A Mother's Legacy


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Paulina's Story:

“I wanted so badly to be a good mom, so that my children 
would not have the childhood I had.”

I guess I had a hard life. When you are young, you don’t realize how hard it is, it is just what you do. This is the first time I have ever shared my story. And I am a little… a lot embarrassed. But, I am reminded that I was just a kid. I was not protected from the world’s ways. I hope my testimony can help other teens and young women.

My dad lived across town.  When I would pass by him on the street, he would see me and say, “Oh, hey!” I knew he recognized me, even when he was using his drugs. But, that’s about all I can tell you about my dad.

My mom raised me, sort of. I have very few memories before I was 10. I know my mom was drunk and partied a lot.  I know she yelled a lot. I know she had lots of boyfriends and they molested me, a lot.

School was not the most important part of my life.  I had three main jobs in my home. I helped to raise my younger brothers and sister the best I knew how. When I was 7 years old, my brothers were 3 and 5. My sister was 4. I also had an older brother who lived with my dad, until he started using heroin.

I kept the house clean and the laundry done. My oldest brother would drop by our house and eat. He was mean and intimidated me. He would leave his dirty dishes in the sink, without me knowing. My mom would come home from working in the fields, while I was asleep. She would wake me up swearing, pulling me out of bed by my hair and yell, “Why is this house dirty?!” I would be dragged into the kitchen, where I would see my brother’s dishes in the sink. It was a job I could never get any control over.

Lastly, I was in charge of the cash. My mom would give me cash, when she came home from work, and I would hide it in a cupboard. I was responsible to pay our landlord the rent. 

Today, people tell me I am good at managing my house. I had a head start.

At 11 years old, my mom sent me on a “vacation” with one of her boyfriends. He used to beat her badly, so you can imagine how we felt about going with him. My sister, brother and I went with him to Mexico. To this day, I am unsure of the purpose of that trip. My mom was drinking too much to care.

We would call her to complain, mainly about the sexual and physical abuse. She would tell us “quit your bitching.” The boyfriend’s relative were mean, and they would tell us no one wanted us.

Our “vacation” then took us to Las Vegas. We were left on our own in a hotel. I remember that the boyfriend kept throwing cash at us. We had so much cash, we did not know what to do with it. We ate anything we wanted. We roamed around and ate a lot of candy! We later returned with him to our mother’s home in California. They fought, and we never saw him again. It was a good thing.

At 12 years old, I found out that I was pregnant by one of my mother’s boyfriends.

The hospital never called CPS. They released me to the care of my mother. I guess they did not know how hung over and angry my mom was that day.

After a couple years, my mom called CPS, because she was tired of having a little one around the house.  CPS took my daughter away. I was sad. I am still sad today. But, I did not want my daughter to have my life. I realized that this is what my family did. My grandmother pimped out my mom and her sisters. My mom did the same. My grief was eased knowing that my daughter would not experience a fourth generation of harm. 

My lifestyle did not change, except now CPS was involved. I ended up bouncing in and out of foster homes, juvenile hall, and eventually spent two years at a Boot Camp. I was so angry at my mom that I told her never to visit me at Boot Camp. She still came twice.

She said she went to church now, that she wasn’t drinking.  She prayed for me. She apologized to me. Each time she came, she would tell me she had changed. Still, I was too angry to listen to her.

At Boot Camp, my room was so dark. There was only a crack of light from the door jam. I would see shadows I could not explain. I started going out into the hall, with my blanket, where a nice woman would comfort me and ask if we could pray. I was, like, “Yeah, why not?”

When I got out of Boot Camp at 18, I started partying again. My mom continued to talk to me about her changed life. She invited me to come live with her in Washington, to get away from the negative influences. I was so tired from partying and doing drugs, that I decided to go. My brother had decided to go with me. He had hit bottom too. He had attempted suicide. We drove to Washington together.

Once in Washington, my mom continued to force me to attend church with her. Eventually, I met my husband, Gilbert, at church. He attempted to accept me for who I was. He had a vision for our future and wanted to have a traditional family life. I had no idea what that looked like.  But, he has never given up on me or on our vision, and we are figuring it out together.

I got involved with Step By Step with my last two sons. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t really know anything different than how I was raised.  There were very few people in my life who were good to me.  There were very few people who extended sincere love.  There were very few people who believed in me.  I wanted so badly to be a good mom, so that my children would not have the childhood I had.  

Gail, my Step By Step case manager, was all of those things for me. Gail helped me with my fears about leaving my home.  She helped me figure out who was a safe person to leave my children with, and we created a plan. I learned about depression and ways to cope and get help.

Gail also helped me with birth control options, but some plans did not go well, including a doctor who didn’t have time to tie my tubes following a delivery and then birth control that failed. When I found out I was pregnant again, she helped me to process the shock. She was a person I could trust.

At that time, I was taking care of extra children to bring in some extra money, and now I was going to have an extra child!  Step By Step helped me to get extra beds, clothes, diapers and a car seat. Step By Step also had nurses that worked with me as well, like Ellie and Maria, who helped teach me to make healthy choices for my children.

Even though my last baby wasn’t planned, he is a blessing, and we love him dearly. And, I can assure you that now my family is complete!

My boys are being raised to be men and to be gentle.  My only daughter is a bit of a princess, surrounded by brothers, but she is such a joy!

My oldest son is thoughtful and my right hand man, at times. When I forgot to take a diaper bag to day care and was already at work, he noticed and rode his bike with the bag to the day care. He rides his bike to get groceries, too. One morning, his bike was stolen off of our porch. It really upset the inner workings of how we did life.

Gail arranged to get us a bike through Eastside Baby Corner, a shiny, new, 22 speed bike and helmet. This took the pressure off of us, again. It was a wonderful surprise for my son, and he rides it proudly.

Gail continues to provide support to my family and me, even though we have graduated from the program.  She helps answer questions about how the world works, when it’s hard to understand.  Our family also loves to attend the Christmas parties that Step By Step puts on each year. They are such a blessing to our family. I look forward to giving back and volunteering at an organization that has given so much to me. 

I am grateful to have Gail and Step By Step in my life. My kids are better for it too. I am also thankful to each one of you who give and donate to Step By Step. My family is stronger, because of you.


“Paulina’s case manager, Gail, has always spoken about her with such pride and amazement.  I had a chance to sit down and talk with Paulina at our Christmas party this past December.  As she was telling me her story, my insides raged with emotion. Paulina’s story is a hard one to hear and even harder for her to tell. But, her attitude is remarkable!  She has been connected with Step By Step for a number of years and maintains an ongoing positive relationship with Gail.  Paulina shared her story publicly for the first time ever at our fundraising dinner and auction a few weeks ago. We are so very proud of her and the legacy she will leave in the lives of her children.”

~ Krista
Step By Step Founder & Executive Director

We always like to do something special for our moms who share their testimony at our annual dinner and auction. Gail, Paulina’s case manager, knew that Paulina had always wanted to take her family to Ocean Shores. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have been able to make something that big happen. However, when we inquired with Karen about her vacation donation program (see her story below), she was over the moon to help make Paulina’s dream a reality.

Karen offered Paulina a three day stay in a condo for her family over Easter weekend, and Step By Step staff members offered to pay for the family’s gas and expenses for the drive over. When we told Paulina about the arrangement, you would have thought we purchased her a brand new house. You never know how a resource or opportunity can absolutely bless someone! We are so thankful for Karen and the many generous donors and partners in our community, who make moments like this possible!

A Legacy of Generosity ~

My mother, Dorothy Erickson was born in April of 1920. She passed away in July of 2011. I am the youngest of her three children. My mom was a very hardworking woman. She worked with her mother and father at their bakery during the Great Depression. She later worked as a tailor and co-owner of a mom-and-pop grocery store with my father in Seattle.

Mom often said that she never met a stranger.  She loved meeting people and had a wonderful way of  making others feel valued and affirmed. She also loved to travel with her family.  Even in her later years, mom was ready at the drop of a hat to take off for an outing or a vacation.  These trips were memorable times spent with loved ones.

 I started a Vacation Donation Participation program, thanks to my mom's generosity. Through inherited ownership and access to various resorts, I am able to offer vacation stays to family, friends, and trusted acquaintances. I can then donate a percentage of the charges back to organizations like Step By Step.

"A Legacy in Motion"

11th Annual Fundraising Dinner & Auction Raised Over $100,000!

We would like to thank everyone who attended this event and gave so generously. Thank you to our auction committee and all of our volunteers who made this amazing evening happen. 

We would also like to recognize our Presenting Sponsor and ongoing partner: CHI Franciscan Health System, as well as our event sponsors: Homestreet Bank, The Omaha Foundation, Korum For Kids, Columbia Bank, Dr. Darren & Olympia Little, The Steve Mettler Family, and Staff Loveland.

We had a great time, and we hope you enjoyed the evening as much as we did! Together, we are a making a lasting difference and building stronger and healthier families and communities.