Family Tree helps Colorado families escape domestic violence

The only person who loved that old Cadillac DeVille more than Jennifer Brewer was her daughter, Jazmyne. They took the big thing grocery shopping. They took it to Costco.

And for one night — one lonely, awful night in November 2019 — that big DeViille even served as Jennifer’s bedroom.

“It was cold,” recalled Brewer, a single mom in Jefferson County. “It had snowed all night. The next night, I went into work and I had no idea where I was going to sleep.”

Brewer had left her husband and home on the Eastern Plains two Thanksgivings ago because of domestic violence. A co-worker recommended she seek services and passed along a list of numbers — including the contact information for Roots of Courage, a residential facility for survivors of domestic violence and those with children run by Family Tree, a nonprofit organization in Wheat Ridge that focuses on homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse.

“Family Tree,” said Brewer, who moved to the metro shortly after Thanksgiving 2019, “has been a life-saver to me.”

Thanks to the organization, she found a new apartment within three weeks. Family Tree helped her move, pack and unload her old belongings — “even down to the dishes,” Brewer said — in her new abode. They also helped Jazmyne get enrolled and settled in a new school district.

Family Tree, which was created in 1976 to focus on child abuse and domestic violence, continued to be involved in all facets of their lives, even as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down personal contact, for a time, during the late winter of 2020.

“It’s been the most challenging 20-plus months,” said Scott Shields, Family Tree’s Chief Executive Officer. “However, our team, who does the hard work day-in and day-out, they’re amazing. They kept their eyes on the ball.”

Shields said Family Tree, which runs three 24-7 residential programs, had to reduce their capacity at those facilities to roughly 60% because of coronavirus protocols.

But when Brewer needed a legal advice for her impending divorce, the organization was there. When she needed an advocate, someone from the team was there. When she needed someone to talk to, even remotely, Family Tree was there.

“It’s crazy to say it like this,” said Brewer, who’s working full-time with SCL Health while also taking classes in Red Rocks Community College’s nursing program.  “(But) I’m happy that things happened like they did. The love that I was trying to give to my husband, I get to give to my daughter. She appreciates it 10 times more than her father. All I want in the world is to be a great mom.”

And while Family Tree and its services are still a part of Jennifer’s life, that old DeVille, sadly, is not. It was wrecked during a crash on June 15, 2020 — the birthday, ironically, of Jennifer’s late mother.

“It was the very first car that I ever had in my name, which is pretty cool,” Brewer recalled with a laugh. “I was listening to Whitney Houston (at the time of the accident).”

Its replacement was a very different, and more compact, make and model — a Ford Fiesta.

“My kid, she’s like, when I grow up, I’m going to get that car,” Jennifer said of the old DeVille. “She wants a Cadillac DeVille. So I’m bound and determined, when she turns 16, that’s the car that she’s going to get to drive me around. And to get groceries, for sure.”

Family Tree, Inc. 

  • Address:  3805 Marshall Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
  • In operation since: 1976
  • Number of employees: 109
  • Annual budget: $9,738,500

 

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