Growing up in Chicago, Sandra expected to be a city dweller her whole life. She was raised in a comfortable middle-class home with her parents and grew up independent and able to support herself. When she married and had children, she thought her life would continue to be comfortable and stable.
When she moved herself and her two children away from an unsafe marriage, she did so knowing she would be leaving everything behind. However, she knew it was the best thing to do to raise her children in safety and love.
Her best friend had moved from Chicago to Bloomington in the 90’s and Sandra had made frequent visits to the community. Along with having at least one friend in the community, she loved how clean and safe it was, so she moved here in 2014.
When she and her kids moved from Chicago, she also moved her ailing mother down to live with them so that Sandra and her kids could take care of her in her final months.
Her mom’s passing was very hard on Sandra, as they were very close. To honor her memory, Sandra established the Estella Gaston Foundation (EGF) in 2017. EGF’s mission is “To empower families to take control of their financial future.” They do that through financial workshops, offering grants and scholarships, and by exposing youth to advancement opportunities. In the Foundation’s first 5 years, they have served over 300 families through mentoring, summer camps, food and school supply assistance, field trips and college tours.
Sandra is the Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation. In order to work a flexible schedule to be available to be there for her kids, she also drives for Uber, and recently has completed the orientation to become a substitute teacher in District 87.
Son Garrick, 16, loves football and track (we hear he’s really fast!) and is already planning for college. He’s hoping to get a scholarship to play football and wants to study something related to sports management or physical therapy.
Daughter Gabrielle, 15, is a cheerleader and has been cheering her brother – and others - since she was 4.
Sandra learned of Habitat McLean County from co-workers who were partner families. She submitted her application to do better for her kids, because, she says, “they deserve more, and I push hard for them and sacrifice for them.”
The most important goal for Sandra is to be able to provide for her kids and to be the best example she can be of how to persevere and make good choices.
The family is looking forward to a home of their own with enough bedrooms for everyone, a yard to tend to, and a place they will be proud in invite friends and family to visit.
“I’m just so grateful and thankful for the opportunity,” said Sandra. “I appreciate that everybody is working with me to help me provide a better place for my kids.”