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Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

Hope for Christmas

FIRST-PERSON

Posted: December 22, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 22, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Stevenson Ranch resident Jess Dering's oldest son, Hayden, poses with a stuffed animal. Courtesy photo

 

I’m a single mother of two young children. We relocated to Santa Clarita after I lost my job as a media content manager in the Silicon Valley a few short years ago.

Our family has always helped others during the holiday season.

For years, my son Hayden, who is a patient at Stanford Children’s Hospital, organized a local toy drive that raised hundreds of toys each year for young patients in need.

Hayden always said he didn’t want children in the hospital to think they were forgotten by Santa on Christmas morning.

Most years, Hayden spent every weekend from Thanksgiving until Christmas outside of local grocery stores raising toys and gift cards for his cause.

The past few years have been quite a struggle for my family.

When we first arrived in Santa Clarita, after losing my job and our house in Northern California, my close friend took my boys and I in and let us stay in her living room. After months of searching for work, I finally got a job at a local nonprofit, the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.

I love my job tremendously because I get to help put a smile on a senior’s face each day.

Like my son, with the young patients he began to know while receiving care at his Children’s hospital, I too began to know the seniors who frequented our center, and they began to warm my heart and make my job incredibly rewarding.

However, the challenge of working for a nonprofit is not having enough money to make ends meet at times, especially as a single parent.

Last year, my son’s teacher donated grocery gift cards to us after hearing about our struggles before finding work again. I was completely taken back when I opened Hayden’s backpack to find a card that read: “You are loved, and you will get through this,” with five gift cards inside.

It touches my heart greatly to know how loved my boys and I are by this community, which has come to our rescue like heroes in a fire.

The staff I work with has been incredible, as well as my son’s teachers and the few close friends I have in Santa Clarita.

Currently, my two children and I are sharing a small one-bedroom apartment in Stevenson Ranch. Less than three years ago, we shared a house that was ours to call home. Even though our apartment is made up of only one small bedroom and living room, we have made it our “home.”

I have no family remaining, other than my two sons. My father and brother both passed away from terminal illness, and my mother passed shortly after.

Even when my son was diagnosed at an early age with his medical challenges, I knew, like I did with my father and brother, I had to be the captain of life’s ship and steer our lives into that positive horizon my family needed.
That is why it is especially hard for me now to think of possibly failing my boys as a mother, who cannot fully provide for them the way I should be able to.

I often struggle to pay our rent and bills. That period of being out of work before finding opportunity here in Santa Clarita, as well as the constant flow of my son’s medical bills coming in, set me back several months, leaving my family in financial quicksand.

Currently, I am in jeopardy of losing our vehicle — the vehicle I rely on to get my son to and from medical care, as well as work each day.

It pains me deeply that, during Christmas, I can barely afford partial bill payments, let alone presents to put around our bare tree.

The one thing my son Hayden used to worry about for the children in the hospital — Santa forgetting to arrive — is what I am currently worrying about for my own children.

I can’t fail my kids by not bringing Santa into our home this week, and I am scared that without finding some sort of help, Santa may not make it here at all.

For more information about or to contact Jess, email scv_christmasfamily@yahoo.com.

Editor’s Note: Jess works as an office manager at the SCV Senior Center. The Signal asked her to provide us with an email address for publication of this story.

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