Katie Perry Harris of COMO Living Magazine wrote a wonderful story about the transformation of one of our former residents, Tiffany Lester. Here are some excerpts, as well as a few photos taken when Tiffany lived at Coyote Hill.
“Coyote Hill is a special place. You have to go out there to understand the feeling you get,” Tiffany says. “Seeing the kids laughing and playing like any other kids — these kids have a new start after all they’ve gone through.”
For Tiffany, that new start arrived when she came to Coyote Hill her sophomore year of high school to live with house parents Amy and Jacob Kingery (about 13 years ago.)
Tiffany finally found a sense of community at Coyote Hill with the support of the Kingerys and other kids who were going through the same thing. “You lean on each other,” she says. “There was always someone to talk to, but if you just wanted to be alone, you could have that space, too.”
She practiced riding horses thanks to Coyote Hill’s equestrian program and remembers family outings to a ballgame and Lambert’s Cafe for their famous “throwed rolls.”
Coyote Hill also offered a program called Independent Living, which taught Tiffany essential life skills like budgeting, job interview skills, how to look for car insurance, and how to choose a bank. Armed with these new life lessons and motivated, she graduated from Harrisburg High School a semester early.
“I have very high standards for myself,” Tiffany says, citing statistics about the percentage of emancipated children who end up homeless. She experienced this firsthand with her brother, who was homeless and passed away a year ago.
Tiffany worked hard to make a new life for herself. She met her husband, Ryan, at work. They’ve been married for seven years and have a 4-year-old daughter, Lexi.
There were setbacks along the way – she wished she had stayed in the foster care system longer for its continued assistance – but she’s thriving as a proud wife and mom. “She’s one of the best moms ever to her little girl,” says former house mom Amy Kingery. “You can tell her heart — she loves her little girl. She wants to be the best mom she can be for Lexi and provide the best foundation.”
Tiffany has taken Lexi out to Coyote Hill and shown her what used to be her bedroom. “The feeling you get when you’re out there is hard to describe,” says Tiffany. “You get out of the car and you’re out there in the woods and you see kids running around and playing and having fun. It’s like it’s a big summer camp. It has its own community. The kids have other kids to talk to and play with and find similar interests and learn new things from each other. It’s relaxing.”
Please take a moment to read the COMO Living article in it’s entirety.