more about the dreams she has for her children, the advocacy work she does for low-income individuals and families and why she LIFTs.

LIFT: Can you tell us what made you come to LIFT? What goals did you want to accomplish and how did LIFT help you?

Kelli: Before I came to LIFT, I was living in a shelter up north on Grace and Addison with my daughter Janae and my sons Johnnie, Jaleece and Jurnee. I learned about LIFT when I met Sarah (LIFT-Chicago’s Program Director) at a workshop LIFT hosted the summer of 2016.  I was moved by Sarah’s presentation. It was a workshop about budgeting and one of many workshops that LIFT was hosting that summer. At first I was hesitant, but when I saw how LIFT treated its parents I said, “Okay. I can do this!”

LIFT: What were some of your goals when you first started working with your LIFT coach, and what progress have you made on those goals?

Kelli: I’ve always dreamt of being a fashion designer. LIFT helped me re-enroll in GED classes so that I could go to college and earn a degree. With me going back to school, LIFT also helped me find after school and before school activities for my children to be taken care of.

My daughter has ADHD and my son has been diagnosed with autism. LIFT helped me find doctors and programs for my children to help them with their special needs so that I could continue with my studies in order to support my family.

LIFT: Kelli, something that’s so special about your story is the fact that even with all this on your plate, you’ve selflessly dedicated yourself to such an important cause. Can you tell us more about the important work you’re doing with the Coalition for the Homeless?

Kelli: Yeah! I was working with The Coalition even before I discovered LIFT. I learned about The Coalition when they came to the shelter and spoke to us about joining a rally. At first I was hesitant, but I decided to participate – and it was awesome! We picketed and rallied for increased minimum wage. I met a lot of people and saw how positive it was, so I started bringing my kids and they got involved too. They still like to come with me to rallies. They know what we were fighting for, and that if we don’t do anything, nothing will change.

I’ve also met with representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, to teach them about our organization and what we we’re fighting for.

LIFT: That’s just incredible, Kelli. It’s clear that you’re determined to make things better for your community and for your family.

Kelli: That’s the dream. I was able to find my own place and use my family goal fund from LIFT to cover moving expenses. It feels great. I plan on getting a house next year. I want my kids to fulfill all their dreams. Jaleece’s dream of becoming a model, Janae’s of being a gymnast, and my oldest son’s dream of being a video game developer. I want to provide for my family so that they have whatever it is they need to succeed. Things haven’t been easy. My mother has been diagnosed with two brain tumors, I had a high risk pregnancy with my youngest son…we’ve been through a lot, but I’m not giving up. When I start my fashion company, I’m going to name it after my sister who passed away. When I first started coming to LIFT, it would take me an hour each way just to have my coaching meetings. I didn’t give up then, and I don’t plan to now.

LIFT: Our last question – why do you LIFT?

Kelli: To make a difference. Not just for my community, but for my family. For my children. For my mother. I do it all for them.