“That Didn’t Come from Me. That Came from God”

In July 2014, Jenedith Fontanez, a 23-year-old mother of three, was a homeless mother who did not know where she and her baby would sleep. Her other children were living with their father. Fortunately, a stranger named Cherish Doutrich gave her a lift. Cherish picked up her husband, Andrew, and together they bought food for Ms. Fontanez and her seven-month-old infant, Isaac David. They also slipped $500 into her diaper bag. The $500 was enough to pay the deposit and first-month’s rent on a one-bedroom apartment in East Lampeter Township, Pennsylvania. An article in a local newspaper alerted the general public to Ms. Fontanez’ needs, and people made donations of furniture and clothing to her and her baby. She said, “I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have contacted me to offer food, baby-sitting services, furniture, clothes for the kids — all kinds of things. This is really helping me get back on my feet.” She added, “There are a lot of people out there that just need someone to take that first chance on them. I’ll be fine. Now it’s time to help other people out there.” Ms. Fontanez needed that lift in July. She said, “I was just so tired. I didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night. I kept saying sorry to my son: ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ Never ever in my life did I expect to be in this situation. I fell so far.” When Ms. Fontanez discovered the $500 that the Doutriches had slipped into her diaper bag, she tried to return the money to Cherish. Ms. Fontanez said, “She was like, ‘That didn’t come from me. That came from God. We really want you to get your own place.’” She added, “That a complete stranger would do this for someone — I’ll never forget it. This is huge.” Ms. Doutrich had seen Ms. Fontanez walking beside the road and noticed that she was crying. She turned her car around and went back. She said, “I felt uneasy. I never do that sort of thing — you never know these days — but I went back. She looked helpless. I didn’t feel right; it would be selfish of me not to at least stop and ask her if she was OK.” Ms. Doutrich stopped and talked to Ms. Fontanez: “She said, ‘I’m OK.’ I said, ‘You don’t look OK.’ I told her to get in my car.” Ms. Fontanez got in and told Ms. Doutrich her story. She said, “I honestly just vented. Everything I was holding in for so long just came out.” She had lost her apartment because she could not pay the rent. She had left her purse and WIC [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children] food vouchers in a rental car that she owed money on and so could not get her possessions back. She had just started a job as a nurse’s aide at a local hospital, but she had already spent the money from her first paycheck on food and overdue bills. Ms. Fontanez said, “She asked me if I had eaten anything that day. I told her, ‘No, I have not.’” Ms. Doutrich then got her husband. Ms. Fontanez said, “They asked me what they could do. I said, ‘Honestly, I just need to get my WIC check so I can get formula for my baby.’ I was on my last bottle.” They got formula for her baby and did so much more than that. Ms. Fontanez said, “I have so much to thank her for. She’s my angel, my miracle.”

For More Information: Tom Knapp, “Kindness of strangers: Good Samaritan turns life around for homeless mom she passed on the street.” Lancasteronline.com (Pennsylvania). 7 August 2014; updated 8 August 2014


For More Information: Karen Shuey, “Homeless mother helped by kindness of strangers plans to pay it forward.” Lancasteronline.com (Pennsylvania). 8 August 2014


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