By the age of 4, Jeff had been subjected to treatment and circumstances unfit for most adults.
With their dad passed out on the couch and mom most likely strung out or dealing, he and his three sisters were often forced to find ways to make adult decisions to survive and take care of one another.
“I remember my younger sisters being very little and hungry, and me and (older sister) Stephanie searching the fridge and cupboards to find things to make formula for them,” Jeff said. “It was horrible circumstances, but it was all we knew.”
Jeff and his sisters were eventually pulled from their home and placed in foster care. He and Stephanie stayed together (and the younger girls also stayed together) at first but were eventually put into separate homes.
Jeff grew up rebellious and angry, trusting almost no none. He bounced from one foster home to another — most bad, few good.
“Just when I’d get close to a family, start to let down my guard and trust, I’d be put somewhere else,” Jeff said. “I often wondered if I was doing something wrong. It was tough.”
Jeff finally found his family when he was adopted as a 10-year-old. A few years later, with things not going well and Jeff continuing to rebel and act out — struggling with life — he and his mom reached out to the Omaha Home for Boys together. Hewas admitted to the care of longtime Omaha Home for Boys house parents Dick and Phyllis Mendenhall.
“I know I had a lot of issues stemming from my childhood and being moved around through foster care, so coming to OHB was perfect for both of us,” Jeff said. “I learned structure, respect and discipline — and mom, through OHB’s parenting classes, learned how to parent a kid like me.”
Jeff spent two years in the Inspiration Hill Residential Care program and another six months in OHB’s transitional living program before moving out on his own. He continued to stay connected to the Home through the Branching Out Independent Living program until he was firmly on his feet.
Now married for three years to wife, Abbie, Jeff is the Safety and Maintenance Director for Humboldt Specialty and welcomed son, Ryken, to the family earlier this summer.
Jeff said his life is on track and he sees a very bright future ahead largely because of the lessons he learned at the Omaha Home for Boys.
“Life is so much harder without a path or a plan, but I have mine now, and I’m ready for the rest of my life,” said Jeff, who has reconnected with two of his three sisters over the past couple of years.
“The support, trust and guidance I received at the Omaha Home for Boys are what have helped me achieve what I have. Dick and Phyllis, Ms. Ruth (Roose) and many others took an interest in me that made me realize I had something to offer and that I was valued. That was life-changing — and saving — for me.”