Five years ago, I was working two full-time jobs as a caregiver. I would spend my only day off working 10 hours trying to run a small pizza stand at the farmer’s market in Washington State. At the time, I was hoping it would do well enough that I could make ends meet without working 90 hours a week.

My now ex-husband had been unemployed for two years. He had worked as a local truck driver for one month and then quit because he didn’t like being away from home (even though he was home every night). We were three days late on the rent for the third time and our landlord made us a deal that he would let us out of our lease. Thinking we would get our $1500 deposit back, I jumped at this opportunity. With $1500, we could get into a cheaper place and pay the deposit. So we moved into our camper in the park. I thought it would be a week or two before getting back the deposit. Well, we never got that deposit back; in fact, he also charged us for breaking the lease.

Living in a park, trying to care for two kids, and getting to work was stressful and we fought all the time. Unable to forget that my husband had thrown a wrench at me during one of the heated arguments, I was terrified—researching and planning how I was going to leave him. After yet another heated argument, I ended up calling the Domestic Violence hotline where they helped me plan a safe exit for me and my two boys.

Thankfully we were able to stay there for 30 days. I was fortunate enough to still have a job. I soon found an apartment and the DV services helped me pay the deposit.

That Christmas my mom passed away. The following February, I spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia. Realizing I was all alone, I let my sister talk me into moving back to Utah.

My oldest son was having a lot of behavioral issues because of the trauma he had gone through the previous year. We were evicted because of it. I was getting calls from the school on almost a daily basis, and we were in crisis mode constantly.

It was after that eviction in Spanish Fork that I felt completely hopeless. I had moved back to the place I grew up thinking that I would have people I could count on, but I felt more alone than I ever had before.

I started Circles in May 2015. I learned about Circles a year earlier when I applied for a job with Circles. I didn’t get the job then, but I did get a job with Department of Workforce Services and I was learning so much there. I loved being able to help connect people to resources and help them problem solve. I was working at DWS when I learned Circles would be starting a new class. I referred a few people to Circles.

As I talked about how Circles helps people with low incomes build social capital so they can progress, I realized it was what I wanted too.

I enjoyed the 12-week Circle Leader Training class, especially connecting with other people who, like me, were facing and overcoming huge obstacles. I was excited for the day we would become Certified Circle Leaders and be matched with our Allies. Our Allies had been coming to Circles, at least for the dinner and announcements. There were so many amazing people who had made this commitment to befriend someone in poverty. I was so impressed by their compassion and desire to help others.Noelle Circles

During the 12-week class, Circle Leaders go through a process of discovering their goals or dreams and creating a plan for achieving that. At the end of that class, I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up! And for the first year my Circles goals included more basic things like creating behavior charts for my kids. Getting them diagnosed and treated for ADHD. Finding out that I also had ADHD. Moving into a house that had washer/dryer hookups, a fenced back yard, and flower beds.

The flower beds were overgrown with weeds and it overwhelmed me. My wonderful and amazing Ally, Janet, noticed the stress I felt from that and insisted on coming over one Friday morning to help me weed.

It was then that I realized that people show up for me. That I matter. That if I let my guard down and admit that I can’t do it all and I allow others to help me or heaven forbid ask for help, I—we—can be so much more.

I have always had a strong work ethic, and I have a wide variety of experiences in many helping industries. I decided I wanted to use my experience, knowledge, skills and abilities to help people discover theirs. I wanted to start a business doing that. I spoke with my coach and asked her to find me an Ally that had experience with start-ups.

Roy was helping a stranger when he walked into Community Action a week later and was so impressed by their services that he wanted to be a part of it. He was told about the Circles Initiative and signed right up to be an Ally.

At that point my business plan included saving the world. Roy was supportive and encouraging. He didn’t belittle my grandiose ideals; instead he asked me questions and helped me break my goals down into small actionable steps.

I put together a presentation and gave it to my Allies and my coach. Another one of my Allies, Ben, gave me the most useful feedback I have ever received. I have facilitated workshops and other trainings for years and Ben told me that my use of the word “anyways” made it seem like I had gone off subject even though I hadn’t. I was able to use that feedback to come up with a much smoother transition and I even felt like I didn’t have as many “squirrel moments.”

Anyways (haha), Circles has been an amazing experience for me.

There were days that I felt like giving up—many days—but whenever I felt that way, my entire Circles community was there to encourage me.

In 2017, I felt a very strong prompting that I needed to find a part-time job. This was totally bewildering. My goal with Circles was to get my income to $41,000. How on earth was I going to do that working part-time?

In June, as I was helping another job seeker, I saw that Circles Utah Valley had an Outreach Specialist position open. It was 30 hours a week, but it definitely did not pay $41,000!

When I told my Ally, Roy, that I wanted to quit DWS and work part-time for Circles he was like “absolutely not!” When I told him about my strong feeling he said, “Ok, let’s look at your budget and see if you can do this.”

Financially, at the time it was a step backwards, but taking that step back allowed me to focus on myself, my family, and then on my own business.

In February 2018, I started making enough money with Sweet Life Elevated – Creating Successful Employees (that’s the name of my company) that I was able to graduate from Circles working only 36 hours a week.

Because I love Circles so much I reached out to Circles Salt Lake to see how I could also work for them.

Now I am the Outreach Specialist for Circles Utah Valley. Which means I get to talk “Circles” all the time with everyone I meet! And I am the Circles Support Coordinator for Circles Salt Lake, which means I get to work with the individuals and families who are currently leading their own journey to financial stability. There will of course be more obstacles in my life, but I feel great about where I am; and because of the lessons I learned and the people who showed up for me at Circles, my future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!