Helping Hearts: Love in action

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As the day dawns, gray clouds hide the rising sun. It’s a chilly 50 degrees. Traffic rattles along a six-lane road in Sarasota. Fifty feet away, Jessica Braemer stands outside the iron gate of an addiction treatment center. She beams, holding a bouquet of flowers, bright as a rainbow.

Jessica serves families in Southwest Florida as a family care coordinator for Better Together, a nonprofit that helps families flourish. This is her first stop of the day.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and she’s waiting for Sandra, a mom of four who completed a 28-day treatment program, to walk through the iron gate at any second. The gate holds iconic status. Jessica explains that people struggling with addiction run to it for help. Once inside many long to run back out. The journey to sobriety is difficult and painful.

When the two women first met a few months ago, Sandra lived in her car with her four young children. She needed treatment, but without help she would lose her children to foster care. Jessica arranged for host families to care for the children so that Sandra could focus on recovery. They also created a plan for what comes next.

“I’m so excited for this mom,” Jessica says. “This is the first time this mom has completed treatment.”

7:36 a.m. No Sandra. Jessica stops a staff car that’s approaching the gate and asks about her. They’ll go check. Sandra had promised Jessica that if she left the night before, after the graduation ceremony, she would let her know. She had kept her promises to Jessica till now.

7:38 a.m., “She left last night,” a supervisor says through the iron bars. A shadow of worry dims Jessica’s usual radiance. She knows the recovery journey has its ups and downs. Jessica has traveled that road. But she presses on. Jessica refuses to let a cloud of doubt linger.

Immediately, Jessica calls Sandra. Texts her. Emails her. Calls Sandra’s mom. “She was here last night,” says the woman’s voice from the tiny speaker in Jessica’s phone. A little past 8 a.m., Jessica receives an email from Sandra. Someone on staff had let her leave after the graduation ceremony the night before. In her excitement, she forgot her phone at her mother’s place and only had an old, glitchy tablet to communicate. Relieved that Sandra was safe, Jessica’s full radiance returns.

They agree to meet at Crager’s Family Diner, where Jessica celebrates Sandra’s success but also lets her know how the miscommunication affected her. The friends talk about the past 28 days, Sandra’s kids, her second chance at life, her second chance at motherhood. The serenity prayer comes up often. In a couple of weeks, when she reunites with her children, Sandra will chant the prayer again, praying she’ll remember how to be a mother.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Jessica Braemer, left, reunites Sandra with her four children.

In the afternoon, Jessica juggles tasks: a meeting with a church, stopping by the DCF office, touching base with another mom, and a home visit with the family who is hosting Sandra’s boys.

Every day in Jessica’s life as a family care coordinator is different and meaningfully busy. A schedule might be thrown completely off track with an emergency hosting. Or it could involve registering a child for school or strategizing with a parent to help them find housing, a car or work.

Finding solutions and seeing families grow stronger propels Jessica.

“We all get to do life together and be there for one another,” Jessica says. “I just love being able to witness God’s grace and His love in action.”


Each day in the life of a family care coordinator can involve multiple families. There are ups and downs, but the celebrations far outweigh the rest. Jessica loves to share another story close to her heart:


Do you have a heart for families? We’re hiring family care coordinators in multiple locations throughout Florida. Get details and apply through our Careers page.

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