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Her Story

Lynn Smith-Reeve

Minister - Bethany - Pontypool United Church

Lynn's Story :

Over the past 10 years, I have made a very long journey – shifting from a life spent in poverty to “middle-class-ville” … or … from a life of day-to-day insecurity and struggle to a more stabilized
life. It has been a challenging journey and would never have been possible without the support of many amazing people.

I did not grow up in poverty, but neither of my parents had a high school education. They grew up in a time when it was not as necessary and by the time they retired, they had a successful
business and owned their own farm outside of Bobcaygeon.

So, although I didn’t grow up in poverty, neither did I grow up with the drive to “achieve” that so many kids growing up in middle-class families have. After highschool, even with acceptance
from 3 different programs at 3 different universities, I wandered, worked in restaurants and factories and never found a direction for my life.

I got married instead. I married in the early 80’s and after 10 years and 5 children, my husband, Henry, was in university. We were headed for a better future for our family. But Henry became
chronically ill and in the early 90’s had to quit. Thus began a long downward spiral for our family. For 17 years we lived on Ontario Disability Support Program, homeschooled our 5 kids
and became more and more focused on the disability that was taking over our lives.

Like so many others, I grew up with a strong work ethic. And the fact that my family was on ODSP brought a lot of shame to me – but it was a situation we could do nothing to change. We
went through the emotional rollercoaster of Henry’s “deathbed” and recovery way too many times as well as the amputations of both of his legs. Somedays there was not a lot of hope.

At one point I realized that when Henry went into long-term care (which he did at age 52), the money would follow him because we received ODSP because of him. If he wasn’t there, there
wasn’t any ODSP. I went to Ontario Works hoping for support of some kind for my transition, but was turned down because I had more than $600 in the bank (a $1000 gift from friends who
were aware of the challenges were we facing).

The minister at my church encouraged me to gather friends to work with me, to dream of the possibilities of a future. They asked me a lot of questions about my passions and what I loved to
do and helped with ideas how to move forward in my life. Without their support, I am afraid of where I would be today. Stuck on welfare?

So today … less than 10 years later … I have completed university studies (debt-free!!) and am the part-time minister at two little churches outside Peterborough. I also work at Bedford
House Community Ministry, where a lot of the work we presently do is around teaching middle- class people about the culture of poverty (each economic class really does have its own
culture). We gather middle-income earners to surround and support low-income folks who are trying to do the hard work of stabilizing their lives.

This is my passion.

What else am I passionate about? Well, the 5 children now all have partners and there are 9 grandchildren! And I am remarried to a pretty amazing man.
Sometimes I feel like I am in a dream. There is no way I should have gotten out of poverty and yet here I am today. It’s incredible.