Meet Tonnette Jensen, a LIFTT employee whose experiences of tragedy and loneliness transformed her. Here is her story:
For the first 18 years of her life, Tonnette grew up on Camano Island, Washington, an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, where Tonnette spent her time exploring trails and beaches, but it was not all paradise for her. Tonnette was a painfully lonely child with no friends and parents who often left her to raise herself. In addition, at the tender age of eight, Tonnette had to cope with both the suicide of her 16-year-old brother and her own struggles with suicidal thoughts. “Growing up was hard for me,” she said, “and I isolated myself until I could make friends.” Tonnette staved off grief and loneliness by immersing herself in her families’ outdoor hobbies including hunting, archery, and, because their house was five minutes away from the beach, fishing and shell hunting.
Following graduation, Tonnette worked at various grocery stores and hotels. She found her calling when she joined Eastern Montana Industries (EMI) where she cared for consumers with mental and physical disabilities. In 2021, Tonnette and her husband were walking along a Glendive sidewalk, searching for a small store they had heard about, but could not find. Unexpectedly, Jen Hawkinson, Senior Independent Living Specialist for LIFTT Glendive, appeared, gave the couple directions, and after a brief description of LIFTT’s services, suggested Tonnette apply for a job with the organization.
Two months later, Tonnette was hired as an IL Specialist with the Glendive LIFTT office.
“When I moved to Montana, I did not come out of my shell until I went to work for LIFTT.” She considers her coworkers her sisters, and now refers to herself as a social butterfly.’ “Best of all,” she said, “I am a strong independent woman with a bright future.”
Tonette’s work keeps her on her toes, and she enjoys every minute of it, “I love this job and what it stands for,” she said, “and I can empathize with people who are struggling because I have several disabilities myself, including borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, hypothyroid condition, immune deficiency, and PTSD. Despite her challenges, Tonnette remains positive. “What inspires me is living the best life I can live, and assisting people to achieve that same goal.”
Tonnette sees herself working at LIFTT for the next ten years, owning a house with her husband, and, taking some awesome vacations.
With her can-do attitude and a healthy dose of self-esteem, chances are, this butterfly will get it all.