Everyone has a story. Your story isn’t only about where, when, or how it started rather where you choose to take it and how it ends. I am sharing my story today, for any woman who feels like she has no one to relate to or feels like she is alone. I hope every mother and woman knows you can do this, and you are not alone!
My story began twenty-seven years ago. My parents were never married and never would be, and my father was an alcoholic. Two years after I was born, my mother left him. She later met my stepfather, and they got married.
I don’t have many memories from my childhood. The ones I do have are not pleasant. I have vivid memories of the inappropriate places my biological dad placed his hands, during the long drive from where my parents would meet to his house. There were so many “sketchy” things that happened to me while in his care. He was an alcoholic, and I was an easy target.
My lessons in life and love came from the woman I call my mother. Her name was Caroline, and she was my great-grandmother by the laws of nature, but my “mother” by choice. Although she was tougher than nails and ruled with an iron fist, she took the time to teach me how to cook, clean, sew, garden, and be the mother I am today. She was nowhere near perfect, and that was the beauty of it. She taught me that it was okay to make mistakes and that it was how you carried yourself through them that made the difference.
When I was eight years old, I asked to send an email to my biological dad. I emailed that I never wanted to see him again, and that I would not be returning to his home every other weekend.
That email was a huge relief. A giant weight lifted off of my shoulders, even as an eight-year-old. I know I was being naïve, but I hoped that with him out of my life things would get better. Sadly, they did not.
When I was in third grade, I reported an incident to a school counselor, who made a report with CPS.
This did not go well, and I was not believed. I felt like no one cared what a child had to say. I went back and told my school counselor what happened, and she was furious. After that, she checked in on me often, but I stopped talking. I feared being labeled and had lost most of my trust in adults.
When I was thirteen, I woke up one day and decided I was going to commit suicide. So many thoughts ran through my head. Would anyone even care? I sat on my bed, sobbing. I wrapped a tie around my neck and tied it to the highest point of my ceiling fan. Just as I had finished tying it as tight as I could around my neck, my mom walked in. She came over and got me down and looked at me in a way I had never seen her look at anyone and then walked out. That was that. We never talked about it again.
Soon after, I was introduced to burning and carving. It got to the point where I wasn’t allowed to have scissors near me, unmonitored, in class in Junior High. I would steal safety pins and needles out of my grandma’s sewing kit, so I could carve while at home or at school in the bathroom. I wore wrist sweat bands to cover the cuts and scars all the time. It became somewhat of an addiction. I would steal my parents’ lighters and light them and hold them against my skin until I would have nasty burns. As sick as it sounds, it actually felt good. In a world where I felt alone and numb, it reminded me that I could feel something.
In ninth grade, I met a guy. He was 19 and was the typical “bad boy”. I fell head over heels in love with him. He treated me like a princess and bought me nice things and loved spending time with me. We lied to my parents and told them that he was 17, so that they would let us be together. However, he later became emotionally, physically and verbally abusive.
He was the boy I lost my virginity with at 14 and that only made me more attached to him. I never told my mom that I was sexually active. I did go with one of my friends to Planned Parenthood to get on birth control. My mom ended up discovering it in my room. In a moment of panic, I told her it was my friend’s and that she had forgotten it when she stayed the night. I should have just found a better hiding spot or been open and told my mom I was having sex, but I was so scared I threw it away.
My boyfriend and I broke up in June of 2007. In July, he called with the old “I miss you. My mom misses you. You should come over, so we can talk” speech.
Well, of course one thing led to another and we were intimate with each other again. I left that day and didn’t contact him again.
September came and I returned to school. It was my 10th grade year, my first year of high school. I had played private league soccer from around age 7 until that first year of high school. One of the coaches heard how good I was and wanted me to play on the school’s team. When my mom took me to the clinic for a sports physical, my doctor came into the room and told me he couldn’t finish my physical that day. I started to get angry, and he quickly stopped me, saying “no, you’re pregnant.”
My jaw hit the floor. I looked at my mom, with no idea of what to say or do. The only words that came out of her mouth were “Oh, real #$@&%*! nice, Tanya. What will we tell your dad?” When we got home, my mom told my step-dad. With a sarcastic look on his face, all he said to me was, “Well, looks like I won a bet with the next-door neighbor.”
I remember thinking, is that what my parents think of me? It didn’t matter. What mattered now was the baby growing inside me.
My mom drove me to my boyfriend’s house, where I taped the copy of my pregnancy results to his front door with a note that said, “if you want to be involved, call me.” He called only to deny that the baby was his, despite the fact that I had only ever been with him.
I was 15 when I found out I was going to be a mother. Soon after finding out, I celebrated my 16th birthday. My mom took me to WIC, and one of the employees suggested, based on my mental health history, that I enroll in the Step By Step program. It was awkward at first. I had my doubts that my counselor with Step By Step really wanted to help. But, by our 2nd or 3rd visit, I could tell she truly cared. She was an amazing advocate for me, during my pregnancy. My Step By Step home visits became my once-a-month outlet that really kept me grounded and in a better mental state.
On Christmas eve, I found out I was having a boy! In my third trimester, I learned that I had preeclampsia, which causes weight gain, painful swelling, vision changes, headaches and many other tough symptoms. At 37 weeks, my OBGYN made the decision to induce me.
My baby was initially born purple and unresponsive. I remember the nurses holding him next to my face and telling me to kiss him because they needed to get him to the NICU. Hunter’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice and his body once.
It was the scariest thing at 16 to watch a team of nurses whisk away your baby only seconds after meeting him. After we left the hospital, I returned to my parents’ house, where the long nights and figuring out what it meant to be a mother kicked into full force.
I had many sleepless nights and many sacrifices were made. I transferred schools to attend an alternative High School, in which I only had to go to school four days a week for three hours a day. It allowed me to continue with my education and also be a mother to my son. I got my first job in the fast food industry, knowing that I had a son to support. I would go to school in the mornings, then go home for a few hours to spend time with my son, before going to work, usually from 5 pm to 10 pm.
I later developed postpartum depression. It was so hard. I wanted to succeed and prove to my baby that anything was possible, but I felt like I would never amount to anything. But, I made it through. I ended up graduating high school on time, with my one-year-old son on my hip. I got a new job in the caregiving and health industry, moved into my first apartment, and finally had a place of my own.
When Hunter turned five, I was twenty-one years old. I couldn’t believe I had a kindergartener. Later that year, I met the man who would later become my husband. At first, I was terrified to start a new relationship, but Jeremy was a perfect fit for not only me, but also for Hunter. For the first time, I experienced unconditional love.
We later had our little girl, Miss Aspen Rose. With this pregnancy, I didn’t suffer from depression. I truly believe it was because I was on my own and had a loving friend and supportive father by my side. For once in my life, things were going well. My life seemed so much brighter.
But, it didn’t last long. My grandma, “my mom”, had fallen ill and was in the hospital. I was sitting in the hospital talking to her and holding Aspen, when she suddenly wasn’t talking right anymore. It happened so fast, in the blink of an eye, the nurses came running. “Adult Code Blue” and her room number echoed in the hallway, and I watched as I lost my mom.
“Who will stand up for me now? Who do I call at 2 am to vent to?” I sat there holding her lifeless hand crying and begging her not to go, despite the fact that she was already gone. Minutes turned to hours that I sat in that room.
Life is never the same after you lose someone you love. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was barely able to take care of the kids. The housework piled up, Hunter was late to school almost every day, and my heart returned to its previously numb state. I had to learn to live again.
Then, I found out our third child would be joining us in this crazy world. When the doctor told me my due date, the room stood still, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day of 2017, my grandma’s birthday. I couldn’t believe that he was to come on her birthday, and she wouldn’t be here to greet him.
I called Step By Step to see if I could get into their program again. I did, and my case worker, Becky Hoffman, was amazing. Just like my first case worker, she was resourceful and easy to talk to.
She helped me learn how to separate what I was capable of from all the hurt from my past. She encouraged me to focus on myself and my growing family, and she educated me on local programs and resources, in an effort to encourage me to give myself goals to work towards.
Baby Rhett came right on time. His pregnancy didn’t have any crazy stories, like my last two. Becky later met us and gave me a bag full of baby gifts and blessings, from Step By Step and their volunteers.
After Rhett was born, I knew I had to start planning for a change in my future. When Rhett was three months old, I took advantage of the advice and resources that Becky provided and enrolled at Pierce College, with the help of the BFET program. It was a long journey, but I needed to prove to myself and to my kids that no matter what cards you’ve been dealt, it’s up to you to determine your happiness.
This past June, I graduated from Pierce College, with the President’s Award for my 3.89 GPA. I was also awarded the BTECH Student of the Year award by my program supervisor. When, I walked across the stage, my now 10-year-old son screamed out proudly “that’s my mom!”
Today, my family is thriving. Hunter, Aspen, and our youngest boy Rhett, are all doing well. A few years ago, Jeremy got hired on to work at Korum Hyundai, in Puyallup. From day one, he has loved this job. The people, what he is doing, the atmosphere, and environment are astounding. He’s been there ever since. I have also learned that the Korum family is a huge supporter of Step By Step!
We are so thankful for Step By Step and Korum Automotive. These two organizations have been a positive, instrumental force in our lives.
I want my next step to be to find a job where I can utilize my knowledge, embrace my strengths, and give back in some way, no matter how large or small a contribution.
Everything I do, I do for my three kids. My life goals are to live happier, travel more, and love harder. I hope my story and my life build up other women and mothers who have faced similar challenges. I want them to know that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to.
I didn’t have many cheerleaders in my life, and I think everyone deserves to have someone on the sidelines cheering them on. My grandmother, my husband, and my Step By Step case workers have all been cheerleaders in my life.
My biggest goal and dream for the future is to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps. Her gravestone says “she gave so much but expected so little.” I hope I can leave this same legacy for my children and that my life story will be defined by my generosity, hard work, and kindness.
Thank you to everyone who attended our event to celebrate breaking ground on the future Germaine Korum Center! After years of hard work, planning, and fundraising, we are extremely excited to have reached this milestone.
A few highlights from the ceremony - Neil and Lore Van Lierop joined us to celebrate the beginning of this new legacy on their prior farmland. The shovels we used during the ceremony were originally used on the farm. And, all of our cookies and refreshments were homemade for our guests by local Step By Step moms.
We hosted a joint ceremony alongside the City of Puyallup, as they are also breaking ground on the land adjacent to ours. These surrounding 18 acres will become a new community park, named after the Van Lierop family who previously worked this land for generations.
In the future, this site will build stronger and healthier mothers, babies, and families in our community. For now, we are focusing on construction and the fundraising needed to finish the project.
First and foremost, we’d like you to know that this project has come together because of the tremendous support of this community, the Puyallup City Council, our Advisory Council, staff, and development team. We are incredibly thankful to the many dedicated individuals who have worked so hard to get us this far!
Who founded Step By Step?
Krista Linden founded the Step By Sep Family Support Center [Step By Step] in 1997 and has continued to serve as the organization’s Executive Director for the past 21 years.
Who does Step By Step serve?
Low-income or at-risk women who are currently pregnant or parenting a child under 1 year old. Over 95% of the women we serve exist on an income level at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Where do you get referrals?
Our referrals come from a variety of sources including local practitioners and hospitals, DSHS, WIC, the Health Departments, schools, churches, pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, day clinics, food banks, and much more. Women often also contact us directly seeking support.
Why are you expanding your existing program?
Good parenting and a stable home are critical for a child, a family, and for the health of our society as a whole. Parenting is hard, even under the best of circumstances. For 21 years, we have been helping babies be born healthy and moms get a good start to parenting. However, we have also witnessed firsthand the tremendous barriers that our moms face. Working to overcome generational cycles of poverty and abuse and provide a safe and stable home, over the long haul, is extremely difficult and takes time. Many of our moms need holistic care and support beyond what we can currently provide.
Step By Step is in a unique position to help women move seamlessly from their first steps in our existing program, making healthy choices and delivering a healthy baby, to the next steps needed to work towards self-sufficiency and stability. Our expanded programs will continue to be holistic in nature, offering job training and workforce development opportunities that will be braided into our existing family service programs. We will continue to focus on mental health, life skills and parenting, and continued counseling and education.
Why did you buy a farm?
We were looking for opportunities to establish a social enterprise program, where we could provide job training and workforce development to the women we serve, while also generating revenue to fund the program.
Krista, our founder and Executive Director, grew up on a farm and believes that farms are symbolic of what she wants women and children to experience - a sense of home and togetherness, shared values, and hard work. Family farms have been essential to this community, and we are excited to have the opportunity to preserve a beloved farm in this area and bring it back to life. We look forward to being able to repurpose these historically significant buildings and breathe new life and legacy into this site. This place will be able to continue to serve this community for generations to come.
What work will be completed this phase?
We will be re-purposing the existing 18,000 square foot main building onsite into a large center that will include classrooms and counseling rooms, a restaurant and catering facility, 2,000 sq. ft. training kitchen, and a 400-seat event hall. Site work will also be completed, including additional parking and required utility upgrades.
Will Onsite businesses be open to the General public?
Will there be any housing on the site?
How much more do you need to raise?
This past spring, we thought we were within $800,000 of our goal. However, that was based on estimates given a year prior. Since then, we learned of additional requirements from the city, steel tariffs, and a huge increase in construction costs. We recently announced that we will need to raise an additional $2.5 million. That is a lot of money and not something most of us can make a big dent in, but there are some who can. Once we reach this goal, we will launch a smaller public campaign to seek financial support for the start-up of the new programs.
When will you start booking events in the new event hall?
As soon as we have a confident completion date, possibly as early as the end of this year. We will be posting more information and updates on our website and Facebook.
Will there be positions that community members can apply for, who are not Step By Step clients?
Yes! We will be filling many positions with experienced professionals, to oversee the successful launch of the new center and pilot training program. Step By Step clients will be referred into the program, by their case managers, and will begin with counseling and soft skills education. Later, clients will move into mentored job training positions and may be hired back to fill peer training and management positions over time. However, the primary goal of the program is to teach skills and assist women in obtaining gainful employment, in their communities, outside of the Step By Step program. We expect to start publicizing open positions in January 2019.
How will you celebrate the completion of this campaign?
Sleep! Just kidding… we will be announcing details about our Grand Opening event, most likely in March of 2019. We had hoped to be finished with construction, in time for Mother’s Day, but projections are closer to July 2019.
Who Can I contact with more questions or about making a donation?
We would love to hear from you! You can e-mail Krista directly at
8th Annual “Little Steps, Big Dreams” 5K Raises over $37,000
This year’s “Little Steps, Big Dreams” 5K Walk/Run event was fantastic! To date, we have raised $37,804, and a few donations are still coming in!
Thank you to everyone who came out to support our work and enjoy this fun family event with us! You are helping us build stronger and healthier mothers, babies, and families in our community!
Thank you to Loyalty Coffee Co. for providing us with amazing coffee and espresso, Roy L Sounds for volunteering (as always) your matchless audio visual services, Budu Racing for donating our race arch and timer, and Scholz Farm for donating our fun Photo Booth station!
Thank you for another wonderful year. We always enjoy the opportunity to spend some time together with you in the great outdoors, for a great cause. We hope to see you all again next year!
July | LDS South Hill Stake
An energetic group of girls from the LDS South Hill Stake community spent a day collecting donations and tying diapers for our Step By Step babies. They delivered 1,500 Newborn diapers (which are always our biggest need!) along with 40 pacifiers, 850 size 1-2 diapers, baby wipes, toys, books, hygiene items, a car seat, and 86 cute baby outfits.
We are so thankful for these young ladies and their families, who gave so generously. Thank you for sharing the love!
August | Lori Wilkerson
Lori Wilkerson began volunteering with Step By Step over a year ago, after she moved to Puyallup from Clarkston, to be near her children. Her daughter Robbi introduced Lori to Step By Step, and she has been a weekly volunteer ever since, faithfully filing paperwork, addressing envelopes, assembling newsletters, and whatever else we need help with around the office. Lori says she enjoys doing something constructive to help our client moms, and she truly enjoys office work!
Lori retired in 1999 after 30 years with Napa Auto Parts, but never stopped “working” as she volunteered hours upon hours at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lewiston, the food bank, and the senior center. We’re thankful she has found a home in our volunteer family.
September | Puyallup Foursquare Ministry Institute
An incredibly fun and enthusiastic group of college students from the Puyallup Foursquare Ministry Institute brought their muscles to Step By Step and checked off an impressive To-Do list, in less than 2 hours!
They tackled the first demolition project of our remodel (pulling up patio pavers and stacking them neatly for re-use), set up all the chairs and tables for an event the next day, moved office furniture and greenhouse supplies, and reorganized storage spaces. They also assembled over 1,000 utensil sets for our annual family Christmas event that we will be hosting for our moms and their families in December.
We were so blessed by the beautiful hearts of these volunteers, as they smiled and joked together, while working so hard. Thank you for your continued support of Step By Step and the mothers and babies we serve. We hope you will come back again very soon!