SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Donations to CBS 8's Sound of Hope will help provide food, shelter and gifts to families in need this holiday season, but it can also do so much more than that. You could be transforming a life.
Kelly Raabe's journey to happiness was brutal.
"When I was seven years old, my father beat his wife to death," she said.
Scarred, Kelly blamed herself. In college, she got pregnant then married. But at 24 with two young boys, Kelly's mother had a massive stroke and was eventually taken off life support.
"That was the hardest thing I ever did," she said. "So then I sat by her side and I held her hand as I listened to the monitor slowly fade and held her hand as she died."
Kelly was broken, became a drug addict and lost her sons.
"I had no hope, and had been told my kids would be better off without me, and so I believed it," she said.
About three years ago after spending Thanksgiving in a jail cell, she decided to get clean but needed a change of scenery and took a leap of faith, walking four miles to the Salvation Army's emergency shelter in San Bernardino.
"They didn't look at me like I was a drug addict, they didn't look at me like I was a bad mother. They didn't look at me like I was anything other than Kelly. They looked at me and saw potential and just loved me," Kelly said.
She threw herself into the Bible, and the shelter's mission.
"I volunteered at Salvation Army 60, 70 hours a week because it just made me happy, gave me purpose," she said.
That lead to a job offer, and a uniform.
"I feel that God has lead me through all the things he has in my life so that I have an empathy, not a sympathy. I have empathy because I've been through it," she said.
Next week, the day after Christmas, she's taking another leap of faith. Almost exactly three years after walking into the Salvation Army, she will fly to see her boys for the first time in years.
"I will fly all that way to see them for one hour, for one minute, just so they know how much I love them," Kelly said.