How a Local News Report on Transit Fares Changed the Lives of Two Women Forever

Jamie, Anita, Ebony, and Shemar

November 25, 2019 - Diversity & Inclusion United States

TD's Anita Holland has gratitude this Thanksgiving for the friendship of a lifetime

TD's Anita Holland has many things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, including her family, friends and a simple decision last year that changed her life forever.

In the summer of 2018, she decided to watch the local evening news on a different station than usual, something that would positively affect the lives of two women: Anita and Ebony Buckner.

It's an amazing story of a friendship that has lasted through very difficult times, but also gave the women an enduring belief in always having hope and never giving up in the face of incredible odds.

It all started on a July evening when Anita decided to slightly change up her routine after work at TD, where she is a US Branded Card Operations Manager for the Nordstrom account in Denver. A report aired about a potential hike in transit prices, featuring a woman who took a combination of eight trains and buses daily to get to her retail job and her son to school. That woman was Ebony, and she would be greatly affected by this proposed fare hike.

Anita immediately felt she had to meet Ebony, driven by a strong feeling of empathy, as she had grown up in a family that suffered from similar financial problem. So, she reached out to the TV station, 4CBS Denver, and reporter Jamie Leary to connect with Ebony in the hopes of buying her a bus pass.

"I know what it feels like not to have money to afford simple things. I know how we struggled, so I just worried about Ebony when I saw her on TV," Anita said. "I just felt I could somehow help her in some way. My heart went out to her. "

The kindred spirits met and realized that an increase in transit fares was only one of many issues facing Ebony. She had come to Denver about a year earlier from New Orleans to leave behind an unhealthy relationship, another experience the two women shared. Ebony found herself living out of a suitcase with her 6-year-old son, Shemar, even with a full-time job.

"I felt a connection to Anita too as soon as we met," Ebony said. "As different as we appear, we have very similar backgrounds."

The joys and struggles of life

Life was looking up for Ebony as her new friend went into action and started to work on helping her and her son get permanent housing. She connected with the Butterfly Foundation, a local organization to help people gain housing, and Ebony was able to find an apartment to live with Shemar.

Anita's TD colleagues also provided critical support with donations of household items and clothing. TD provided Ebony with a $500 gift card to help her pay her utility bills and get a mobile phone. Nordstrom's partnership at Christmas program also provided support.

"Everyone at TD were so helpful," Anita said. "They really wanted to support Ebony."

Additionally, Anita also helped find a mentor for Shemar. Her family grew close to Ebony and Shemar, as well.

Everything was looking up, but then it all fell apart. Ebony had to miss work due to special school meetings for her son, to help him with his learning disabilities. Because of the absences, she lost her job and subsequently, her apartment.

"Ebony faced so much, it broke my heart, she tried every way to get a new start," Anita said. " She's a dynamic positive loving mother, doing all she can to take care of Shemar. She will do anything for her son, no matter what happens."

Perhaps the lowest point came when one night, due to a bureaucratic error, Ebony and her son had nowhere to sleep. While Anita, who was helping them move, felt a combination of anger and frustration, Ebony didn't lose hope. Anita got them a hotel room that night and then together they worked on finding a better solution the next day.

Move to Houston and a chance to thrive

Ebony was able to obtain temporary housing and later learned about a program in Houston that could possibly help turn her life around.

She decided to make the move in September and join the program, which offers life planning and financial education courses. Before Ebony moved, she had a bittersweet dinner with Anita, Shemar and the reporter at CBS 4 who did the original story that connected the two women.

When Anita and Ebony said their goodbyes, Ebony felt like she was leaving behind family in Colorado.

Ebony has thrived in Houston. She graduated from the housing program and is now preparing to move into a new apartment with a roommate. Ebony also has a full-time job that she really enjoys in the hospitality industry.

Shemar is being enrolled in a school closer to where they will live that can support him both emotionally and developmentally; according to Ebony, he seems to be adjusting well.

Anita still helping her dear friend out though. She's in process of packing up the remainder of Ebony's belongings and will be sending them her way within the next week or two

"As much as I miss them, I feel so grateful that they have made the move as things seem to be so much more secure and stable for them," Anita said.

And this Thanksgiving, both Anita and Ebony are particularly grateful for their friendship, which both believe will last a lifetime.


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