PORT TOWNSEND — When Krista Vielguth first laid eyes on her two daughters — after an entire year away — she tried not to weep.
Her girls, then 9 and 6, had grown a lot. They were doing well: “so strong,” said their mom. Vielguth had lost custody, so the two had gone to live with their father and paternal grandparents.
“I had made some bad decisions,” Vielguth said in her steady, matter-of-fact voice.
Now Vielguth and her girls are reunited and awaiting Christmas together at their apartment in Port Townsend — while building a whole new life.
After completing an inpatient drug rehabilitation program in Seattle, Vielguth looks forward to her second anniversary of sobriety this February.
She glows, especially when talking about her daughters. They keep her days full, with their array of activities: gymnastics and the Olympic Thunder cheer squad for her first-grader and basketball for her fourth-grader.
To support her family, Vielguth works at a local restaurant — serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch.
Just as the weather was turning wintry this November, her car’s water pump failed. Antifreeze was leaking. The vehicle, it turned out, had a variety of problems.
“I had pushed it to its limits,” Vielguth said.
“It was done.”
The repairs were far outside Vielguth’s budget. She was about to lose her transportation.
Yet as a lifelong Jeffersonian — she graduated from Chimacum High School in 2004 — Vielguth is well-acquainted with the Olympic Community Action Programs, which administer the Peninsula Home Fund.
Supported completely by local residents’ contributions, the Home Fund is available for exactly the kind of predicament Vielguth was facing. She needed the maximum yearly amount, $350, to help cover her car repair bill, while her mother also chipped in.
It took a full day to provide all of the paperwork to OlyCAP. And that turned out to be a great day. Vielguth took her vehicle to A T Auto Repair in Port Hadlock, where she was able to get an appointment quickly. New parts installed and car’s life renewed, she drove home on a wave of relief.
“Krista is a vibrant person,” said Maria Logan, the OlyCAP staff member who worked with Vielguth. She stared down that problem, Logan said, with a steely gaze, and took care of business.
At the same time, Vielguth takes nothing in this new era for granted.
The loss of her daughters and the house they once lived in, and the repossession of the car she once had: All are fresh in her mind. So are the three months she was in rehab: a long summer when patients were permitted to go outside for 30 minutes a day, no more.
Back home, “I’ve had to start from scratch,” Vielguth said. 2019 was a year for new beginnings — on a daily basis. And Vielguth, focused as she is on providing for her kids, has little time left for herself.
“I try to keep fresh in my mind the things I have to be grateful for,” she said.
Her workplace is having a Christmas party, and the kids get to go. Her car will be paid off soon and the days of being financially strapped are past.
2020 brings plenty to look forward to, Vielguth said, especially seeing her girls thriving in school and connecting with friends.
Her eldest, now 10, is an avid reader, whose favorite books include the “Wings of Fire” novels by Tui T. Sutherland.
“She is caring and loving,” added Mom. Her youngest, 7, is all about Olympic Thunder, having gotten over her initial shyness at practice.
Vielguth herself hopes to return to Peninsula College, and one day study nursing. She can see herself caring for people in a hospital.
On the nearer horizon, “I’d like to move forward with our housing,” since the apartment she shares with the girls has no yard for them to play in.
Whether or not they find a new place, Vielguth and family will be enjoying the outdoors come springtime. First chance she gets, she’s taking the girls to the beach — specifically Marrowstone Island, the place where she played in the sunshine when she was their age.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.