A little over three years ago, Don and Rachel Wright received an unexpected phone call that changed their lives forever. When they picked up the receiver, their daughters voice resonated in their ears. She sounded sullen, and they knew it wasn’t good news. She spoke quickly as if she needed to get the words out. She was going to prison, and her 3 children had nowhere else to go.
The couple didn’t know what to think. They had already raised 7 children of their own. They never expected to be raising young children again. Their minds were bombarded with uncertainties. They questioned how they were going to house, feed, clothe, teach, guide, and embrace these children as their own. Amidst their concerns, they knew deep down that it was their duty to give the children a fighting chance. They would spend the next three years fighting to acclimate David, Ariel, and Tianna to their new lives while keeping afloat on a limited income. Feeding America West Michigan is proud to have had a hand in keeping these children fed and healthy during one of the most trying times of their young lives.
When their grandchildren arrived, the Wrights became parents all over again. Early on, while serving as foster parents for the children, it was clear that the kids were not accustomed to structure or rules. Maintaining a routine was abnormal for them. Enforcing good habits was challenging. It was also very apparent that they had been exposed to situations a child should never have to endure. They lacked the opportunity to just be kids; but as time went on in their new home with Don and Rachel, the kids proved their resilience and were able to acclimate successfully – today, they are healthy, happy and thriving.
After fostering the children for three years and facing hardships through the process, Don and Rachel were finally able to adopt them in the summer of 2017. Don said, “We didn’t think we were gonna be here at this point in our life, but they needed somebody and it ain’t their fault. They needed a chance.”
The Wrights do everything they can to instill proper values and morals in their children. They also think it’s important to help them believe in themselves, to show them that they can do anything they want to with their lives, regardless of where they came from. “We got lucky. We got a second chance at raising kids, we’re trying to do it right,” Don said. They often talk with the kids about their futures and try to improve their self-esteem. Don and Rachel believe in teaching children empathy and the importance of giving to others. Recently, David told his parents that he wants to be a policeman or join the army when he grows up. Ariel said that she wants to be a mommy and a teacher, and Tianna also spoke about wanting to be a teacher. It is clear that the values Don and Rachel have worked to instill in the children have influenced and will continue to influence their lives into adulthood. All three want to help those in their community when they grow up just as they have seen others do.
The spirit of generosity is pervasive throughout the Wright’s small community in Newberry, and the children have noticed it and have begun helping others themselves. They witness volunteers helping at the local fixed pantry run by one of our partnering agencies, The Luce County LINK. They also see the giving hands of all involved when they attend the monthly mobile pantry at the local high school as well as the local MSU extension which teaches people of all ages how to cook healthy meals from the food they receive at the local pantries.
While chatting about utilizing Feeding America West Michigan’s mobile pantries and other local community services, Don addressed the necessity succinctly: “because we are raising three kids” he laughed and finished, “and they eat ALL the time.” Due to limited income and medical troubles, Don and Rachel cannot always afford to buy enough food for their family. Don said that if they receive more than they need, it “doesn’t go wasted because there is always somebody around us that needs something.” He believes it is important to pass on the food he can’t use, just as it was passed onto him. Again, the Wright parents remind us of the importance of teaching their children to give to others and help those who need it. The Wrights also teach their children that it’s okay to accept help when it’s needed.
Don and Rachel are shining examples of the good that can shine through in the face of overwhelming adversity. Without a second thought, they took on the incredible task of caring for their three grandchildren as their own – simply because it was the right thing to do. Feeding America West Michigan is honored to be a part of their story and to continue supporting families in times of adversity.
Story written by Molly Kooi, Communications Intern