Building a Better Home


After 10 years of marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Kristhel found herself abandoned and a single mother to four children. She came to Gracewood to build a better home and future for her children.

“I had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years,” said Kristhel. “Aside from a part-time job driving school buses and previous work as a receptionist, I did not have the skills or experience necessary to provide for my family.”

For a time she received child support, barely enough for her to make payments on her house and for her family to survive. When her ex-husband lost his job, she knew she had to make it on her own and started taking classes at a local community college.

“I knew my income alone was not enough to maintain our home,” said Kristhel.

About that time, Kristhel attended a conference at her church, Champion Forest Baptist, where Gracewood showed a video and hosted a booth. After picking up a pamphlet at the conference, Kristhel scheduled an intake interview at Gracewood.

“I had attempted to reach out to other agencies for help with bills. They always gave me a hard time, telling me that it was my fault for being in this predicament,” said Kristhel. “Everyone at Gracewood was so caring, truly sorry that my children and I were suffering. They genuinely wanted to help.”

Kristhel had her doubts about uprooting her children for the move to Gracewood. Prior to moving, Kristhel’s kids were struggling in school. Her daughter, Alynha (now 15), who had been an honor roll student, failed a grade, and her son, Daniel (now 17), dropped out of his extracurricular activities.

“Amazingly, when I approached my children about moving, they seemed excited. They saw how we struggled,” said Kristhel. “When we pulled onto the property, we were expecting a shelter. We could not believe this was where the moms and their children actually lived.”

Upon coming to Gracewood, Kristhel was advised to not sell her home, considering the mortgage was less than apartment rent. With the help of volunteers from Clay Road Baptist Church and financial support from Bayou City Fellowship, the house was updated and transformed into a beautiful rental property, providing Kristhel and her children with a place to go when they are ready to leave Gracewood.

In the meantime, Kristhel is using her time at Gracewood to attain a teaching degree from the University of Houston. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2015.

Daniel graduated from high school and is attending Blinn College in Brenham. Kristhel was the first in her family to go to college and is proud to see Daniel following in her footsteps. Alynha is now playing high school basketball and recently received an award for her success in honors English. Kristhel’s other two children, Nyomi (9) and Isaiah (8), have also adjusted well and are excelling in school.

“Kristhel’s story is one that could happen to anyone,” said Debbie Rippstein, Executive Director of Gracewood. “Watching the transformation in Kristhel and her children as well as helping both mother and children achieve the dream of a college education is what this ministry is all about.”