NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Nashville woman is returning to the crisis centers that served her as a teenager, this time to give back through a coat drive.
"In 2005, I ran away from home, struggled with going back home and the judge placed me in the Oasis Center," explained Alexis Holmes.
Holmes was only 13 years old, but says she needed to find herself.
"Oasis Center has the benefit of getting to work with young people as they're really formulating their identity and it's a time of really dynamic change," explained 40-year Oasis Center staff member Judy Freudenthal. "I remember seeing her [Alexis] in the building. I remember the family being around and the feeling of appreciation for Oasis."
The organization offers 23 programs ranging in intensity for about 3,500 young people ages 13 to 24 every year.
"Some young people find their way to Oasis because they're in a time of crisis. You know, that the root of a lot of that is going to be generational poverty and family relationships, and that's the boil down all of our 23 programs," stated Oasis Center President and CEO Mark Dunkerley. "At the end of the day, we're about creating positive relationships with caring adults, and we're looking for what's right with a young person. They can hear about what's wrong anyplace else. But what we're really trying to do is find something they're doing that's right, and expand from that."
After going through Oasis' services for a year, although she was in a better place, Holmes found herself in and out of other residences and pregnant with a baby boy.
"I didn't like to ask for help. I didn't want anything left held over my head so I you know, stuck it out," Holmes recalled.
A new mother wanting to provide for her child, sometimes she was too proud to go to a shelter so she and her son stayed in her car.
"The heat went out on the car. And so I went the whole winter with no heat in my car...he [my son] doesn't remember probably my hardest times with him. So that's the blessing in it. He doesn't remember being cold or remember hard nights. He just smiled," Holmes said.
During that year in her car, she found refuge at the Nashville Rescue Mission. Nearly two decades later, she returned to the Rescue Mission and the Oasis Center in partnership with Feeding Caribbean to give back for the holiday season through a coat drive.
"I do not typically like the winter. It's not my favorite time of the year at all. The memories that I have in the wintertime are not always the best memories. I cherish them. To help me to remind me to kind of come out and to stay out of it that you, 'Hey, don't go back don't fall.' It is a constant reminder to keep moving forward and my kid is a constant reminder to keep moving forward," explained Holmes. "But with the Winter Coat Drive—both places helped me during my time of life. The Oasis Center helped me as a youth. And then the Women's Center helped me as a woman trying to survive with a child. And so both of them were always dear to my heart."
The Winter Coat Drive is accepting coats, gloves, scarves, blankets, and other warm clothing through December 15.
On Saturday, Holmes is set to host brunch at the Nashville City Kitchen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. complete with live music to accept collections in person.
The Oasis Center said the help is needed more than ever.
"Everybody's reading about the crisis for young people. Things were hard before the pandemic. Mental health issues were on the incline through the pandemic. There's a lot of loss that we're here for, though, to help them discover their path. And we help create strong citizens—it's our emphasis," explained Freudenthal. "I think of Alexis as a servant leader, and we helped develop young people with that kind of spirit because that's where people find their love and passion."
Holmes said she hopes by sharing her story beyond sending donations, the community will have more empathy.
"Not everybody that you see that is homeless is a bum. Some of them are just truly going on a journey. Not every child that is having or struggling is always going to struggle. They need support, they need their loved ones to support them," explained Holmes. "It makes a major difference in their lives as they grow up. There are great outreach programs like the Oasis Center, like the Mission Center that I help and they step in strong to help."