Sarah Wells-Kier has a temporary training permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation as a "Fitter and Dispenser of Hearing Instruments." She says she's almost finished preparing to take the state test, in May, to become fully licensed.
For now, she says she runs the front desk at National Hearing Centers and shadows her boss, Erin Kier, who also happens to be her mother-in-law.
"I watch Erin administer hearing tests," Kier says. "And I also clean hearing aids and do simple repairs. Believe it or not, we get hearing aids which have been stepped-on, and dog-chewed. Fixing them is the fun part of my training."
She says the most meaningful part is observing clients. "People come in the door, and I'll watch Erin test them, then explain their hearing loss. After she programs and fits the hearing aids, she clicks them on, and we have them read a poem we have on the wall. Their whole world expands. They can relate with people and interact with the world. That's important, because hearing interaction and brain function go hand in hand."
Kier says she learned the job skills necessary to be successful when she took the Christian Women's Job Corps classes in the spring of 2018. But CWJC also gave her much more.
She says she was born and raised in Kerrville, graduated from Tivy High School in 2006, then worked for two years. "My father was Dr. James Wells, who served Kerrville as a pathologist for 40 years, and he was near and dear to my heart. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I was 20, and I prepared myself to take care of him. When my father died, without giving me the chance to help him, it broke me. I shut down, turned off emotionally from 2008 to 2011. During that time I made some very bad choices."
But she believes that from tragic things, the most beautiful things may come.
"On July 5, 2011, I gave birth to Willow," Kier says. "I knew I had to change, I had to become a mom. We were in Tulsa for three months, and I realized that Willow's father couldn't make that adjustment. My big brother, David Ables, sent me a plane ticket home to Kerrville, and I left in the middle of the night."
She says she moved in with her mother. "It was Mom, Willow and me. I spent all my time being a good mom, with nothing left over for me. I didn't think I deserved anything. I felt I had to make up for my past."
But she says she did reconnect with someone, Justin Kier. He had a daughter, Sadie, and was trying to regain custody of her. She says Justin told her he had been hoping she would pull out of her spiral.
Kier says they started dating, and on Jan. 21, 2013, after Kier gave birth to Elijah James, Justin proposed in the recovery room. They were married Sept. 9, 2014, by the Guadalupe River.
"So there I was, staying home and being a mother hen," she says. "It wasn't enough. I finally realized I couldn't spend my whole life hiding. I was creating my own misery."
But the job market had passed her by, she says, so she applied. "I figured at CWJC I'd just pick up some job skills, but I almost didn't start. I was sick, in the hospital, when I was supposed to have my interview, and I called to tell them I couldn't make it. They rescheduled, and I was actually surprised when I was accepted. The first day, after I heard the stories of the other students, I said, 'I don't think I belong here.' But Jeannette Stuart wouldn't give up on me."
Kier says besides her new job skills, she got something intangible. "We studied Jeremiah 29:11, 'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.' I learned I needed to forgive myself, to feed myself. I learned how to get out of my own way. The CWJC sisterhood taught me that."
She says the typing and computer skills she learned in the spring of 2018 are helpful, but it's her spiritual awakening and the ability to see her own worth that are making the most difference in her life, and that of her family. "I used to live with alcohol and drugs. Now my yard is where all the neighborhood's bicycles are parked, and I never know how many kids I'll be feeding supper. You can stretch a lot with rice and pasta."
Justin gained full custody of his daughter May 9, 2019. Sadie is now a sixth-grader in Ingram Middle School, active in one-act play and debate. Willow, in third grade, is the family's artist. Elijah is at the top of his first-grade class.
And Kier is fitting into the family business. She says, "Jane Kier, Erin's mother, ran a hearing business for 30 years, and passed it down to Erin, and several other members of the family are also fitters and dispensers of hearing instruments, with other businesses. And it isn't just our clients we serve. At National we also participate in the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program, where we visit nursing homes and help people who can't hear get tablets and phones that offer talk-to-text, so they can communicate."
But Kier says she has also learned to "Be still, and know that I am God's." She says, "I leave my phone behind and go to Books to Share. I love the smell and feel of books. I get three at a time, selecting from military history, personal improvement, Bible studies, or just something I know nothing about. Then I take myself out to dinner. Now I have the ability to see my own worth."