Mothers give back while regaining lives

Posted at 12:26 PM, Jul 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-12 13:28:28-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) Most people come to the park to enjoy it, but for Cassie Willard she's cleaning it up.


On a hot and humid Wednesday morning, she readily picks up trash, empty liquor bottles and baggies used for drugs while wearing gloves.


Fourth of July has come and gone, but people continue to flock to Fontenelle Park.


With people and neighbors flocking the outdoors space and surrounding areas, it could use a little housecleaning.   


"We should be doing this,” the 30-year-old said to a friend nearby. “I'll do it myself."


If you ask Willard why, she’ll tell you she’s out there to help her community, herself and her 17-month-old son, Andrew.


Around Valentine’s Day, she lost custody of him because of her drug habit, she says.


Last month, the mother regained custody. The reunification made possible through the Heartland Family Service’s program, Nebraska Family Works.


Its purpose is to help mothers gain their sobriety so they can be reunited with their children.


At the moment, dozens of people  surround the western edge of the park off 48th Street, including mothers like Willard, Omaha police, the city’s park and recreation team and employees from Lozier Corporation.


"It gives an opportunity for the women to get out do great work,” says Clayton Malone, who works for Lozier. “It's more than just a physical thing.”



It's also internal and metaphorical.


With each discarded item, the women are reminded why they're tidying up the area.


Looking at a picture of Andrew, Willard’s fights back tears.


"What do I think of when I see him? That's my life,” she says. “He saved me."