I have been in contact with Donna, a mother of four, who has lost her house, job, and almost everything in the past five years. Her children haven't had a Christmas or Birthday present in three years. In her own words, this is what is happening:
This is the kind of thing I tried to warn my kids about, but I'm grasping at straws praying for a lifeline, so here goes... I would like to share our family's story with you. Normally I wouldnt reply to a stranger's message, but I am at the end of my rope. Five years ago, both my husband and I had good jobs, a fairly new home, and could provide well for our four children. Ou biggest concern was to figure out a way to top last year's gifting prank on my 385 lb "little" brother! We had money for emergencies in a saving's acount and life was good. Then, as everyone knows, the bottom dropped out of the economy. Both of us lost our jobs within 13 months of each other, the last being my job in April of 2009. We are both skilled, intelligent, and reliable workers so we were confident that we would find jobs in a reasonable amount of time with comparable wages. We spent two years and went to five states looking for any kind of work. We did everything we could but we weren't able to save our home from foreclosure. During the foreclosure, someone broke the locks off the doors and stole nearly everything we had, including all the kid's toys and clothes. Since the house was in foreclosure, the insurance didnt cover the loss. We spent the next 11 1/2 months in a motel, on the floor of friends and relatives' houses, or in a tent camping on the Appalachian Trail (because it was free). We had to use a relative's address to hide the fact that we were homeless from the Department of Children's Services so our children wouldn't be taken away from us. My husband did single jobs as a contractor, but they were few and far between. Finally after all that time, a friend had an old house that the renters moved out of and trashed. He has let us clean it up and rent it. Just a couple of weeks after we moved in the house, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had to move in with us. Our income is only aound 800 per month because my husband got sick with pneumonia for the first time in 15 years.
Now that you understand our circumstances, I want to tell you about how this upheaval has affected our children. We have been blessed with four children. Logan, who is now 19: Sierra age 16: Peyton age 14: and Savannah age11. During the early days of our 'downsizing', all four were shocked that their cell phones were turned off and OMG! no txtng!! Next came selling all of the extra items like guns, electronics, the second and third cars, duplicate tools, home decor, and high end appliances just to put food on the table and buy gas for the car. All too quickly we were going to food banks needingfood instead of donating it. The three oldest kids played three varsity sports. My husband and I could no longer be at every away game. The coaches would bring them home from practice and games. They couldn't get new school clothes or shoes, no school supplies, and no club dues at school. The school helped pay for feild trips and a local church gave them school supplies. They all held up pretty well with very little grumbling or complaining, until the foreclosure and burglary. Walking into the house was like a huge punch in the gut. All their clothes,toys shoes, pictures...everything that said '*Kid's Name* lives in this room' was gone or destroyed. Then they helped salvage the few things left that we were going to keep in storage. After we loaded the last items from the house, Sierra ad Savannah both buried their heads in my coat and sobbed for what seemed like forever. Logan and Peyton weer bitter and very angry, wanting "to burn the theives' home with them in it". Later in the next week, we were at a friends house and in the middle of the night Iwoke up to hear the boys talking about how they felt about losing everything. They shared memories of game nights, past holiday celebrations, an our 'open door' policy to evey child we knew. Peyton, who had just turned twelve, began to cry, wondering what was going to happen to them, feeling so broken-hearted over the loss of not just his 'stuff' but also the only home he remembered. Logan began to reassure him that their Daddy would fix things and we would all stay together. Logan began to cry and Peyton comforted his big brother.Then Logan told Peyton, "Well, if they can live with it, we can live without it!" At that moment I knew we would be alright. It might take a while, but at least we had a close relationship with each other. Logan and Peyton put out flyers to mow and do any kind of odd jobs to earn money to help with gas. Sierra babysat and cleaned houses to add to the gas fund. As parents we tried to make the time spent in motels while we taveled to look for work and the time in the tent fun, like it was a vacation. Except the vacation was going on way too long. We began to collect household items from free giveaways and yard sale leftovers. We were preparing for the time we could find house.
All four kids kept up their attendance in school, got good grades, and participated in activites. Logan suffered a major injury in the third football game of his senior year. Dr McKinney repaired and reconstructed Logan's knee last Thanksgiving and he was scheduled to have the other knee done over Christmas break. During the last baseball season Peyton was found to have separated his humerus in the growth plate. As the doctors investigated the cause of the injury they found that the boys and I are all super flexible. That led to an unusual diagnosis of a connective tissue disorder in all of us. This past September(2012), I was found to have a heart problem related to the disorder. Both girls have severe allergies that require shots and medication. In Savannah's case, it means seven meds daily and two shots weekly. They all also help me care for their Nanny. She has COPD and several other health issues in addition to the Alzheimers. Sometimes, she calls them by the names of my brothers and sister and sometimes I am her mom and they are her siblings! They have watched as her memory and ability to function has dissappeared. She cared for them while I worked before they started school and to have to provide this kind of care for her makes them so sad.
Logan is currently in the pre-med program at Tusculum College and is studying to be a trauma surgeon. He worked hard to earn an academic scholarship to pay for school. He does work-study to pay for books and other fees. He has begun to volunteer at a domestic violence shelter in Greenville, TN. Logan is 6'5 and wears a size 19 shoe which is expensive!. He hasn't had a new pair of shoes inthree years. Sierra plays basketball, teaches a Sunday school class, works at our local Back To School Bash event every year, and has been part of a gospel group of young girls. Sierra is working hard in school to get into a good college. She also plans to go into medicine, as a pediatrician. Peyton plays football and baseball, is active in the FFA, is going to take courses offered by Carter County Schools to learn to fly and plans to serve in the Navy and later as a police officer, sings in the youth choir, and works at the Bash also. Savannah is in the sixth grade and is starting a Bible study group at her school. She is learning to play the piano(free lessons!), sings in the youth choir, helps in the nursery at church, volunteers to sing at local nursing homes, and plays basketball, softball, and is a cheerleader for football. She loves dolphins, porpoises(?), and killer whales. She wants to be a marine biologist. They are all such wonderful people. All of them want to work serving others. I sometimes think we are a failure as parents, but then I think of how all four of our children are kind, compassionate, loving, and giving. They have not asked for anything for birthdays or Christmas in so long.The only one who qualifies for Angel Tree is Breezy but the only gift she got was a shirt and pants and they don't fit and are not exchangeable(no tag at all). The children have many needs but few wants. They are all in need of warm clothing, socks/underwear/bras, shoes, coats, and gloves. None of them are picky. Even though they don't have much, they don't ask for anything. They are even willing to give what little they have to someone else who is also in need, like the family of a dear friend who was killed in an accident right before Halloween. Sierra and Savannah asked to take our dinner and a few other items to the family. I got such a big lump in my throat that I couldn't have eaten anyway! Having my family safe, warm, and together is a precious gift and I feel funny asking for something more, but unless there is a miracle, this will be the third year that my children wont have a single present under the tree. For them to wake up and see their name on just a small item would set off a round of whoops and hollers! Can you imagine how they would feel to know that they weren't overlooked again? We would dearly love to see hope in their eyes and a smile on their faces on this Christmas morning.
Please donate money to help get Donna, her husband, and her children well-deserved Christmas presents and to help get them back on their feet.