Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holidays can be tough for many families

The holiday season can be a very hard time for families who are struggling to get by, as Christmas presents and special dinners often result in more bills that they can’t afford to pay.

Local organizations such as the Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge are stepping in to help these families, though, and are trying to bring them some holiday cheer.

On Wednesday, Nov. 25, the Lottridge center held a special Thanksgiving free meal along with its food box distribution. More than 150 people enjoyed the Thanksgiving lunch, and more than 50 families were able to pick up food boxes at the pantry that day.

Coolville residents Valerie Magill and Jason Simms were among those at the center for the Thanksgiving meal. Magill also volunteered to work at the food pantry for the day.

“I like helping people,” Magill said. She formerly worked as a nurse, but had to stop working in that field after she sustained a serious back injury.

“I have been off of work for a year,” she said. Her back has gotten better, but her doctor does not want her to go back to the type of work she used to do because it would most likely cause another injury. She also has other health problems relating to her battle with cancer four years ago and other health issues.
Currently, she receives Ohio Works First cash assistance and volunteers at the food pantry for the work hours she has to complete in order to receive the assistance.

Simms, meanwhile, has his own serious health problems stemming from a car accident that he was in when he was 10 years old. He was in a coma for 10 days after the accident, and his brain stem was injured. He has had health problems ever since the accident, and is unable to work.
Magill and Simms have four kids between them, and they survive on the monthly income of $455 she receives in cash assistance and $700 he receives from Social Security.

“We struggle to get by,” Magill said. They pay $510 per month in rent, and have very little money to pay all of their expenses.

“My self-esteem, it’s been down,” Magill added. She would like to work a full-time job again and has been looking for work. Her car needs repaired, though, and the Athens County Job and Family Services Prevention, Retention and Contingency (PRC) program that used to pay for car repairs for people who needed their vehicles for work is no longer operating. That program was eliminated earlier this year due to cuts in state funding.

Magill and Simms are not sure how they will pay for Christmas presents for the children or pay for other holiday and winter expenses. But they are thankful for everything they do have and for the programs such as the one at Lottridge that provide assistance. They are also hopeful that things will improve for them soon.