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Chelsey Mackey needed help.

Last spring, the young woman had come from North Dakota to Fremont for a friend she’d met while attending Cedar Bluffs High School. The friend was in poor health.

Mackey was in Fremont when her housing situation in North Dakota fell apart.

Now, she would have to start all over again, find a new place to live and a job. Mackey, who needed a first month’s rent and a deposit, was referred to Uniquely Yours Stability Support in Fremont.

At Uniquely Yours, Mackey found the help she needed to begin a new life — one of promise.

UYSS, at 240 N. Main St., works to help prevent homelessness or move people out of this situation.

The local agency provides a host of services, such as free life skills classes on various topics including budgeting, employment skills, resume writing, nutrition education, and support groups.

Supported by community donations, the agency offers free items such as job interview outfits and reading glasses. Clients can shop in a community closet area for clothing, coats, shoes, bedding, books and other things.

Since 2014, UYSS has offered Community Resource Navigation (CRN). This free service provides a chance for clients to have a confidential dialogue. During that time, a UYSS representative can find out what they need as far as items and services.

Mackey, who’d aged out of the foster care system, had never called landlords to see about available rentals before.

So Heather Evans, UYSS program director, worked with her.

And Evans had a plan.

“I’m going to call the first one (landlord) and you’re going to listen and then we’re going to divide up this list of landlords and we’re both going to start calling,” Evans said. “So we sat side by side, making phone calls, until we found something that worked.”

Mackey discovered that landlords wanted a rental history, something she didn’t have, but she found one willing to work with her and Uniquely Yours.

“We coordinated the funding,” Evans said. “She went to (Dodge County) General Assistance. She got part of the funding from them and part of it from us.”

Mackey moved into an apartment in May 2016.

“It was scary, at first,” she said. “I really didn’t have anything, but it was also exciting.”

Mackey shopped for items she needed at garage sales.

“I was able to put my first place together and I’m still living there,” she said.

UYSS helped in other ways.

“We were able to help get you some dishes,” Evan said.

“And a coffee pot. I absolutely love my coffee pot,” Mackey said.

Evans went with Mackey to the Salvation Army to get food she would need.

Mackey got a job last May at Casey’s General Store in Fremont, where she makes pizzas. She works there full time and enjoys her job.

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She’s also working with the Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation program, which helps people with disabilities prepare for, find and keep jobs.

Mackey is working with this agency to determine how she can get her general education diploma (GED).

In the meantime, she’s been spreading the word about UYSS.

“I’ve been telling people how Uniquely Yours has helped me get to where I am now,” Mackey, 22, said. “They are an amazing, but small organization — but their size is insignificant compared to enormity of their impact on society and the good that they can do.”

Mackey’s life has changed a lot.

“It’s changed for the better,” she said. “I continue to change and evolve, but I couldn’t have done any of this without that first stepping stone — that big milestone — working with Heather and getting the (apartment).”

Evans noted something else.

“The money was crucial, because she had to have the money to get into the place, but I think a big part of it was just teaching her do for herself,” she said.

Mackey said she plans to return to Uniquely Yours to take some cooking and budgeting classes.

She also hopes to return for a different reason.

“I definitely want to come back to try to help — pay it forward, where I can,” she said.

She continues to look toward the future.

“I’ve got lots of goals,” Mackey said. “I’m just taking one goal at a time and knocking it out of the park.”

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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