Mom turned to Goodfellows after staying home with ill daughter cost her a job

Stephanie’s employer for three years had a tough policy on absences: Exceed a certain number, and no excuse would prevent a pink slip.

The 33-year-old Fort Worth single mother of three “missed some work because my daughter was sick,” she said. After too many days, she got the boot.

In the fifth year that Stephanie has applied for holiday gift help from the Goodfellow Fund, 9-year-old daughter Dereuna — who suffers from asthma — is her only child who still qualifies. At ages 15 and 16, her boys are no longer eligible for the Christmas season program that provides $50 J.C. Penney gift cards for clothes and shoes.

“I already got the gift card,” said Stephanie, who is unemployed. “I’m waiting for Black Friday so it’ll be worth more.”

Stephanie’s skills for stretching dollars has — by necessity — sharpened over the last half-decade.

“I did fast food for a while, but that wasn’t for me,” she said. “You can’t take care of three kids on minimum wage.”

That brings up something else Stephanie has learned. The only way to make life better for herself and her kids is to change her skill set.

“Maybe if I get a little better educated I can get a better job,” she said.

So Stephanie is going into a Texas Workforce Commission program that could lead to certification as a nurse’s assistant.

“I can at least be making $10 an hour at a nursing home,” Stephanie said. “I want to work during the day while my kids are in school so I can be home with them in the evening.”

And what about the teenagers who didn’t get gift cards this year? Well, they’re self-gifting to help their mom.

“My oldest is working a little bit pushing carts at [the retailer who fired her],” Stephanie said. “His brother has had some lawn-mowing jobs. They’re putting together money so they can get themselves the new Xbox.”

Stephanie and her kids are proving that where will is strong, ways are found.

“My message to people is don’t give up,” she said.

Be a jolly Goodfellow

Since 1912, the Star-Telegram’s Goodfellow Fund has provided practical gifts for schoolchildren. Join this tradition by sending a contribution to Goodfellows, Box 1870, Fort Worth, TX 76101. Or go online to and make a secure credit card donation.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram