Welfare to work: How one young woman got her life back on track

By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

February 22, 2014

GREENVILLE - Kaley Breaden, a young mother of two, said she’s completely turned her life around, and now she’s helping others by speaking to the Taking Charge of Your Life classes offered by Job and Family Services for those who are in the same position Breaden was in just a few years ago.

Kaley began her work assignment at the Greenville Public Library in November 2012, she said, and four months later she was hired in part-time for various tasks such as manning the reference desk and cataloging some of the library’s materials.

“When I had Aubrey, I wasn’t the greatest parent, but once I had Thomas, and I got out of all the trouble I was in, I guess you could say I just changed,” Breaden said. “You have to be there for your kids, and not for yourself; and I was just being there for myself at the start. Now it’s all about my kids, and how I can do better for them, and focusing on them.”

Breaden’s mother said she’s seen a major transformation.

“She’s improved her life, taken a 180-degree turn,” Kendra Breaden noted. “She’s always been a very intelligent girl, always. And now she’s taking the initiative to use that to have a better life. She’s a doting mother, she loves her children to the moon and back. She’s just a really great person.”

The family shares a close connection, Kendra said, and she couldn’t be more proud of how far Kaley has come.

“I’m just really proud of her. I always knew she had it in her,” Kendra commented. “She’s always liked to read and helping people, so I think this is the perfect job for her. She loves the people she works with. If it wasn’t for Deb and Mr. Vehre – I thank them all the time for giving her a job; she had three strikes, but they saw through that, saw her potential, and that she was a good worker.”

And John Vehre, library director, and Deb Cameron, volunteer coordinator, Kaley’s supervisors at Greenville Public Library, couldn’t agree more.

“As Kaley’s supervisor, as I’ve watched her, from when she started out in Job and Family Services, she has always been very, very responsible,” said Cameron.”It’s a huge advance forward from where she started…and she’s had a lot of obstacles to overcome.”

Kaley isn’t the first employee to start out with a Job and Family Services work assignment at the library, Vehre noted, and she isn’t the only one with tattoos, he said.

“Personally, appearance is nothing I’m concerned about. I’m more concerned with what people can do than how they look,” Vehre noted.

Job and Family Services, as well as the court system, utilize the library as a place for their required work assignments, Vehre said, and the partnership has worked out nicely, even if the workers don’t look like the traditional library type.

“It’s a benefit to everyone because the courts and Job and Family Services have to provide so many hours of work for their clients…For us, it allows us to have employees without straining our budget, which like any other budget that’s federally funded has seen cuts,” Vehre noted.

The tattooed employees actually present a benefit for the library’s patrons, Cameron said, because they help some patrons feel more at ease in the environment, and it makes Kaley easy to approach for those people, she said.

Along with her job placement, Kaley is considering returning to school to pursue a degree, she said, which is going to take even more hard work and determination than she’s already put into her position at the library, but Kaley said it will all be worth it.

“It might be tough to start, but if you keep at it, with determination, you’ll get to where you want to go,” Kaley said. “Before, it was bad for me; now, I’m just a complete 180-degrees totally different person…I’ve definitely changed for the better.”

“Kaley’s a true success story; she’s smart and she’s determined. She does a great job. We don’t notice the tattoos, just the good work ethic,” Cameron asserted.

Heather Meade may be reached at 937-548-3151 ext. 243. Follow me on Twitter @AdvocateHeather, or find me on Facebook. For more online features, visit advocate360.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.