Thousands of North Texas families have sent handwritten letters to the Star-Telegram’s Goodfellow Fund in the past couple of months, explaining their stories of financial and emotional hardship.
They’re hoping to receive $50 J.C. Penney gift cards to buy their children clothing and shoes for Christmas.
Among the letters this year are stories of struggle related to the economic downturn from which North Texas is slowly recovering. Many people were laid off from their jobs. Some are working two jobs. Others just can’t find work.
They feel like 29-year-old Benita of Arlington, who lost her job as a part-time Whataburger cashier. After the school year started, she said, business started slowing down, and the company cut her hours to 15 hours a week. And then she was let go in early September.
She has been looking for jobs at warehouses and temp services. She applied to Dollar Tree and Jack in the Box. But she has been unsuccessful, she said.
Now she relies on food stamps, government housing and assistance from her boyfriend, who is having a hard time, too.
“It’s been a real struggle. I’m barely making it paying the bills,” she said. “I even lost my truck that I was making payments on three weeks ago. Now it’s even harder to find a job.”
Richard Greene, executive director of the 101-year-old Star-Telegram charity, said he has seen letters like Benita’s consistently each holiday season since the recession started in 2008.
“It’s just hard to make ends meet,” he said. “All they want is a little something for their children for Christmas. They’re not asking for Xboxes. All they’re really asking for is new clothes.”
And that’s exactly what Benita wants this year — jackets, shoes and hats for her seven kids.
“Thanks to God, we have basically what they need,” she said. “We just need a little help.”