Mother of two makes gift cards from Goodfellow Fund go further

ARLINGTON -- On Thanksgiving Day, Tamika and her two older children scoured the J.C. Penney newspaper ads. The next day, she woke up long before dawn and headed to the store for its 4 a.m. Black Friday opening.

The prices were too good to pass up, Tamika said. The 33-year-old single mother of three smartly made the most of the two $50 gift cards she had received from the Goodfellow Fund.

Out of work for nearly two years, Tamika has learned to stretch her money, and this time it meant being out with hundreds of other bargain hunters on the busiest shopping day of the holiday season.

"It was really crowded," Tamika said. "But the kids had what they wanted circled, and I went right to it. I only went to the children's area."

Tamika wrote to the Goodfellow Fund on behalf of her children Siete, 11, and Isaiah, 4. She also has Sophia, 2.

"I am asking for gifts for my children this Christmas because I can't financially afford it," she wrote. "We are just asking for a little help to add a big smile this Christmas."

The Star-Telegram's 98-year-old Goodfellow Fund is helping Tarrant County school-age children during the holidays. Hundreds of applicants have completed the screening process, and like Tamika, have received their cards. Many more have interviews scheduled in coming days.

Tamika said she is thankful for the generosity of others.

Last year, with a goal of $900,000, the Goodfellow Fund raised $876,810 and served about 18,000 school-age children. This year, the fund has an ambitious goal of raising $1 million to serve 20,000 children.

Donations are on pace with last year, said Richard Greene, Goodfellows director.

"We knew it'd be an aggressive goal," Greene said. "We just need people reading to make a donation ... whatever they can afford."

The need is greater this year as the economy struggles to recover and unemployment remains high. Tamika knows firsthand just how tough the job market is.

She last worked full time for the Small Business Administration, verifying loan applications of business owners hurt by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Before that job, she worked in customer service for a large financial services company.

In the spring, she got temporary work with the Census Bureau.

Tamika said she has sent out "tons" of résumés and recently had some interviews, only to be disappointed.

Tamika leases a home using housing assistance, but the water has been shut off, she said.

She doesn't qualify for unemployment anymore and hasn't received child support in many months from the children's fathers, two of whom are also not working.

"I have to look at my kids, and I can't give up," Tamika said. "I just pray."