Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Juanita's wings

Just a cute chicken photo from the other day.  That's Juanita, flapping her wings, and Alma, to the left, out two newest Ameraucanas.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Children in Poverty: No Way to Live

This was the most intense story I worked on for the Children in Poverty series.  At times, I got pretty wrapped up in the drama of their lives.  I appreciate their company and their openness with me.  Here's the photo gallery.

 Cody White plays on his mom's computer in the garage-turned-home he shares with his mom and brother.  The laptop was provided by Everest College when Cherlyn signed up for online paralegal courses.

 Cheyenne Roberts, 8 months, crawls on a sleeping bag in the basement bedroom she shares with her parents, Ashley Kelly, 19, and Richard Roberts, 21. Kelly, who was homeless for most of her life, wants a better life for her daughter.  "I want her to be so much better than us," she said. "I want to make sure she grows up and has everything she needs."

Cheryln Dixon has multiple sclerosis and no regular income. Dixon, her son Cody, 10, and his twin Chris, who has a mental disability, have faced homelessness often in the last few years.  This spring, they moved into a house with Cheryln's newphew, Richard Roberts, and his family.  Because space was limited--a young couple with a baby was living upstairs--Cheryln cleared a space for her family in the garage.

 Richard Roberts and Ashley Kelly grew up in poverty and want to provide a better life for their daughter, Cheyenne.  Before they moved into a dilapidated home in central Springfield, Mo., they lived for a few months at the Missouri Hotel, a homeless shelter which require residents to utilize rehabilitative programs and life skill training.

 Chris White's mother said he and his twin brother each have only a couple of pairs of socks.  Chris, who is mentally handicapped, put his shorts on inside out.

 Richard Roberts and Ashley Kelly hang out in their basement living room with Richard's aunt, Cherlyn, and her twin boys, Chris and Cody, while waiting for the landlord to collect a partial rent payment.  They usually can't pay the entire amount of $450 per month.

 Ashley Kelly gives her daughter back to a child care worker at Isabel's House after a one-hour visit.  On July 29, police came to the door saying they thought the house was abandoned and that it would be condemned. Children's Division was called and the children were temporarily placed at Isabel's House, a crisis nursery where parents retain custody of their children while they address problems.

Cheryln Dixon becomes emotional while talking about her sons being removed by the Children's Division and her plans to get them back. "Was it better for us to be on the streets and not have a place? At least we had a roof over our head, a place to eat and I'm with family," she said.

 Ashley Kelly hugs her finance Richard Roberts after their daughter and Richard's cousins were temporarily removed from their home by the state's Children's Division, which determined that their housing conditions were unsafe.

 Chris White sits on his bed during quiet time at Isabel's House.

 Cheryln Dixon, Ashley Kelly, and Richard Roberts wait for a bus on E. Norton Road to take them back home after finding out there were no vacancies at a weekly motel. They thought they would be able to get their kids back sooner by moving into a motel for a week, but without enough money to stay longer, they had no long-term plan.

 Richard Roberts and Ashley Kelly make improvements to an upstairs room before a social worker comes over to reinspect.  Previously, the social worker said if they move upstairs--into the portion of the house where a couple with two young children lived until the police came--their housing will be safe enough for the children to return. They were also required to padlock the door to basement and garage.

 Chris White hugs his cousin Richard Roberts, left, as Cody White hugs mom Cherlyn Dixon after learning they can return home from Isabel’s House, a crisis nursery where the boys spent almost two weeks.

Upstairs, the boys will each have a couch to sleep on instead of taking turns sleeping with their mother.   The boys returned home just in time for the beginning of the school year with new clothes and backpacks full of supplies provided by Isabel's House.  For now, the families are together, in state-approved housing.

In early October the landlord summoned Ashley to court for failure to pay rent.  There was no lease and little record of amounts paid. At the same time, a social worker said they couldn't stay in the house because it has no heat.  Cheryln and the boys moved to a shelter in Neosho and Richard, Ashley and Cheyenne secured a spot in a local shelter.  I heard that when they went to court on October 10th, they showed the judge copies of the News-Leader and based on the photos of the house, the judge ruled that they didn't owe any money.  The landlord had taken several of his tenants to court that day and none were made to pay.

Children in Poverty: A Home of Their Own

 I loved spending time with Lorie, her kids and her friends at the Missouri Hotel for the Children in Poverty series.  Here's my edit of their story.  See the photo gallery here.

Loriebell Cork, 26, helps her three kids with snacks retrieved from her trunk in the parking lot outside the Missouri Hotel on June 18, 2012.  Cork has struggled to provide a home for Xnyra, 4, Sam, 2, and Nickolai, 1, since her marriage to the boys' father dissolved.  The family slept in their Ford Taurus for about a week before moving into the Missouri Hotel, a homeless shelter that requires rehabilitative programs and life skill training.

Xnyra Leon-Guerrero, 4, pauses while playing in the car that she, her mother, and two younger brothers slept in before moving into the Missouri Hotel. 

Loriebell Cork, right, eats lunch at the Missouri Hotel with her three children, Bernadine Luckett, left, and Michael and Krystal Luckett on June 20, 2012.   Loriebell and the Lucketts formed a close bond in the shelter and help each other out with childcare and moral support.

Loriebell Cork, mother of three young children, covers her face outside the Missouri hotel after an upsetting conversation with her ex-husband on July 19, 2012.  Krystal Luckett holds another friend's baby in the background. 

Loribell Cork waits to make sure her kids and Jazmine and Anthony Luckett are asleep at the Missouri Hotel before leaving them with Krystal Luckett so she can run errands on June 18, 2012.  Loriebell said her kids kept her motivated to improve her situation.

Loriebell Cork walks downstairs at the Missouri Hotel on June 21, 2012.  "She came in exceptionally motivated to get herself out of the situation she was in. She had clear goals," said Jarrod Field, case manager at the homeless shelter. "She was always on top of everything from day one. She was driven to get out for herself and her children."

Loriebell Cork high fives Teresa Ogelsby, coordinator of residents services at the Missouri Hotel, after signing the lease on a house as Krystal Luckett looks on.  She was able to lease the house through a new community housing program, a partnership between The Kitchen Inc. and the City of Springfield. 

Krystal Luckett helps Loriebell Cork pack up her room at the Missouri Hotel while the kids are with their dad on June 25, 2012.  Loriebell's siblings, who live in Springfield, sometimes take the kids for a few days at a time so she can take care of things and job hunt more easily.

Loriebell Cork walks across the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge from the Missouri Hotel to her new house on moving day, June 27, 2012.

Loribell Cork smiles up at her youngest son, Nickolai, as Sam explores the new house on moving day, June 27, 2012. On their first night in the house Nickolai "literally crawled in circles, he was so happy," she said. "...It was awesome to have space. I just let them loose and let them have their freedom."

Xnyra Leon-Guerrero plays in the water in her new backyard with friends Jazmine and Anthony Luckett on June 27, 2012.

Xnyra Leon-Guerrero hugs a pillow in her new bedroom on moving day, June 27, 2012.  Housewares, furniture, bedding and small appliances were provided through the Kitchen, Inc.'s Fresh Start program.

Loriebell Cork plays with her kids, Xnyra, 4, Sam, 2, and Nickolai, 1, in their living room on September 11, 2012.  Loriebell continues to look for work that will allow her to stay home with the kids in the evenings.

Children in Poverty: Ellie

Here's my edit of one of three families I spent time with for the News-Leader's Children in Poverty Series.  I wish I could've spent more time with the Ammermans.  They're such a sweet and loving family.  Photo gallery of the Ammermans.

Ellie Ammerman, 11, looks out the window on the way to school on August 24, 2012.  Ellie sometimes worries about her family's financial situation, but knows that her grandparents will always help them out if they need it.

Ellie takes a sip of her mom's coffee after her morning shower on August 24, 2012.  They have moved many times since Carmen divorced Ellie's father and now live in a trailer owned by Carmen's mother.  Carmen pays the bills and remodels it in lieu of paying rent. Carmen also works two jobs and is pursuing a master's degree. 

Ellie Ammerman, 11, rides to Pipkin Middle School on August 24, 2012 with her sister's dog, Zoey, in the van given to her mother by a family member.  When Ellie chose to go to Pipkin, her mom, Carmen Ammerman, wasn't sure how she would get her there.  "It may not be the best car in the world but it does what it's supposed to do," Ellie said. 

Ellie Ammerman matches words to their definitions in Scott Draper’s advanced humanities class at Pipkin Middle School on August 24, 2012. It’s hugely important to Ellie’s mother, Carmen, that Ellie makes the most of her education.  Ellie chose the school because of its International Baccalaureate Middle Years program.   "Giving your kids a solid foundation, educationally and emotionally, is every bit as important as giving them financial support," said Carmen.

Ellie Ammerman kisses one of her two kittens after school in the family's mobile home on August 16, 2012. 

Ellie, 11, and Carmen Ammerman pray before a dinner of pulled pork and corn, Ellie's favorite vegetable, on August 16, 2012.  Carmen is frustrated that healthy food costs so much more than unhealthy food.  "I love family dinner," Ellie said.  It's a family ritual for everyone to share two favorite things about their day.

Ellie hugs her mom, Carmen, before dinner on September 12, 2012.   "I could get three jobs, but in 20 years, I'm not going to care about those jobs," Carmen said. "I'm going to care about the job I did with these girls and whether or not they got an education and love themselves."

Carmen Ammerman reads "To Kill a Mockingbird" to her daughter Ellie, who wanted to go to bed early after an exhausting second day of school on August 16, 2012.

I didn't include photos of Ellie's sister, Shelby, because she wasn't around much when I was and I wanted to focus the story on Ellie.  Shelby is a warm and articulate recent high school graduate who is trying to figure out what to do with her life. She works at a restaurant and goes to community college full time. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Black Widow

Jamie found her in the backyard the other night.  I wished I had a macro lens, but Jamie talked me into trying to get a shot anyway, so I used a 50mm, knowing I'd want to crop.  I also wished that twig wasn't in the way, but I wasn't going to move it!  It was plenty creepy getting close enough to photograph the little monster.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Maramec Spring Park

About 3 weeks ago, Jamie and I took a short trip to Maramec Spring Park.  The weather was perfect and we couldn't get over the beauty of the place.  It's near St. James, Mo., where I volunteered for the Missouri Photo Workshop a few years ago. I remembered a photo story on this place, but never made it there during the workshop.  We only camped one night, which didn't seem like enough, so we hope to go back soon.  It was perfect for us, because there was plenty for me to explore while Jamie fished for hours. 
Near the spring.

Our campsite was close to this bridge, so we took a walk there after dark.  The stars were reflected in the water, and then we saw glow worms along the bank.  It was sparkly and magical.

Jamie fishes shortly after we got there.

The deer were everywhere!  I saw at least 30.

The Maramec River trophy trout area was cross from our campsite, number 3.  We loved this site and will always try to get a campsite in the single digits. 

We had a great dinner.

Maramec Spring, where groundwater emerges from a cave.

Trout in the sunlight.