Linda White arrived at the Hutton Settlement when she was 17, homeless and traumatized.
That was nine years ago. She has since learned the power of love, acceptance and the power of expression.
This weekend she celebrated her 26th birthday with many of the people who mean the most to her – her Hutton family.
White grew up in Michigan with her mother and seven siblings. When she was 14 years old, her younger brother died and the family moved to Spokane to be closer to her grandfather.
Her mother became depressed and ill, White said.
“In the hospital, she told us that she just didn’t want to live anymore,” White recalled. “I took that really personal.”
“Yeah, it hurts and it sucks, but we exist, too.”
White’s mother kicked her out of the house. She bounced among group homes. Before she was to begin her senior year of high school, she was placed at Hutton, older than the typical cutoff age of 14.
“I think the biggest difference is that the staff really cares,” White said. “They actually try to make it a family environment.”
She spent her senior year staying up late playing cards and talking with her new cottage family.
Then she moved into the transition program at the alumni building at Hutton. The program helps Hutton kids set up their lives. They pay rent each month, but at the end of their stay that money is returned to them to help get them started.
She became the “big sister” of her former cottage and still takes the younger kids out to roller skate or on other fun adventures.
“I feel really sad that I don’t get to spend as much time here anymore,” White said. “They’ve taught me so much stuff over the years that I definitely have a stronger foundation and morals.”
She remains close to Suzzie and Bert Price, her house parents from her time at Hutton. She plans to have Bert walk her down the aisle at her upcoming wedding.
Bert hates to dress up, but White is set on getting him into a tuxedo and onto the dance floor for the father-daughter dance.
White is the stepmother to her fiance’s three daughters and credits her patience in parenting to her time at Hutton.
“In my birth family, we just don’t talk about anything,” White said. “There’s a lot of emotions that were never really expressed.”
That lack of communication is something she let go at Hutton.
“The biggest thing I learned was how to communicate and actually talk about what’s going on and express yourself in appropriate ways,” White said.
Her goal for the future is to continue building strong family relationship with her biological family, her Hutton Family and the new family she is creating with her fiance.
“I’m just trying to have a stronger family and raise kids in a way that I wasn’t raised and show them a family environment that I didn’t think actually existed – that I just saw in movies,” White said.