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A hand-up, not a hand-out.

That's the goal of every social service agency that reaches out to the people suffering in poverty.

Years ago when the Mission of Hope partnered with the Morgan-Scott Project to bring help and hope to a single mother struggling to survive, that indeed was a hand-up.

In 2008, Phylllis Holcomb and her two teenage sons lived in a borrowed house she described as a shack. She lived on food stamps and a few extra dollars her mother was able to provide. She barely had enough money to pay for gas to school where she was studying to be a licensed practical nurse.

It was November and she knew she needed help to give her sons Christmas presents.

"I'd be thankful, but at the same time it's kind of a sad feeling. Because I'm so used to providing. But it's better than them not having nothn.' Like last year. Last year was the saddest of all years," said Holcomb back then.

The Mission of Hope came with Christmas gifts that year, and that was the beginning of better times for Phyllis and her family.

A year later, she graduated as a licensed practical nurse.

The 2014 graduating class at Caylor School of Nursing at Lincoln Memorial University includes Phyllis Aeys. She got marred three years ago.

Her family, including her two sons watched proudly as Phyllis and her classmates were 'pinned,' officially becoming registered nurses.

"She's a very strong woman, she worked very hard to get where she got right now. I'm trying to follow her path. It's very hard," said her son, Zach Holcomb.

"She's worked insanely hard for this and is always stressed out and tried to help. We should have done a little bit more to help. But, I'm proud of her,
said son Stetson Holcomb.

Ella Smith is executive director of the Morgan-Scott Project. She is a mentor to Phyllis and calls Phyllis her shining star.

"I mean Phyllis has done this. Morgan and Scott just gave her a little hand-up when she needed it. Phyllis has done the rest of it on her own," said Smith.

"In the beginning, Ella Smith with the Morgan Scott Project, Mission of Hope that gave my kids Christmas for the first time they never went without til the year before, and then everybody who saw the airing donated when my mother died," said Aeys.

All which made the road a little smother for Aeys, but it was never easy. But she was determined to travel that road, and with a little help, she made it all the way.

Aeys said she is happy to work in a hospital or other medical facility in her new capacity as a registered nurse.

In the meantime, she has another dream. She hopes someday to own and operate her own home health care facility. If her past is any indicator it's likely that dream will come true as well.

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