Focused on the future

January 2024
By Erika M. Hirschman, Contributing Writer

On a partly sunny day, with soft snow scattered around Mustard Seed Shelter’s parking lot, Malankeia (“Lanky”) Rea sits peacefully on the velvety couch in our comfortable sitting room.

Her expressions are content and relaxed, knowing she and her three children are happy as guests at Mustard Seed Shelter. Her husband, Valdez, is currently staying at the Saginaw City Rescue Mission.

“My husband is outside shoveling snow,” she says. “He comes to see us and helps out every day,” she says proudly.

Valdez and Malankeia have been married for about 10 years, and like many couples, have faced some tough challenges. Centered and committed, they’re now focusing on their future.

“I just love it here. Miss Amy is so kind. I love her. Everyone here is so nice and welcoming,” Malankeia says.

She and her three children – Malik (12), Destiny (10) and Corteya (8) – arrived at our home before Christmas and Malankeia says it’s the best move they could’ve made.

“I called all the time. I really wanted to come here,” Malankeia says. “It took time, but I called and we got here.”

Malankeia is doing what it takes to find a place where she and her family can eventually live all together.

Like other Mustard Seed guests, she is taking things one day at a time — and has faith that God will lead her family in the right direction.

That faith and persistence led her to Mustard Seed.

Arriving before Christmas was the best gift their family was given.

“It was the best Christmas,” says Malik, adding, “I got everything I wanted.”

In describing the other guests and the atmosphere at Mustard Seed, Malankeia says: “We get along with everybody and we help each other out.”

She enjoys being able to utilize the home’s kitchen where she can prepare food that her children enjoy. Malik suffered from panic attacks at other shelters, and seeing him eating and settling into a routine at school, exercising and finding a sense of calm has been a gift like no other.

“He’s feeling better now,” she says of Malik. “His dad works out with him. Valdez is a good role model.” Malik says social studies is his favorite subject at school.

Malankeia too is thriving; she’s planning to take parenting classes Mustard Seed offers, all while focusing on getting a job and finding a new home for her family.

“I have to trust. We have been given blessings and I trust that the Lord puts us where we need to be.”

For others who are facing challenges or wanting to come to Mustard Seed, she has this advice: “Stay true to yourself, think positive, remain steadfast.”

Malankeia says of Amy Bartels Roe, executive director for Mustard Seed: “She has such a caring heart. Even when she is tired, she never says, ‘No.’ She goes out of her way for everyone.”


March 2024 Update

Malankeia holding the key to her new apartment – March 2024

Corteya, Malik and Destiny enjoy a silly moment in their cozy new apartment

Since the above interview in early January, Melankeia has been working diligently on reaching her goals. She attended parenting classes, and she and the kids moved to their own apartment on March 1. She’s also volunteering at Mustard Seed, answering phones, driving guests to appointments and helping with myriad tasks that pop up throughout the day.

“I spend a lot of time interacting with the family side and being a mentor to the women there,” she says. [(Our home on Cherry Street is divided into two sides: one where up to 12 single women can stay and the other that can house up to 28 women and children (seven moms and their kids). Guests form strong relationships with one another, and with staff and volunteers.]

“We love having our own place,” she adds. “I’m able to cook in my own kitchen. I just love to cook – especially breakfast, macaroni and cheese and greens – the kids love their greens! And the kids love the apartment, too, but they do miss their friends at Mustard Seed.”




About Erika M. Hirschman
Erika M. Hirschman lives in Saginaw and is a veteran freelance writer. She has enjoyed meeting and interviewing the amazing, strong women at Mustard Seed Shelter. Erika is inspired by the stories she’s heard and feels grateful to those women who have trusted her to write and share those stories with our followers and supporters.