Home for the holidays: DePaul grad and daughter celebrate Thanksgiving in furnished apartment with help from non-profit

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CHICAGO — A DePaul graduate has overcome incredible odds to make her dreams possible.

And thanks to a volunteer organization in Chicago, this Thanksgiving is one she and her daughter will never forget.

The non-profit Digs with Dignity has fully furnished 19 apartments this year.

Kim Hannay is the executive director and says everything from shelves, books, beds, artwork is included.

“We get the whole home ready for them,” she said. “The hope is we take four empty walls and make it feel like a home.”

When they heard about a young mom Kaleila Draper and her 6-year-old daughter who were moving into her first place, the team knew she would be number 20.

Elle Ullum is development director at Well of Mercy.

“Kaliela is an amazing young woman who came to the well just over five years ago,” she said. “She grew up in a foster family and overcame that obstacle by getting full ride scholarship to Nebraska in track and field.”

The dream was cut short when Draper found out she was pregnant and was forced to drop out.

“So that’s how she found the Well of Mercy and came to us,” Ullum said. “We are a long term facility that assists young mothers like herself.”’

“I was giving up a lot of my dreams,” Draper said. “I feel like The Well gave me the second chance in who I was meant to be in the first place”

Draper returned to school and now, five years later, she is graduating with a bachelor’s from DePaul.

“Kaleila has really run the gamut of this woman overcoming every obstacle thrown at her to now where we are today, which is this amazing house,” Ullum said. “And with the help of Digs for Dignity we are here to celebrate her accomplishments”

“I did not expect this. I thought there would be some furniture added,” Draper said. “This is greater than I ever could have thought. This is greater than anything!”

This is the first Thanksgiving and Christmas that Draper and her daughter have spent in a place of their own. Four walls full of not only furniture, but gratitude and love.

They are home for the holidays.

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