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“I had a normal happy life. I had an older brother and two younger sisters, mom and dad, and went to school," said Nadine Byler.
Byler, 47, who grew up in Bachmanville, Dauphin County, and attended Lower Dauphin High School, where she played for the field hockey team and graduated in 1987, described life before she married as just that, happy and normal.
Byler also attended Cairn University, previously Philadelphia Biblical University, in Langhorne, Pa. She graduated from Cairn with a bachelor's degree in elementary education, as well as a bachelor's degree in biblical studies in 1992.
When she married in 1996, she moved into Lebanon County. Things remained normal for her early in the marriage, but she said that lasted about four years.
“It was a difficult marriage,” Byler said. “I was married almost 17 years.”
While married, Byler and her husband had four children, who are now all teenagers.
Although she did eventually make the choice to leave the marriage, Byler said that she had no idea when the right time was to leave.
“The last few years we were married, that’s when I started seeking help and tried to figure out what was going on,” Byler said.
In April 2013, Byler filed for divorce and left with her kids.
Byler explained that while going through a situation like hers, there is no looking forward to the future or having much of a plan. She wasn’t entirely sure what to do or where to go, but she leaned on the support of her family and of friends at church.
She wanted to do good by her kids, too.
“I wanted to give them the opportunity to experience a peaceful home and the opportunity to see that there are choices that you can make. You don’t have to be trapped,” said Byler. “You can choose to start over for a better future.”
Starting a new future was exactly what Byler was focused on. It was just a matter of how and when.
“Thinking about it and looking at the calendar, and at life, it was never the right time,” she said. “I just realized that I needed to make a decision and start taking action, and so I did.”
When she made her decision to leave her husband, she said her family and friends rallied around her, helped her financially and helped her find a place to live.
To help feed herself and her children, Byler relied on the services of Caring Cupboard, a food bank in Palmyra.
It was at the Caring Cupboard that Byler came across some information about an agency based in Palmyra known as Support Connections of Lebanon County (SCLC).
SCLC is a non-profit made up of volunteers who donate their time to low-income individuals and families to help them learn new skills, set goals and reach self-sufficiency.
This is done through a 14-week program through which participants, referred to as Team Leaders, attend a weekly meeting. Byler began the program in fall 2014.
For Byler, life was a day-to-day battle before finding SCLC. In 2013, she started working self-employed cleaning houses and churches as a way to create some income for herself.
For the entirety of 2013, Byler had an income of $8,000.
Lee Smedley, volunteer executive director at SCLC, described Byler as a great candidate for the program. He said that Byler was never seen in a state of self-pity, she was always focused on doing a good job and becoming successful.
“Nadine did not make a big deal out of her personal struggles,” Smedley said. “She didn’t come in expecting people to feel bad for her.”
Byler said that something that she found at SCLC was people that wanted to help her. She found people that had knowledge of and connections in the community, hence the name of the agency.
“Even though I had my family and my church to support and encourage me, I didn’t have the resources in the community,” said Byler.
The weekly meeting is just the first part of the program. When the 14-week course comes to a close, it is time to set goals.
Each Team Leader becomes a leader of a small group of people that are all brought together through SCLC in order to achieve the Team Leader’s goals.
Teammates Rick McCann and David Walker became Byler’s goal-achieving support system. They bounced ideas off of each other and brainstormed what it was that Byler truly wanted to accomplish.
Byler set two goals for herself. She wanted to own her own business, and she wanted to own her own home.
Yes, she was already self-employed, but Byler said that she didn’t just want to own a business for the sole purpose of making money.
Byler wanted more than that. She wanted to create her own business name, her own logo, and ultimately, she wanted to employ other women, particularly women that have gone through similar struggles.
She named her business On Purpose Cleaners. In 2015, she more than doubled her income of 2013.
In fact, Byler is at a crossroads with her business. To grow further, she needs to hire someone so that more cleaning jobs can be taken.
A goal that Byler had set, to employ other women, is now in its early stages.
In March, Byler purchased a home in Palmyra where she lives with her four children.
Smedley strongly believes SCLC can bring success like this to others. He said that it has a lot to do with the agency’s way of thinking.
“The participants don’t have to do a certain set of things that are, ‘if you do this, your life will be better,’” said Smedley. “It is, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’ And then we talk about how we can help you achieve those things.”
Byler said that some people just need to admit that they need help, and then be responsible with the help that is out there.
“Everyone can improve their life, and you don’t have to do it by yourself,” Byler said. “(SCLC is) doing their part, you have to do yours.”
As a message to others, Smedley shared that it’s important for people of different income levels to interact.
“Relationships make life more meaningful and enjoyable,” Smedley said.
Those at SCLC helped Byler realize what she can accomplish, and she is proud of where she’s gotten to.
“I’m no longer a statistic. Now I’m a person that matters, a person with value and potential,” said Byler.
To learn more about On Purpose Cleaners, visit onpurposecleaners.com.
To learn more about SCLC, volunteer or become a Team Leader, contact Lee Smedley at email@example.com. New sessions start this fall in Palmyra, Oct. 3, and Lebanon, Oct. 4.
SCLC is located at Palmyra First United Methodist Church, 520 E. Birch St., Palmyra.