Empty Stocking: Caregiver hopes for Christmas gifts for children

First Posted: 12/11/2013

LIMA — Every time Jessica’s five children look at advertisements and point out what they want, she says it breaks her heart.

In the past year, Jessica had to quit her retail job of three years so she could take care of her mother, Beth, who is suffering with a brain tumor and diagnosed with three aneurysms. She is scheduled for surgery soon.

Without a job and struggling to pay household bills, Jessica attempts each day to put on a happy face for the holidays, especially knowing there is no money for Christmas gifts this year.

“My kids are so excited for Christmas and waking up and seeing some gifts. And knowing what I know, that is the heart-breaker,” said Jessica, who said watching her children put up the Christmas tree last weekend makes telling them even harder. “They grab those fliers that come in the mail, and they start circling the items. In the past years, I always managed to get them something, and they would be happy with anything they received.

“This year, they say, ‘Mom, can I get this or can I get that,’ and they are excited like they are every year,” she said. “This year has just been a downer. I pray for my mom and my kids all the time. I always put them first. I don’t need for much.”

Today, she splits her time between being her children’s mother and her mother’s primary caregiver.

In the early part of this year, her mother started having trouble remembering things, so she visited a doctor, who told her she had a brain tumor. Treatment followed, and a surgery was scheduled before the holidays, but the surgery was delayed because of other physical ailments.

“It has been a long, rough year, and we have had to do a lot of traveling for appointments as well as back and forth to (Ohio State University) Medical Center for a few stays in the hospital,” said Jessica, who hesitates to say she could use some gasoline cards to help with future trips. “I am pretty much all she has, and I had to let the job go because all I could think of was losing my mom.”

More treatments in Columbus are expected prior to the rescheduled surgery, which could still be soon.

The frequent trips also took a toll on Jessica’s car, but her uncle provided her with his old car for the trips back and forth between Lima and Columbus. All her mother has for help is Jessica and a couple of siblings, who do not live in Lima.

“It has been a rough year trying to make ends meet,” Jessica said. “I am living off a small income, and I don’t have enough for gifts.”

Jessica doesn’t want to disappoint her five children, two boys, Jonah, 15, and Gabriel, 7, and three girls, Ruth, 12, Lilly, 9 and Ellen, 4.

She typically buys what her kids need, such as winter coats, boots, hats and gloves. In past years, she also tried to buy them a few clothing items, including pajamas. If she had extra money, she would buy them a couple of things they wanted.

Jonah, who is growing into being a man, wears men’s size pants with a 34-inch waist with 32 length, and medium shirts. He wears a size 11 1/2 shoe. Her younger son wears a children’s size 18 shirt and pant and a size 3 1/2 shoe.

Ruth wears a 14 to 16 size jeans and extra-large girl’s shirt and size 6 shoe. Lilly wears a size 12 jean and large girl’s shirt and 3 1/2 shoe. Ellen wears a 10-12 jean and shirt and a size 1 shoe.

When it comes to wants and interests, Jonah is a gamer, but his friend broke his old Xbox, so he has nothing now. Gabriel loves wrestling figures and playing with cars.

Ruth loves Hello Kitty and also likes crafts, making jewelry from beads. Lilly is in between; she likes to make crafts like Ruth but she likes dolls like Ellen. Ellen also likes kitchen items and learning toys.

For Jessica, she is currently looking for work and working on improving her marketable skills as she dreams of getting a better job. She is taking classes through the Allen County Department of Job and Family Services, so when her mother recovers she can find employment and catch up on bills.

For now, her dream is Christmas gifts for her children.

The Empty Stocking Fund benefits three cooperating agencies, Bradfield Community Center, Cheryl Allen Southside Community Center and the Salvation Army. Money can be donated by sending it to The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima OH 45807, or by dropping it off at any Superior Federal Credit Union branch. Donations of new toys and nonperishable food items will be accepted at The Lima News office. These stories use assumed names to protect the participants’ privacy.

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