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Madison Family Finds Home For Holidays | News

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Madison Family Finds Home For Holidays
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There wasn't much Malcolm Stevens could do. Just three months ago, the Madison man was unemployed and sleeping in a van -- with his wife and six children -- in an East Side parking lot.

But since then, community donors have come forward through the Salvation Army of Dane County to help the Stevens family.

First, it was providing gas money. Then, putting the family of eight in a hotel and finally, helping them to rent a home on the East Side, Stevens said.

"Three months ago, I couldn't see us here," he said. "My wife and I were almost coming to the brink of divorce. That's how much stress there was, being homeless with a big family."

The Stevens family sometimes stayed at Salvation Army's overflow shelter, but that facility faced closure in September. The shelter got its own good news in Dane County's recent budget, which includes full funding for the program.

Meanwhile, Malcolm and his wife, Devona, now have a place to celebrate the holidays with their children.

"When I go to work and I'm ready to clock out, I know that I'll have a nice warm place to sleep and eat and shower," Devona Stevens said. "It just feels really, really good."

Both parents have found jobs, with Devona working as an assistant manager at a Madison Family Dollar Store and Malcolm driving a Badger Bus.

The family moved into its four-bedroom rental home in November. The family couldn't have moved in so quickly without support from anonymous donors, they said.

"They call them 'anonymous donors,'" Malcolm Stevens said, "but they're not anonymous to us, in our hearts."

It's a good success story in Madison, where the bad economy has made many families homeless recently, said Ruth Ann Schoer of the Salvation Army.

"My heart just ached for this family -- about the things we could do to help them, and of course it ached for the things we couldn't do to help them," she said. "But the community stepped in and helped us help them, and it made all the difference in the world."

The couple said they were proud of their children, who kept up their spirit -- and their grades -- while facing the likelihood of sleeping in their van most nights.

They're planning to ring bells for the Salvation Army during the holiday season, and are considering starting a foundation in the future to help others in need, Malcolm Stevens said.

"I liken it to a person who's had a near-death experience and made it through that near-death experience," he said. "You know the attitude that person has on life after that? That's what we have."

They said they would like to meet their anonymous donors someday, to thank them and to get involved in helping others.

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