Melanie Davis is thankful for the “grace” that supported her and her teenage daughter during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to rental assistance and other support, they’ve been able to continue living in their Waianae apartment.
But now much of that aid has expired and she’s back to wondering “if I’m going to have enough for the next month.”
Life has been a struggle for Davis, 40, since her divorce three years ago. “I wanted to work things out, just like my parents did, just like my grandparents and my great-grandparents,” she said. “I was the first to divorce, to go that route.”
So averse was she to the notion of divorce that she said she didn’t even ask for alimony from her ex. After a 16-year marriage and two children, she gets just $40 a month in child support.
Compounding her difficulties is that both of her kidneys have failed and Davis has been on hemodialysis for 11 years. She goes to a nearby treatment center three times a week for four-hour sessions. Sometimes the treatments go smoothly and she feels fine afterward, but sometimes they’re so draining “I need to go to sleep. I gotta rest, because it’s taxing on the body.”
“It builds mental endurance, gotta say that,” Davis said, trying to put a positive spin on the situation.
Disability payments cover rent and utilities but not much more. In previous years, Davis worked part time to help make ends meet, but this year has been especially tough because of her medical condition. After so many years on dialysis, her fistula — a surgical opening that allows the dialysis machine to connect to her vascular system — developed blockages and had to be repaired surgically.
“They had to go Roto-Rooter the thing,” she said.
In recovery for several months, Davis had to resign her position with Hallmark, traveling to different stores to restock greeting card racks. She recently started training for a new job at the Waianae Mall.
Prior to working at Hallmark, Davis was a substitute teacher at Kamaile Academy, a charter school in Waianae where her daughter, Keona, was a student.
“I enjoy working with children, especially those who have difficulty at school,” said Davis, who completed three years of a psychology degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but left when she got married. “I’m especially compassionate about those individuals, those souls. I want them to know that ‘I believe in you, I’m going to help you do your best.’”
For the moment, her essential needs are taken care of but she really would like a computer printer. Her adult son recently gave her a laptop computer and she plans to apply for support from various organizations, which will require hard copies of forms and documents. She’s scoped out various models and would like an Epson EcoTank ET-2720, which is considered a basic and economical model.
A printer also would help Keona, 14, now an honors student in high school who recently joined student council and hopes to improve her Japanese language skills. The teen would like gift cards from Jeans Warehouse, Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, the Shoe Palace, Ross and the Blessed Life.
Davis would like gift cards to Target and to Nico’s Pier 38 restaurant. She treats herself to a meal there “only for my birthday.” Actually, she sees every day as a cause for celebration.
“I don’t take life for granted,” she said. “I’m very appreciative when I wake up. I’m appreciative that I get to see another day.”
BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR
The annual Good Neighbor Fund, a charitable partnership between Helping Hands Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and First Hawaiian Bank, helps struggling individuals and families during the holiday season. This year under the Adopt A Family Program, more than 500 families are seeking assistance with food, clothing, toys and household items. Donations to the Good Neighbor Fund also assist Helping Hands with operational costs for the nonprofit’s Community Clearinghouse Program, which helps people with basic necessities throughout the year.
HOW TO HELP
Individuals may drop off cash or checks to the “Good Neighbor Fund” at any First Hawaiian Bank branch statewide until Dec. 31. To donate specifically to Melanie Davis and her daughter, include the code: KK-005.