THE GOOD NEIGHBOR FUND
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle, shown here standing in the entrance to her family's apartment, is part of the Community Clearinghouse's Adopt-A-Family program. She and her children need financial help, a carpet and some dressers.
Needed: A little extra aloha
Families need your help during the holiday season
MICHELLE ALWAYS had her children drop some coins into the Salvation Army collection kettles as a lesson in giving from the heart.
Even on a tight budget, she felt "there's always someone worse off than you" and "you never know when you're going to need help one day," said the mother of five, who did not want her last name published.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Monetary gifts may be sent to the Star-Bulletin's Good Neighbor Fund, c/o Helping Hands Hawaii, P.O. Box 17328, Honolulu, HI 96817.
Clothing, household items and gifts can be donated at the Community Clearinghouse, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway. To arrange for pickup of large items, call 536-7234.
You may also participate in the Adopt-A-Family program, in which businesses, employee groups, social clubs, families or individuals can help a specific family. For information, call 440-3804.
Back then, she knew they were "already heading that way" themselves -- barely able to make ends meet even with her and her husband each working two jobs seven days a week.
Now, with Michelle giving up both of her jobs to raise the children, they are finding themselves in the predicament of being one paycheck away from homelessness.
Helping Hands Hawaii is including families like Michelle's on its annual Santa's list for those who need a break and a bit of hope in their daily struggle.
Through its Adopt-A-Family program and the Community Clearinghouse, Helping Hands Hawaii and the Star-Bulletin are asking the public to donate money, household items, clothing and any other extras between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Michelle had to give up waitressing seven days a week since her youngest daughter was born a year ago with a moderate hearing loss in both ears. But Michelle said she hopes to start working part-time again soon.
Without her salary, she and her husband live from paycheck to paycheck to cover their bills. Recently, the rent for the two-bedroom apartment went up by $100 to $900 a month, and when their electricity and gas prices increased, panic set in, Michelle said.
The five children sleep in the living room, but they recently had to rip out the old, dirty carpet. And the kids are ashamed to invite their friends over because the house is cluttered and cramped, Michelle said.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle poses with three of her five children. In spite of her family's difficulties, she gives priority to her children's education by sacrificing some comforts so they can afford after-school Kumon instruction.
At night, rats, mice and "big, flying cockroaches" come out and try to enter their apartment, so they have to keep their windows closed and stuff the cracks in their doors with newspaper. Trying to sleep in hot and stuffy conditions while listening to the rats scampering about above the ceiling is not easy, she said.
In spite of their difficulties, Michelle gives priority to the children's education by sacrificing some comforts so they can afford after-school Kumon instruction.
She pays the tuition for one child, and an ex-husband pays for two other children to attend. Two of her children have scholarships to attend Kamehameha Schools.
"I'm big on education; I invest in that so they don't end up like this," she said. "I wish I had someone to guide me. ... My kids are our future. My kids are going to grow up to be something."
Michelle's family could use a section of 9-by-12 carpet, fans, dressers, Signing Time DVDs for the deaf, and books for a 12-year-old boy.