God's sweetest gifts

Buckner Family Hope Center at Longview mother of two Vanessa Powell can remember the exact moment her life changed forever. She and her boyfriend were grocery shopping in Longview, Texas, when she got a phone call from an unknown number. She let the call go to voicemail and continued on, focused on shopping for an upcoming barbeque.

When she looked at her phone again she had another missed call, this time from her oldest daughter who lived in Tyler, Texas. When her 10-year-old daughter called from her home, Vanessa decided to answer, getting life-changing news.

The call from was the transplant center where she had joined the organ registry two months earlier, after a life-long battle with diabetes and later, that led to kidney disease.

“The woman said, ‘Ms. Powell, we have a kidney and pancreas for available for you,’” Vanessa said. “I was worried they had made a mistake, but they confirmed that I was number one of the list.”

For Vanessa, the call was a turning point in her life, signifying God had greater plans. She felt God tell her he was there for her in whatever she decided to do, if she called on him for help.

It had been a long winding road to get to that point. Vanessa remembered when the start of her hardships began, and how the Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview staff had been there every step of the way to support and encourage her. It was Family Hope Center Case Specialist Courtney Barr who shined a light into Vanessa’s life, giving her information about a local program that helped women re-enter the work force. 

“I heard about Buckner during Christmas years and years ago,” Vanessa said. “My oldest daughter and I received clothes, toys and household items. Family Hope Center staff Courtney, Jane Ann the whole group set me on the path to accomplish what I needed to do to support my family. Without Buckner, I would still be on my own feeling sorry for myself. Courtney pushed me even when nobody else would by calling and texting when she hadn’t heard from me.”

After making it through recovery from her surgeries in March of 2014, Vanessa struggled through a familiar bout of depression about not being able to begin her studies like she planned.

Now, because of the resources like mock interviews, resume building and wellness classes taken in collaboration with Buckner, Vanessa’s life is full of hope and meaning. This fall, she will return to Kilgore College to complete an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. Passionate about any kind of soul food, a new job as a cook at the Hilton provided the jumpstart that Vanessa’s career needed. The position could help Vanessa achieve her ultimate dream: Owning her own dessert food truck.

“Locally we only have two or three food trucks. I want to pop up in there and have handheld desserts for everybody,” Vanessa said with a smile. “It used to be that I wanted to own a restaurant, but that’s not in the picture. My oldest daughter told me the food truck wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”

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