03 April 2014

“I’ve had a really harsh life.”

When you read Kormasah Cherney’s story, you’ll understand why that’s the biggest understatement you’ll hear today.

At 31, Cherney has already endured enough pain to fill multiple lifetimes. She was born in Africa, where as a little girl she witnessed unspeakable things during Liberia’s first civil war. At age 11, she became a ward of the state in New York – essentially an orphan – and remained so for five years. At 16, she ran away from New York to live with her grandma in Detroit. At 17, she moved to Minnesota and wound up homeless for a year.

Remarkably, Cherney is still a happy person. She can’t help but smile about how far she’s come: She and her six precious children recently moved to a respectable house and she’s close to finishing her associate’s degree to become a medical assistant.

For all the complicated hardships Cherney has overcome, last winter she faced a disgusting new one that was painfully simple: heating her home.

Cold reality

Until March, Cherney had been renting a ramshackle house in North Minneapolis. During one of the coldest Minnesota winters on record, the dilapidated home leaked heat from every nook and cranny. Keeping the main floor even moderately warm meant firing up a space heater (pictured) that drove her electricity bill up to $250 per month. In addition, she had to pay more than $200 per month to keep her furnace on, plus $1,000 rent. Her monthly income was $1,500 worth of social security and child support from her ex-husband, which left only about $50 for food and other essentials.

“Between rent and utilities, there’s nothing left over,” Cherney said in early February.  “It’s either pay the utility bill, or pay for food.”

Going into November, she had no heat or electricity. Without financial help, she and her kids would be heading into a winter in which the mercury would dip below zero nearly 50 days.

“We didn’t have heat for like four months,” Cherney said. “We couldn’t cook, eat or take a warm shower.”

Warm embrace

Thankfully, Cherney has had a friend in The Salvation Army. Through Salvation Army HeatShare, she received financial assistance to get her heat and electricity turned back on before December (watch video telling of Cherney’s story).

Her kids “were excited and jumping for joy,” Cherney said. “We all sat in the kitchen and made a big dinner.”

Since 1982, HeatShare has provided about $37 million worth of emergency energy assistance for Minnesotans with no place left to turn.

In the past year, The Salvation Army also provided Cherney and her kids with food, clothing, Christmas gifts and moral support.

“Without The Salvation Army, my kids wouldn’t have had Christmas, and we wouldn’t have had heat,” she said. “I’m so thankful.”

This spring, Cherney’s life started heading in a new and beautiful direction. In March she was able to move out of the shoddy North Minneapolis home into a newer, more affordable house in Wellington, Minn.

“There are times when The Salvation Army is the only thing standing in the gap for families in crisis,” said Major Jeff Strickler, Twin Cities Salvation Army commander. “We ask people to please give what they can to help.”

Watch this video telling of Kormasah’s story.


Originally published at: http://salvationarmynorth.org/2014/04/heatshare-saves-family-from-record-cold/