While the typical teenager is often bugging his or her parents for the latest gizmo or designer shoes, Holly Stepanian’s girls have never had a Christmas tree to decorate.
Neither do they receive any presents, but they don’t complain. Since Stepanian adopted the sisters nearly 13 years ago, the single mom said she has never had enough money left over after her bills are paid.
"The girls never get anything extra. But they’re nonmaterialistic, very loving girls. They have a strong relationship with God. … They’re so unusual," she said.
This year for the first time, Stepanian heard about the Adopt-A-Family program, run by Helping Hands Hawaii, which tries to bring some cheer to the needy during the holidays. With the aid of the Star-Advertiser’s annual Good Neighbor Fund, Helping Hands raises money and collects donations of material goods, which are distributed throughout the year.
"Although we live very humbly and my children have not had the things their friends have, and although their clothes have basically been hand-me-downs, they have never complained or rebelled. They have continued to be appreciative, upbeat and giving children," Stepanian said. The girls are 12 and 13 years old.
Stepanian, who operates her own party entertainment business, said, "This last year has been the hardest of my life. My business went down drastically because of the hard economic times. I was scared and really didn’t know what to do."
Last month she couldn’t pay her rent, but Catholic Charities came to the rescue with a one-time emergency check, she said. Stepanian recently took a part-time job, at $9 per hour, that should help make ends meet. She shops at thrift stores and a food bank.
For Christmas, there’s no money for even token trinkets.
"I don’t give them anything. My friends and my mom give them gifts, and they’re very generous because they know I don’t have anything," she said. "We always leave for L.A. for two weeks to see my mom, so we don’t have any decorations. This year the girls were asking for a tree, but I told them we were leaving for L.A. on Dec. 20, so we didn’t need one. They’ve never decorated a tree … ever."
Stepanian is requesting a grocery gift card so she can make her daughters a special Christmas meal with a turkey, and perhaps invite their friends over, which they usually can’t afford to do.
For Christmas, her 13-year-old said her heart’s desire would be a mountain bike, but added, "I’m happy with what I have."
Her younger sister said she wished she could have "a handheld video camera because I want to be a photographer when I grow up." But she really needs an everyday pair of shoes and jeans to replace her worn-out ones.
Recent donations to the Star-Advertiser Good Neighbor Fund