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Family working to regain footing

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    Marlina Tinoco, right, laughed with her son, Antonio, on Thursday at Onemalu Transitional Shelter in Kalaeloa.

When things started going downhill in Marlina Tinoco’s life two years ago, they gathered girth and momentum like a snowball.

Severe arthritis in her knees, ankle and back had forced her to take time off from work as a grocery cashier in 2012, but with only temporary disability insurance and her boyfriend’s job loss, she fell behind in her rent and utility bills. She lost her rental last December, and she and her son, 13, found themselves homeless for the first time, living in a tent.

Over the next several months, her emotional and overall health deteriorated further. And her son, who has learning disabilities, began acting out, Tinoco said.

One night she woke up with a fever, chills and unbearable pain.

In the emergency room, doctors discovered the former Michigan resident was suffering from Lyme disease, which had gone undetected for years.

"All this stuff happened all at once," she said. "And I was so sick, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even make dinner. I just didn’t feel good."

Through the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Good Neighbor Fund, readers can help this single mom and others who are struggling just for basic necessities at a time when Christmas extravagance is rampant. Our annual holiday drive supports Helping Hands Hawaii’s Adopt-A-Family Program to bring some 500 families a special dinner, presents and needed items.

Donations of money or material goods can be designated for a particular family or go into a general fund.

In July, Tinoco and her son, Antonio, were able to move into the Onemalu Transitional Shelter in Kapolei. But she suffered another setback a month later when she pulled a muscle and was diagnosed with an inflamed degenerated disc in her back, which put her back on TDI.

But Tinoco is determined to get back on her feet, return to work and put a smile back on her son’s face.

Antonio has been afflicted with his own brand of sorrow. When they became homeless, he didn’t understand why they had to live in a tent or give up his dog.

Then thieves took his watch, wallet and clarinet, items given to him by an aunt. A former soldier, his aunt suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide in 2012, Tinoco said.

In October, a thief took the bicycle he used to catch a bus to school.

"Antonio loved that his aunt would encourage him and give him things as a reward for good behavior and for doing new things," Tinoco said. "He was sad and mad she gave up. He used to hold on to the things she gave him to remind him to never give up.

"He told me when we first became homeless that we should still be happy because we are alive," she said. "He is a trooper. He’s a good, sweet kid. I’m blessed with an awesome child."

Last Christmas, the family set up a small tree and Tinoco managed to buy modest gifts for her son.

"This year, we have a roof over our heads, we have a community Christmas tree (at the shelter) outside," she said. "Even though I’m on TDI and struggling to get well, I’m able to do more for him."

For instance, she has been able to swing the fees for his band class at school.

One day, when their lives are back to normal, Tinoco hopes to get a college degree and become a social worker.

"I’ve never seen so much struggle in my life," she said of life on the streets. "I’ve seen other families living on the beaches, people living on the sidewalks and riding on the bus as long as they can, then crash at Kapolei Park.

"I’ve come to realize things can be worse for us. I’m so grateful that I cannot complain about my situation because I know it’s getting better. I’m getting stronger. I know I will be able to go back to work soon, and grateful that the shelter has given me a chance to be able to go back," Tinoco said. "There’s no reason why I cannot get back on my feet with this program, so I better utilize it to take care of my health and all that it enables me to do, so I can take care of my son. That’s my goal."

Tinoco would appreciate a good pair of work shoes with arch support to enable her to stand on her feet all day at work, and a bike for her son.


Clothing, household items and gifts can be dropped off at the Community Clearinghouse, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, next to Puuhale Road.

Monetary gifts may be sent to the Star-Advertiser’s Good Neighbor Fund, care of Helping Hands Hawaii, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI 96819.

Checks made out to the Good Neighbor Fund also may be dropped off at any First Hawaiian Bank branch statewide.

Call 440-3800 or email for more information on signing up for the Adopt-A-Family Program, for donation warehouse hours, or to arrange for pickup of large items.

Donations as of Thursday:

M. and U. Hirohata $600
Cornelia Sandborn $500
Lily O. C. Ling $500
Matt, Andy and Carly $500
The McDermott Family $500
Sarah Elizabeth Fincke $500
In memory of Takeji and Shizue Iha $450
P. K. Shiu, Veronica Knight, Denis and Josephine Shiu $400
Phil Robertson $345
M. Fred Nitta $300
Perry H. Sorenson $300
Richard, Mimi and David $300
Thomas B.S. Chun $300
Thankful for our blessings $300
Charles P. Nakagawa $200
C. Werjefelt $200
Dayle A. Osborn $200
Garret Masuda $200
On behalf of the Tuesday Connection $200
Joel B. Ruby $200
John Hoag $200
Karine France-Matsumoto $200
Kin Ho Tung $200
Vera E. Arita $200
In memory of Takeo and Mitsue Abe $200
Surf Motors LLC $150
Aileen, Karin, Lynn, Mae, Stephanie and Tracy $150
Arthur L. Mori $150
K. Oshiro $150
Ronald Pang $150
In memory of Kenji and Edith Okimura $150
In memory of Katsumi Miyano and Sei Toda $120
John and Lisa Tokunaga $103
Barny H. Gomes $100
Beatrice F. Okada $100
Calvin $100
Chadwick W. Wong $100
Dennis H. Awakuni $100
Dylan, Tehya, Samantha and Emma Niide $100
Faith Tomoyasu $100
Frances Oshita $100
Georgina N. Vouloumanos $100
Gilbert M. Horita $100
Jane M. Tonokawa $100
Kathy Kaleleiki $100
Ken S. Marume $100
L. Burns $100
Linda Y. Okamura $100
Lynn S. H. Hiromoto $100
Maile Ventura $100
Maris and Misha Tasaka, Taylor Tajiri and grandma Lorraine Tasaka $100
M. Eleanor Fahrenwald $100
Myra M. Yamada $100
Patrick T. Sonoda $100
Richard and Linda McCabe $100
Sandra F. Pak $100
Stanley H. Shiroma $100
Susan A. Sakai $100
Thomas Y. Nakano $100
Vicky E. Stewart $100
Wayne and Mong Parker $100
William K. C. Wong TR $100
William H. Worley, Jr. $100
Y. Kaihara $100
In memory of Alice K. Kira $100
In memory of Harriet C. Kam $100
In memory of Joseph Collins $100
In memory of William F. Ehrman $100
In memory of Yutaka, Helen, Ernest, Mary, Kikue and Ryan $100
Marc A. Kowalski $75
Marian M. Bernal $75
B. Kanno $50
Clara Y. Kumabe $50
Clarence Y. F. Liu $50
Clifford Y. Kobashigawa $50
Craig Gima $50
Elsie Osato $50
Erin Kamigaki $50
Ethel K. Serikaku $50
George S. Hirose $50
Gloria A. Wong $50
Helen T. Nakamura $50
Judith A. Goldman Trustee $50
Karen T. Hamada $50
Kenneth and June Fujimoto $50
Laura and Bruce $50
Leonard S. Ajifu $50
Lynn Sumida $50
Mary Chang Fong $50
Masami Nishimoto $50
Patricia R. Siquig $50
Paul H. Yamaguchi $50
Rebecca S. Ovitt $50
Ronald M. Honda $50
Stephanie A. Ching $50
Uncle Kimo $50
Victoria L. N. Ikeda $50
Vivian M. S. Lee $50
In memory of Daryl Bryan $50
In memory of Lavinia $50
In memory of Margaret and William Smith $50
In memory of Paul Schrader $50
Judith D. Takaba $35
Adria A. Estribou $30
Kathleen Fung $30
Pearl Pratt $30
Renee Doi $30
Susan M. Hashimoto $30
Alan H. Kawamoto $25
Fumiko Miyahira $25
Gayle Y. Hamasaki $25
J. Makishima $25
Janice Y. Sato $25
Joanne L. Yamamoto $25
Keri Lynn Teller $25
Liane K. Murai $25
Maile T. Brooks $25
M. T. Yamada $25
Sumi L. Wong $25
Takeshita $25
Winona M. H. Au $25
In memory of Buena Canales and Brad Baxter $25
Amy M. Ohara $20
Charlene S. Gibo $20
Derrick J. Stephens $20
Erin H. Yoda $20
Gerald T. Endo $20
Jennifer Chang $20
Kathy-Ann K. Chung $20
Kevin K. Chang $20
Khoa D. Nguyen $20
Melanie M. Iseri $20
P. A. Gaison $20
Sandra K. Fujioka $20
Stanley T. Sekiya $20
Yuko Kato $20
Teah Forsythe $15
Jaymie O. $10
Jessica Gamiao $10
Kyden and Keaton Ng $10
Sin Wan Vong $10
Taylor H. Sumi $10
Anonymous $3,963
This week’s total: $19,261
Grand total: $45,774.25
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