When Crystal Clay, 36, joined DRU/Mondawmin Healthy Families, she was five months pregnant with her second son, but she has internalized the support she received during her three years with the nonprofit.
“It’s a good program for building that mother-child interaction,” Crystal said.
Twelve years later, she owns a successful in-home daycare business that has created amazing opportunities for her and her three children-now 17, 14, and 4 years old.
Crystal decided to pursue entrepreneurship in 2011 after questioning her purpose while working with cancer patients at Johns Hopkins.
“Both of my parents had passed away, and I began to question if working there was really what I wanted to do with my life,” she explained.
Children had always gravitated to her, so she got the credentials to open Crystal’s Fabulous Daycare inside her home. Within five months, she was making three times her salary at Johns Hopkins and had a waiting list of children beyond her home’s capacity.
“God showed that this was for me,” she said. Her daycare serves up to eight children, seven days a week.
Like all business owners, Crystal has faced challenges on her journey. In 2018, her landlord suddenly needed her to vacate the house she was renting within two months. Stepping out on faith, she decided to purchase her own house instead of renting again, and she quickly found a home in Owings Mills, which allowed her to continue servicing her current children.
Her main advice to parents is strictly financial: save as much of your income as possible.
“I was only able to buy my house because I had money saved and had excellent credit,” she said. “I know it’s hard to save but try to put away as much as you can.” She pays an extra $1,000 a month on her mortgage to ensure her house will be paid off in ten years.
Crystal said she is passionate about sharing her experiences and has guided three of her friends on their journeys to open daycare facilities.
“I don’t want to hold onto information,” she explained. “I want to help you out, so you can join me. God knows our intentions and that is why he has blessed me.”
Crystal is also looking to the future. She plans to pursue a business management degree and pursue new ventures in retail or rental properties.
Ebony Simmons has always been ambitious. She has dreamed of becoming a hair stylist, fashion designer, and baker.
Back in 2003, her dreams seemed too daunting as she raised three children while pregnant with a fourth. That was until she heard about DRU/Mondawmin Healthy Families at a school health fair. She quickly joined the program.
As his two-year-old daughter sits on his lap, William Powell, feeds his son sitting to his right.
Multitasking is a part of life for the 37-year-old.
He is the proud father of four children.
“Some days it’s hard, but it is worth it,” William says.
Tabitha, 32, married her best friend in July 2011.
Their love story turned tragic when her husband was murdered just two weeks after the wedding. Then two days after the funeral, Tabitha found out she was pregnant.
Four-year-old twins, Jermaine and Ja’lee, start kindergarten in September.
Their mother, Keyonia Williams, 24, credits Dru/Mondawmin Healthy Families (DRUM) with helping her and her children reach this exciting milestone.
After learning about DRUM through a family friend, Keyonia enrolled while pregnant with the twins in 2012. She was assigned to Family Support Worker Latesa Allen.
“Keyonia has been really pleasant to work with,” says Ms. Latesa. “I know it was challenging for her when the twins were born prematurely. They were still in the hospital when she came home. She didn’t have transportation, but she would walk from her house in West Baltimore to the University of Maryland Medical Center—about 45 minutes—to see her babies. And she didn’t complain.”
What’s the biggest lesson Shoquitta White has learned from her experience in the DRUM program?
When to say ‘no.’
“I’ve always been a ‘yes’ person, but my family support workers (FSW) made it clear to me—and they always remind me—that it’s more important to focus on what is best for my son than to worry about other people’s feelings,” Shoquitta says. “I have to focus on my kid and not let anyone come into our environment and mess up what we have planned.”
Ferlanda Kells first learned about DRU/Mondawmin Healthy Families while at her church, Union Baptist, in West Baltimore.
“I was actually talking to Barbara Hughes [who is the founder of DRUM] before she retired,” Ferlanda explains.
The 20-year-old told Hughes that she was pregnant and struggling to pay for some necessary items like a crib.
This is where we share the stories of the wonderful families we've been honored to help nurture over the years.