CHICAGO – If you lost your significant other unexpectedly to gun violence, leaving yourself widowed with five young children, all girls, what would you do? How would you grieve when five innocents have to be fed, clothed, and schooled? How would you change your life to make up for the loss of your partner’s income so that you can support your family on your own? Where would you find the strength to carry on in a world that can sometimes feel cold for it never stops turning for anyone?
Tanya Wells found her way forward and, 15 years later, has become a successful nurse who is a proud mother to her daughters. She joined her pastor, Corey Brooks, on the 56th day of his 100 day rooftop vigil to raise funds to build a building for his Project H.O.O.D. community center focused on neighborhood transformation.
“I want to jump right in and tell your journey…You’ve been such a blessing to everything that we do,” the pastor said. “You’re a successful nurse now, but (there’s) more to the story than that. Your husband was tragically shot and killed about… how many years ago?”
“September 2nd, 2007,” Wells began. “I was at church and got a call telling me to come to A&R Leaks Funeral Home. When I got to the funeral home, I noticed police and everyone everywhere. And I found out that my husband was shot and killed in his vehicle.”
“How many times was he shot?” the pastor asked.
“He was shot like seven times,” Wells answered.
“Seven times. He was shot and killed by a group of guys who we later found out were part of a crew who had been robbing people and killing people all over Chicago. And they’ve since been convicted and in federal prison now,” the pastor said.
“I had five daughters who was left fatherless,” Wells said as the memories came back to her. “I’m very strong woman, and I always wanted to set a goal for my children. So I kept praying, that was number one, because just think about raising five daughters with no father in-”
“In Chicago,” the pastor interjected.
“The South Side of Chicago. So they all…” Wells struggled for words. “One got attitude this day, one acting up that week, the next week, another one acting up. It was plenty of times I had to leave work to go up to the school because my daughter was acting out in anger…She was in so much pain because the death of her father.”
The family went from having a loving father who provided to this senseless void. Wells knew she could not cope with all of this by herself and she reached out.
“With the help of New Beginnings Church, Pastor Brooks, Project H.O.O.D, I had to get counseling for my kids and myself,” Wells said. “I won’t give up. I couldn’t give up because I have five young ladies watching me.”
“They needed an example,” the pastor added.”You’re working a full-time job, having to do everything that a parent has to do for five girls, but you found time. And this is what really is amazing: you found time to go back to school.”
“I went back to school because I had a goal, and my goal was always I wanted to be a nurse,” Wells explained. “No matter what you’re going through in life, you can always be whatever it is you choose to be. So one day I just said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go back to school.’ And thank God that I was able to go to school during an hour that my kids was in school and still work.”
She continued: “I had to be the example because my daughter didn’t have the father, example of a man. So I had to step up and be that power example of a woman and to encourage my daughters that nothing— don’t allow nothing or anything stop you.”
She got her associates degree first. Then she went onto get her bachelors degree, achieving her dream of becoming a nurse. But the thing that meant the most to her was that all of her girls overcame their own inner struggles to graduated from high school on time.
“They didn’t become a statistic to the streets because of all the violence in Chicago because of a strong woman and mother,” Wells said.
The pastor often deals with many tragedies due to his calling in life and it lifts his spirits when he witnesses a Wells rising from the ashes. He invited her to help with mentoring young girls at the Project H.O.O.D. community center.
“That’s really what your gift is,” the pastor said.
“I’m looking forward,” Tanya replied.
As they hugged, one has to wonder how many of Wells’s patients in the hospital, facing their own medical struggles at the moment, realize the nature of the person caring for them. If they knew, there is no doubt that they would drawn strength from her story.
Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Rooftop Revelation.
For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.
Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.
Camera by Terrell Allen.