Julia Cook’s smile is infectious. As a mother of four walking through homelessness, she could have let that smile fade. But her smile encourages others to keep dancing through life too.
Julia and her family were staying at a hotel but couldn’t afford it once she lost her job doing security for Walmart. They sought shelter with Salvation Army, but for a longer-term option, they were referred to Star of Hope and moved into New Hope Housing across the street from the Buckner Family Hope Center™ at Reed Road.
Dancing through faith
Julia jumped into a Bible study and a mom’s support group, while her children also enjoyed attending classes and field trips. As someone who loves to dance and workout, Julia was thrilled to attend a Zumba class at the Family Hope Center. That day though, the instructor taught a “pound series.”
“Pound is where they take drumsticks and you use them as weights as we workout, and it’s very intense – she [the instructor] was very intense,” Julia said with a laugh. “I was about to tap out, she’s too tough.”
While Pound wasn’t her favorite exercise class, Julia ran into the instructor, Rochelle, at church. They enjoyed service together and headed out for a meal afterward. Rochelle challenged Julia to become a Zumba instructor.
“I wanted to introduce fitness into my own life, so I went ahead and did it. I did it I guess by faith because why else would I do it?” Julia said.
Growing through new challenges
As soon as Julia was a certified Zumba instructor, the staff at the Family Hope Center encouraged her to teach a class at the center. She led her first class on Feb. 24, 2022.
“Buckner believes in me so much,” Julia shared. “It was just like, ‘Boom, here is your first class.’”
Attending a Zumba class led by Julia is all about having fun and moving your body. The music is upbeat, and she encourages participants to keep moving however they can. No one would be able to tell Julia was nervous to teach. She spends about two hours in preparation for each Zumba class she leads.
“It feels scary; I’m not going to lie. But I feel like God is doing a new thing in my life,” she said. “With new things, come new challenges. With prayer, I just ask God to help me grow into these new leadership roles.”
On a path of adventure
Overcoming adversity has set Julia on a path of adventure. She also writes songs and performs comedy. She recently completed more than 80 comedy shows in the last 100 days.
“With God on your side, all things are possible,” Julia said with a smile. “This place (the Family Hope Center) has shown me that. Whatever you don’t have, God can still provide through other people.”
The support through the growth keeps Julia going.
“I didn’t think I’d be here. I didn’t think I’d be leading Zumba,” she said. “But that’s why me and Buckner, we’re just trying to figure this out and do great things for the kingdom. God is the only reason I move forward scared because I know he’s with me.”