A favorite Christmas song states, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and that statement means a lot for Chelsea Smith who along with husband Christopher and three children are spending the holidays at The Sanctuary in downtown Bryan.
Not too long ago, there was some doubt about if the 22-year-old mother would be around at all after all the injuries she sustained in a Nov. 3, 2015, crash with a cement truck. She was ejected from the family’s minivan.
She was on a ventilator for three days and hospitalized for two weeks. Since then she has had several surgeries to repair various internal injuries including major reconstruction of her pelvis. Three vertebrae were broken and her spleen and liver were lacerated as well.
The family paid a high price with the crash as their 6-month-old daughter died in the crash.
Chris and the family’s other children suffered minor injuries, but thanks to their car seats being properly installed, the young children survived.
“The doctor thanks us for having them facing backwards,” Chelsea said.
The losses, however, continued to pile up.
Because Chelsea required so many surgeries to reconstruct her body, and a lack of a family support network, Chris lost his job because he had to watch his children while his wife was in surgery.
“We got behind on our bills because Chris couldn’t work,” Chelsea said.
Their church, First Assembly of God of Bryan, stepped up and helped as best it could. The lead pastor’s daughter watched the children free of charge.
The family eventually was evicted from their apartment, but fortunately were able to get a room at the shelter. The family said their former landlord worked with them as long as he could, and told them he would rent to them again when they got back on their feet, Chelsea said.
Chris has now gotten a new job at Kamco in West Unity. He has completed his probationary period. At the plant, Chris runs a press and is being trained on driving a forklift, he said.
Since coming to the shelter, and with the new job, the family has saved enough money to be able to get their own place next month, Chelsea said. They could have moved out this month, but their vehicle needed to go into the shop, she said.
The shelter is a ministry of the Grace Community Church of Bryan. Attending the church or one approved by the mission is a requirement for staying at The Sanctuary. The Smiths learned of it through their church.
There is a family apartment, one for single women and one for single men. People have to be employed or demonstrate they are looking for work. Those unemployed are pointed toward community service opportunities.
Chris helps load donations for distribution three days a week.
Pastor Mike Kelly or an assistant checks in on the family three days a week to see how everything is going, Chelsea said. They helped get Chris rides to work while his vehicle was in the shop, she said.
When they moved in, Kelly helped the family write down a budget. Their medical expenses are covered, but they still have legal fees and a storage unit to pay for.
“They take our check and hand back money for our bills,” Chelsea said. “The rest goes into a savings account.”
Even though there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a long road to go for the family. Two of the three children have health issues and Chelsea has two more surgeries to undergo.
“I just got out of the hospital on Monday,” Chelsea said.
Still, she’s happy to be with her family and the world.
“I’m here,” Chelsea said.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org