As many of you are aware, last January I began The Lucas Project out of a desperate need for resources in rural Tennessee where we live. Ryan and I were floundering, stressed, and a little manic without family, support, or help for our son with profound special needs and starting this non- profit was a baby step in the right direction. I knew from the moment little Lucas was placed in my arms 14 years ago that somehow, somewhere, his name would be tied to something meaningful. I’ve written a book detailing his story and now started a non- profit with his namesake and how fitting really, that the one who has zero pride and lives in complete ignorant humility would receive the attention and accolades. It’s perfect .
For many years I didn’t know what this non-profit dream would entail, but I knew it would be called The Lucas Project and even as I filled out the initial paperwork, the list I planned to tackle was pretty overwhelming: respite, meals, gas cards, equipment, support classes, and on and on. Since January, through tears and lots of good ole fashioned hard work, I have filled out all the IRS paperwork (no small feat) held a large fundraiser, continue to propel smaller fundraisers forward, hired a director for our first site, raised nearly $5,000 and simplified the concept down to free respite opportunities for special needs families. To date, I’m proud to say we have held three successful respite days for special needs families in Hardin County. The testimonials often bring me to tears as I hear and experience the blessing that these days offer families who are in desperate need of a break – myself included.
Back in January when I began the initial process of starting a non-profit, Ryan and I still considered rural Tennessee our forever home and then things began to unravel a bit. Ryan ended up in ER a few times with panic attacks that resembled a heart condition, and our mental health suffered as we crumbled under the weight of 8 children and very little support system or community being so rural. We began to feel isolated, panicky and exhausted and then one day we finally had the courage to say what we had both been thinking for some time – “we don’t have to stay here”. And we made steps to change our life.
After an extensive search that spanned numerous counties, we found a house about 30 miles outside of Nashville (for more details, check out this post http://www.jessplusthemess.com/2018/11/08/the-cloud-is-moving-courage-in-the-midst-of-change/)
Everything seemed to be falling into place perfectly except – except how I was going to continue to direct and manage The Lucas Project from 2 hours away from where it began. It would be nearly impossible to fundraise and support and recruit volunteers for a community that I didn’t live in or near anymore. I poured my heart and soul into the concept of helping special needs families and I still believe in it 100% even if my family isn’t going to be a part of it. I can’t just let it fizzle out, but I also believe in my family and emotional health even more.
I agonized. I prayed. I dreamt about solutions and then one day the solution unfolded before me like a vision. Yes, The Lucas Project will continue to provide respite days, but in moving forward, communities that are interested in starting respite days will apply for a year long scholarship that The Lucas Project will grant. As the funding becomes available, we will accept applications from communities and then offer one that we choose according to a set of criteria, the funding and support for a year with the long term goal being that the community will eventually rally and continue to raise money to bless these families after the year is over.
At this busy stage in my life, I am understanding that I place way too many expectations upon myself and I need to take a step back and pause. Pause to raise my 8 kids. Pause to enjoy time with my husband, and pause for self care. I need the intense pressure of fundraising to lift, and this will occur as I don’t feel the overwhelming need to have to constantly pursue financing on my own. In fact, I will only pursue the next community when the funding is in place – which, by the way, the funding needed is approximately $2500 for a year of monthly respite days.
I hope that this change is not only understood but embraced by the community we are leaving. You have such a special place in our hearts, and we are so thankful for the support and rallying you have accomplished thus far. I pray the flame that The Lucas Project began will continue to burn brightly in Hardin County – even as we step away into a new unknown.
Just Keep Livin.
Jess, praying blessings in you, your family, your old and new communities, and the Lucas Project – wherever it travels.