From $85K to Unemployed: One Mother’s Story Shows the Reality of Poverty

For several years, Ginger (shown above) and her coworkers have teamed up to support a family during CCCC’s annual Christmas event, Operation Santa. Every year, they purchased gifts for a family in need, often going above and beyond to share the Christmas spirit.

This year, however, was even more special than usual. Through Operation Santa, Ginger and her coworkers met a recently unemployed mother who challenged the common stereotypes many of us have about poverty. She had recently lost her job with an $85,000 annual salary and found herself unable to buy Christmas gifts for her children. Her story made for a memorable Christmas experience for these loyal Operation Santa donors.

Ginger was kind enough to sit down with CCCC for an interview, and you can read this touching story below:

Ginger, you and your coworkers have donated to Operation Santa for years. What has your past experience with Operation Santa been like?

My office has been participating for years. Every family has been so overwhelmed when we come by. The year before last, my boss went out and got beds for the kids. They didn’t have beds. There have been times that we’ve gotten bikes, and we collect money as well to buy gift cards.

This year was my favorite.

This past Christmas, a single mother in Gilbert registered her two children for Operation Santa, and her story came as quite a surprise. What happened when you contacted her?

At first I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t get a hold of her. I was a little concerned because we needed to make sure we had a family. One of the things that made me wonder is that she lived over by Highland High School in a pretty nice area. That kind of brought up a red flag because why does somebody who lives in such a nice area need help?

But when she got back to me, she said her son had been in the hospital because he had croup. She moved to Gilbert from Chicago because she had been transferred by her company, but then when she arrived here, they eliminated her position. When she moved she had a decent job making $85,000 a year, but soon after she moved down here, they eliminated her position. She rented this house. So, here she is stuck, and she has two little kids and is going to school.

What I liked about her was you could tell she was really striving to better herself. She didn’t want to have to ask for help, but she had to. And she told me she wants to be the one to adopt a family next year. So her story really touched us. We were so happy to help her.

So how did the people in your office respond to her story?

Oh, they loved it. When they heard she was going to school to get her real estate license, they were excited. She is just the nicest woman. We really liked her, and she brought us a little gift when we met her.

How did the actual distribution go when you gave her the gifts?

We met in the parking lot of CCCC. Four of us came from work, and one coworker brought her daughters along so they could help her pick out things for the kids. So her kids were involved in the shopping. The mother brought her kids. Oh my goodness, cute kids.

The little boy has had so many problems over his croup, and we were going to meet earlier, but she called and said he was sleeping. That was rare these days, so she didn’t want to wake him up, so we met later. I opened up the car door, and as soon as I saw him, he had a big smile on his face. He’s all smiles. He’s the cutest little thing.

What did your office give to the mother and her two kids for Christmas?

Oh gosh. We bought everything on their list, plus. They asked for normal things. The boy liked anything with wheels, so lots of cars and tub toys and a ball. The girl wanted a little stuffed kitty. We got lots of household items like toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent, and we got the mother a robe. One lady in our IT department buys a basket of household items every year. That’s her thing.

Making somebody’s day like that just makes you feel so good. We love to do it . We love to overdo it too. There were lots of hugs, and it was very heartwarming. You wish you would be there when the kids open their gifts on Christmas Eve. But she called us the week after Christmas to thank us and tell us how much the kids liked everything.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with Operation Santa?

We really appreciate having a place like CCCC to be able to do this. I remember one year, one of my coworkers volunteered to help CCCC translate Christmas wish lists from Spanish. And she said she cried and cried while she was doing it, especially when a little boy asked for toothpaste. You hear things like that, and you realize how lucky we are.