Joy Carlson: Tribute to the people of South Routt |

Joy Carlson: Tribute to the people of South Routt

There’s a familiar African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Little did I know the truth of that saying when the phone call came one year ago.

“Joy, do you know of anyone who could help out with two high school students who need a home?”  

I listened as my friend, a fellow teacher, explained the situation. Two brothers, both seniors planning to graduate within weeks, were homeless, their parents suddenly leaving the state. The boys had been left to fend for themselves, and one of them was thought to have spent the previous night outside.

She heaved a sigh and declared, “They just want to graduate.” Both boys had been accepted to colleges and had summer work lined up. Now, everything was in jeopardy, and as hopeful 18- and 19-year-olds, their futures did not look very bright.

Later that day, my husband and I ended up offering the spare bedroom in our own home to these two young men.

Did that make us the heroes of the story?  

I began seeing the valor of our small community when I stopped by the local rummage sale to find some needed clothing for the newest members of our household. After hearing the story, the cashier gave me everything free of charge.

The next day, a coworker brought us a turkey dinner; it was accompanied by an envelope containing a $100 bill. Another evening, a parishioner delivered two bags of meat to help replenish our rapidly emptying freezer.  “From the church family,” she said. 

Every time I turned around, someone in our church, school or community was handing me food, clothing or cash.

Not long after these boys joined our family, a suspicious vehicle was spotted stalking our neighborhood after dark one night, reportedly looking for our home. It wasn’t long before my husband’s phone began ringing, the mysterious caller screaming venomous threats but making no sense.

That night, our school’s principal came and parked her car in our driveway until the sheriff arrived to make sure our own household was safe while we sped home in response to those alarming phone calls.  

Do we have a hero, yet?

Toward the end of their stay with us, there were a few items that one of the boys still needed in order to be a summer employee of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.  A social worker from our school represented him to the Individualized Service and Support Team, an organization that provides for crisis situations such as this.

“Why didn’t you contact us earlier?” they questioned her. “We could have done so much more if we had known sooner.”

As if that were a new thought to her, she replied, “I guess we didn’t need to; the community did it all.”

When my husband, our two teenage children and I took in two homeless boys last year, some people probably looked at us as valiant, but it took a village to finish this story well.

That village is the South Routt community — made up of ordinary people who cared enough to do something — even at personal sacrifice. They are the real heroes … who made up the village … that truly made a difference, not just for one child, but two.

As we wrap up another school year, I’m reminded again of what transpired in my home and community just 12 months ago. It fills me with pride for my South Routt family. The old adage proved its worth, and because of that, two young men were given hope for a brighter tomorrow.  

Joy Carlson


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