A Faith-based life

Woman leans on belief during pandemic struggles

Tanesha Mills poses for a photo at the Cascades on East Silver Springs Boulevard. Despite the death of the father of her six children and the near collapse of her business due to COVID-19, she has managed to keep moving forward and even started a non-profit named Built God Tough to help others struggling through the pandemic. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

For Tanesha Mills, it’s been an exceptionally trying and painful year.

Not only did her home care business almost collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the virus also took the father of her six children.

Through her travails, Mills has stuck to her “Built God Tough” mantra, which she turned into a non-profit organization with the hope of helping others keep the faith through these trying times.

Despite divorcing a year earlier, Mills was still on good terms with Jermaine Mills. They shared 20 years together and were raising their six children together. Then Jermaine contracted COVID-19 in August.

As he got sicker, Tanesha visited him in the hospital often. She recalled the last conversation she had with him. 

“In my eyes, you’re like Superman,” Tanesha said. “You have been through a lot already. And if you feel like it’s that time, then it’s time to talk to your father in heaven, which is God… I still love you. I still care. And you know, everything is fine on my end.”

She kept talking to Jermaine even after he could no longer respond. On Aug. 11, he died. He was 40.

And while she comforted her ex-husband, things on her end were not fine.

Her business, MeMe’s Care at Home, a home care business for the elderly and disabled, went from 53 clients to two at the height of the pandemic. While things were starting to slowly comeback by the time Jermain died, things were still challenging.

“I kinda had to pull back and re-strategize again,” Tanesha said.

Re-strategizing meant leaving behind her office space in The Cascades on Silver Springs Boulevard and working from home. It also meant surviving on a strict budget.

But Jermaine’s death added the challenge of helping her children grieve.

“I think everyone took it hard,” Tanesha said. “I can’t say one took it harder than the other. I think they all dealt with it in a different way.”

The youngest, TJ, is four years old. And even his attitude changed after his father’s passing.

According to Tanesha, TJ still asks if his father is really dead.

“Oh, he’s gone to heaven,” TJ will say. “I’m going to heaven. Period.”

But Tenesha and her children kept moving forward. She realized she had no choice.

“Right now in this season, the turn for me was the fact that I can’t go back to my old life because it’s completely demolished,” Tanesha said. “Nothing in my life is the same.”

Her oldest, 19-year-old Jermesha, the namesake of MeMe’s Care at Home, still played volleyball for First Assembly Christian School. Some of her siblings also continued participating in choir.

“We just kept it going,” Tanesha said. “Everybody just kinda embraced us along the way. Our church family, our school family, our community family embraced us. But I believe people are still in awe. Like, how are you guys doing that? Well, we’re built God tough.”

That’s when she decided to form “Built God Tough.”

She established the non-profit in September and saw it as an opportunity to use her story to uplift others. She hoped to offer a judgment-free space for others to share their stories. 

The organization asks the same of everyone involved: Why do you feel like you’re built God tough?

“I feel like I’m built God tough because throughout all of my adversities, through all my heartaches, through all my disappointments, I am still able to sit here and do this interview,” Tanesha said. “I still am able to dig through all the rubbish and get the beauty out of it. Find the good things to laugh about. I’m still able to get up in the morning and love my kids. And love my life.”

Tanesha said laughter is never far from her home as she and her children continue to cherish their time together.

And while her attitude doesn’t take away the pain or the anxiety, it helps her deal with them.

“It’s a lot,” she admits. “And we’re still kinda grieving, but we’re able to take the torch and keep running.”

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