Shoppers at the Washington County ReStore have come to know Raytonia McIntyre—and often ask for her by name. She takes pleasure in helping others – it’s one of the great joys of her life. But she describes herself as having an old soul, one that is often weighed down by deep sadness, but not hopelessness.
From the very beginning there have been a lot of mixed blessings in Raytonia’s life. Advised not to have children, Raytonia’s mother gave birth to her 3-pound “miracle baby” following four successive open-heart surgeries. Since Mom had troubles of her own, Raytonia was raised by her grandmother, who subsequently took in Raytonia’s younger cousin, as well.
“My grandmother made sure I had everything,” she recalls.
As she entered her teen years, Raytonia and her mother finally began to develop a closer relationship. But her mother’s health continued to decline and she did not survive her sixth heart surgery. Raytonia was in eighth grade at the time.
She had never met her father, but now Raytonia’s aunts tracked him down. He claimed he was unaware he had a child because he had lost contact with her mother. But even later he failed to reach out to his daughter. She carries that sadness with her still.
As a student Raytonia explored various career paths at Portland’s Benson Polytechnic High School, trying her hand at construction, arts, soldering, health and radio. She liked it all.
But despite being a popular kid, Raytonia spent most of her time helping her grandmother and caring for her cousin. She was having difficulty recovering from her mother’s death and her father’s implied rejection.
After graduation, she spent two years in cosmetology school and later received a natural hair care license. Then in 2012 her grandmother passed away. A month later she lost her cousin to Stage IV cancer. Their house was sold and she no longer had a home. The bottom fell out of her world. She felt vulnerable.
“I don’t have a safe place to go anymore,” Raytonia said.
It was with the birth of her daughter, Nyah, that Raytonia decided it was time to look ahead to the future.
“I want to give her what my grandmother gave me – unconditional love and support. She was just there for me, ” she explained.
Through Oregon state services, Raytonia learned about volunteer opportunities at The ReStore.
“I had never heard about Habitat for Humanity, and that it helps build homes for people – and like a donation-type warehouse. I mean I was excited about that. I like helping people and impacting others’ lives,” she said.
That’s how it began. Raytonia started off volunteering in the ReStore’s paint department, then became part of the Jobs Plus program. When that ended, she was hired as a part time associate-and then moved into a full time position. In July, she was promoted to floor supervisor at the Washington County ReStore.
Her aim is to improve the overall customer experience, lending her skills to making inventory more “shoppable.”
“I know what attracts me—I know what attracts people: organization, cleanness and neatness,” Raytonia says.
Currently Raytonia and Nyah are living with family friends, but she envisions having a home of their own someday.
She sees their home will have a small yard in the front – one with a garden like at her grandmother’s house. And like at her grandmother’s house, this place will have a kitchen window so Raytonia can look out. There will be a little patio in the back where she will sit and watch her daughter play on the swing set Raytonia will build herself. There will be space for a little bench and a tree house the mother and daughter will construct together.
“I just want to flourish, to do better, to be a better role model,” she says. “I don’t want to get too comfortable, I want to push myself forward. I just want to be a better person–a better mother.”
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