Contagious confidence: Family Place graduate fulfills her calling at Buckner Parkway Place

By John Hall
Photography by Lauren Hollon Sturdy

HOUSTON – Working with a patient at Parkway Place, Melody Costello speaks into a person, not to them. She’s measured, direct, even firm with others. The transfer of words from her mouth to a patient’s ears carries with it an infusion of confidence.

In many ways, that’s part of the speech therapist’s healing formula. Patients begin to believe they can recapture what they once found easy, then she provides practical help for their issue and a plan through which they can overcome that obstacle.

Residents at Parkway Place often are living through a time of change. They’re moving from personal homes to a community setting. They may need to regain their mobility, speech or swallowing.

Transitions can be difficult, but Costello knows that with a little help, individuals can make it through.

At 17, Costello gave birth to her son, Travis. Seeking a good life, she enrolled at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, knowing education would be her avenue to a solid financial situation. Then she got the news: the school no longer had family housing for her and her son.

Scrambling for another option, Costello was referred to Buckner Family Place in Lufkin. When she arrived in August 2005, she dreamed of becoming of a speech therapist, said Brenda Dunn, clinical program manager at Family Place.

“The first time I met Melody, she was simply a teenager full of life,” Dunn said “She knew from the start exactly what she wanted to do and never veered from her goal.”

Within two weeks, Family Place provided a home from which she and Travis could launch their lives. The program provided a way through which they were positioned to grow – academically, personally and emotionally.

“Buckner gave me that transitional step from me being at home with my parents helping me with my son to being a single mom taking care of everything on my own,” she said. “The counseling helped a lot. They had classes on topics like budgeting and parenting. They try to structure things where you’re going to be successful.”

Costello bonded with Dunn, who was her counselor. Dunn provided a listening ear, encouraging word and helpful hand. When Costello needed someone to turn to, Dunn and other Family Place staff members were available.

“They supported me through everything,” she said. “You didn't have to worry about rent or that it was taken out of the funds you received. Your main focus was school and your family.”

Family Place provides the environment where individuals can thrive, but it’s up to clients to put in the work that makes transformation possible.

“I always try to tell people that even though we provide many services – affordable housing, utilities, childcare, counseling, parent education and life skills here – the parents still have their plate really full with trying to attend a full load of classes, study and spend quality time with their children as single parents,” Dunn said. “When they accomplish their goals, you have that maternal pride, but it’s really their motivation and their determination that has made it happen.”

Costello made the dean’s list the first two semesters she participated in the Family Place program. While under the Family Place umbrella, she transferred to Stephen F. Austin, where she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in May 2009. After exiting the Family Place program, she earned a master’s degree in speech therapy. Working at Parkway Place, she’s doing what she’s passionate about – helping people, just as they once helped her.

She’s particularly encouraged by helping patients learn how to swallow again. When people lose the ability to swallow, they often feel isolated. Many social events occur around food. When people can’t eat, they feel awkward at those occasions. Through rehabilitation, Costello helps bring friends and family closer together.

“I prefer working with geriatric patients,” Costello said. “When you’re able to work with adults, you’re improving their quality of life.”

Costellos' life experiences have prepared her to make such an impact, she believes. The journey hasn't always been easy, but it’s one she’s navigated.

“I feel like God put me on a path for a certain reason,” she said. “The way things happen, they happen for a reason. I don’t believe in coincidence.”

Transitions aren't easy. But people can successfully survive them with a little confidence, God’s grace and help along the way.

“I wish more single moms knew about Buckner and the assistance they provide,” she said. “Single moms, they feel like there’s nowhere else to go. I wouldn't be where I am today without Family Place.”

The generous gifts of Buckner supporters make it possible for single parents like Melody to attain self-sufficiency through education and provide a better life and a positive example for their children. Click here to donate now to Buckner Family Transition Programs. You can designate your gift in the comments box.

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