Ann’s voice catches and quivers with emotion as she recalls the “most terrible” time in her life just a few years ago when she was unsure if she could put food on the table, let alone buy Christmas gifts for her young children.
“I was going through a separation and the father wasn’t really helping out at all financially and I was trying to go to school while on welfare and going through all these court procedures and, well, it was a really bad time,” said the single mom of two youngsters who asked that her real name be withheld.
Ann said she was getting behind in her bill payments and that was only the beginning of her troubles.
“It was terrible,” she said.
“I was stressed and depressed (and) getting counselling because I didn’t know how to handle the stress and —” she paused, her words catching in her throat.
“It takes me back to that time and I remember how hard it really was,” she said, unable to hide the familiar feelings of helplessness and despair that rushed back with the memories.
“I didn’t know if I could provide for my kids,” she said.
Ann was faced many times with the choice of paying a bill or buying groceries.
And it became worse in December.
“I was worried and didn’t know if I would be able to give my kids Christmas presents,” she said.
The worried mom said she had a few Christmas decorations at the time, but debated whether or not to display them.
“I thought putting them up would maybe make it even worse. It was a really hard time.”
Just when Ann believed things couldn’t get any worse, the situation got better.
“My sister, who was helping me out as much as she could, put my name in the North Island Gazette’s Hamper Fund,” Ann recalled.
Soon, a hamper with food for the table and toys for the children was dropped at her door.
“When it came, I was just in tears,” Ann said.
“It was overwhelming to know I wouldn’t have to worry so much and I could have a Christmas dinner with my children. It was just awesome and I knew this would help us stay afloat.”
Now back on her feet, Ann said she’s never forgotten that moment and is grateful to the anonymous donors who helped her and her children.
“It is about the kids and I don’t think a lot of people understand when you can’t provide for your kids, not being able to buy much — or anything — for them at Christmas, it really puts a lot on you as a parent,” she said.
“When you have what you have, you don’t think about it too much until you don’t have it.”
Ann is now one of the many generous North Islanders who donates to the yearly Hamper Fund so that others might have a happier Christmas.
“It’s not about spending all this money, it’s about thinking about others, because I know when I was down people were thinking about me, thinking about helping me out,” she said.
“I am more grateful to those people than you can imagine.”
The need this year is greater than ever and, to that end, Hamper Fund donation tins can be found at various retail locations around the North Island.
Donations of new toys and non-perishable food items are also gratefully accepted.
Toy and food donations can be dropped off at most banks and stores that sell toys, as well as at the Gazette.