A couple of years ago, a single mother of three boys couldn’t afford to keep her family under one roof, so her children went to live with a relative and she lived at a friend’s house.
“I was crying every night,” said Theresa (not her real name). A year passed before she found a cheaper place for all of them to be together.
While it’s common for parents to fulfill the heart’s desire of their kids at Christmas, all Theresa is asking for are basic supplies like shampoo, laundry detergent and clothes.
She knows that just having her sons close to her and taking care of each other is the greatest gift she could ask for.
“I’m happy as long as the kids are happy,” she said.
Helping Hands Hawaii is in the midst of sponsoring its annual Adopt A Family Program, hoping to bring some holiday cheer to more than 500 struggling families this year with a special Christmas dinner and a few extras from Santa. In partnership, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Good Neighbor Fund drive encourages the public to donate money or clothes, household goods and other items needed by these families, about a third of them homeless.
Last year our drive raised enough money for holiday items as well as helping people pay their rent, utilities and other necessities throughout 2016. Readers may adopt any family or individual featured in stories running every Sunday until Christmas. Information on donations is available next to this article.
Theresa worked full time as an office assistant before her “baby” was born four years ago, but now can only work three days a week. She has a hard time stretching her paycheck and makes a bit too much to qualify for welfare.
Her teenage boys, who attend college on financial aid, schedule their classes on alternate days to stay home and take care of the youngster. Her husband has been out of the picture for several years, her parents are dead and relatives don’t have anything to spare, so they can’t count on anyone for help, she said.
On the weekends, her older sons volunteer at the local intermediate school to coach basketball, and one of them works part time. They also love to play football and basketball, and enjoy church outings. Yet, “all they want to do is make their little baby happy,” Theresa said.
The 4-year-old likes to read and watch movies, and is crazy about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She can afford to buy him the Ninja Turtles toys that cost $1.99, and “he’s so happy just to have that,” she said.
“The older boys are like that, too — they were happy with whatever I gave them,” she said.
Like most parents, she has drilled into them: “You can’t get ahead without a college diploma.” So they make sacrifices toward that end.
It’s a constant struggle.
There have been so many times when she has wanted to say, “I give up,” she said. “But I can’t. I pray to God to give me strength.”
The hardships the family is undergoing today are nothing like crises of the past, like a staph infection one of her older sons survived years ago. He had only a 5 percent chance of pulling through.
He needed 10 surgeries and was in the hospital for more than eight weeks, but he came out of it missing only a toe. Then, her “baby” was born with two heart murmurs, but they healed on their own.
The worst experience was being separated from her children, Theresa said, unable to hold back tears. That’s why Christmas is a time they just enjoy being together, not opening tons of presents, though some Ninja Turtles would be “greatly appreciated,” she said, adding, “Everyone just wants to make this a happy day for the youngest child.”