With the birth of their twins in 2002, Deana and Anthony Sharper were officially the proud parents of four young children. Deana went to work at a local elementary school cafeteria, and Anthony was promoted to assistant manager at the Burger King where he was working.
But despite their efforts, this wasn’t an easy time for the Sharpers. Unforeseen circumstances had forced the family to leave their apartment when they could no longer pay rent, and in 2005 they found themselves sleeping in their minivan because they “did not have 10 cents to get a room for the night ...” as Deana recalls.
Deana remembered a friend from Bethune-Cookman University, where she had worked and attended school, who lived in a nearby housing development. The friend offered the family food, baths for the little ones, and a place to sleep for the night. The next morning, Deana went to Allen Chapel Ministries — who put them in a hotel for two days and then sent them to Family Renew Community.
During this time, Deana remembers struggling with the word “homeless.”
“It was very hard to adjust to the word homeless,” she said. “That word made us feel angry, low, disrespected and frustrated… but as we went to the weekly meetings, counseling sessions and learning process we then understood that we were ‘homeless.’ We were a family without a home and we felt less than human at that time. Instead of us seeing it as a bad thing we began to understand that this was our second chance of becoming a part of society.”
The Sharpers turned their efficiency apartment into a home, even placing carpet on the floors “so that the twins could crawl.” As part of the program at Family Renew, Deana found work at Walmart and Anthony enrolled at what was then Daytona Beach Community College.
When she wasn’t working, Deana would clean the family’s efficiency every day, and meet with her counselor. For two years, the Sharpers put 30 percent of their income into the bank and eventually began putting 100 percent —establishing savings that would help them get back on their feet.
“The program was AWESOME for our family,” Deana said. “We learned how to manage our money, create budgets for our household, and save properly.”
When their time with the program was coming to a close, Deana and Anthony both applied to Florida State University and were accepted. So with “$10,000 in the bank and a new start,” they left Family Renew and set off for school.
Anthony graduated from FSU with a bachelor’s degree in accounting on April 28, 2007 — and got his master’s a year later.
“We will never forget where we came from and every time we visit Daytona Beach we stop in, give an update on our lives and we send pictures of the children,” Deana said. “We continue to use the skills we acquired from Family Renew Community and then some to make sure we stay on top. We have been blessed so much in our lives that we do our best to help others by sharing our story.”
Now, Anthony is a CPA with his own firm and Deana's a full-time mother and school volunteer who's pondering what she'll do next — all the kids are in college or college-bound next year.