“She is 13 years old, and she’s washing the family’s laundry in the bathtub because they don’t have a washer and dryer. Dad is doing the best he can to manage her and her younger brother but this family is living in a crisis. Is there anything you can do for them?”
This anonymous message came to us from a teacher during our 12 Days of Christmas Giving last year.
We are asked all the time for donations and for help. I didn’t know what to do… everything was already planned and set up and scheduled.
And I was overwhelmed with help requests.
So, I responded saying maybe next year.
I have felt the weight of that poor decision for the last 365 days.
Who was this child? How can this be happening? How is she managing to wash laundry in the bathtub when my own children can barely manage to get their dirty clothes into their bedroom hampers?
This family can’t afford to wash laundry?
I am embarrassed to admit what I spend on my children’s sports… the costs of washing my children’s laundry doesn’t even enter the bank balance equation.
She never left my mind.
And this year we started searching for her.
With the help of a few different community groups and then the school itself, we were able to approach this family and offer some help.
We invited them into the store so that we could meet them. The young girl was dressed in clothes that were so huge for her tiny frame. She said the clothes were hand-me-downs from her Grandma and Dad.
Trevor was chatting away with Dad on the other side of the shop while I was over here talking with the two children.
I couldn’t help it. I said to her “Would you like to work here for the months of November and December? We could use some extra help around here for this Christmas Season.”
She lit right up, was bursting with excitement and wanted to tell her Dad immediately!! I explained to her that I have very high expectations of all of my staff but that we are all very respectful of each other. You need to ask questions if you are unsure. You will need to work very hard. You need to come here in clean clothes. You will learn a lot, then you can use us as a reference for other companies if you work hard and do a good job here.
Well. Let me tell you.
This young girl is amazing. She does work very hard and wants to do her best at all times!! She is wiggling her way into our hearts as she dances and sings in the back of the shop while stuffing jerky bags.
She says things that floor us completely.
I can work any day, except for Tuesdays because that’s Foodbank Day. I walk to Safeway to pick up the groceries because we don’t have a vehicle. I would like to be a cosmetologist one day. I cut my own hair. I cut my brother’s hair. I get paid $5 to cut other people’s hair in our apartment building. I just wash the laundry in the bathtub. I love Ardene’s but it’s so expensive there, we cannot afford that.
Other comments seriously cannot even be posted.
What amazes me is her resilience.
She doesn’t even seem to notice what she doesn’t have.
We immediately wanted to buy them a washer and dryer set, but their living arrangements do not accommodate this.
So, we take her shopping. We tell her that we are going to buy her everything she needs but it becomes overwhelming for her, and for us…because she NEEDS everything.
Driving into the mall, I explain to her that we are going to pick up a whole bunch of new things for her. She immediately asks, can we buy something for your daughter, Olive, too?
New shoes, winter jacket, spring jacket, jeans, t-shirts, mitts, touqes (they walk to school), sweaters, hoodies, leggings, socks, new bedding, and everything to cover girly things.
She comes out of the change room and says “I feel so pretty!! Can I wear this new sweater now?”
We have purchased a new bike for the boy… his bike has been stolen 3 times (locks cut). Dad will be able to give this to him at Christmas time
She asks, where do you get all of your money from and why are you doing this? I tell her that we work very hard, we save money, but that giving to others is very important to us.
Can we maybe buy something that I could give my brother for Christmas?
She picks out a pair of socks for him.
Our staff here notice that she cannot see very well. Actually, she can barely see at all it seems. So we have found her optometrist and paid to have her prescription glasses ordered. Dad was trying to save money for these but they are $248 and it takes a long time to set that much aside.
We have sent meals and treats home every time she is at work and she’s always so grateful.
But it doesn’t seem enough.
The younger brother is quite bullied at school. They are simply not able to wash clothes enough. Kids pick up on this and they are both easy prey.
Buying all these new clothes for them both is only good until they need to be laundered. This was bothering me. New clothes isn’t enough.
So. Yesterday we contacted Grove Laundromat. I was looking for a full laundry service. I need help helping this family. I can’t have this young girl dragging her bedding across the highway in the dark after school, can you help us? After we explained the situation, they were so eager to help!! Every Tuesday the laundry will be picked up from their home and delivered back to them on Thursdays.
We have started it off with $500 in washing/drying credits.
I want to apologize to the teacher that reached out for help. We want to thank you for asking us. Sometimes, certain situations are too much for one person to help with on their own. And asking for help can be even harder. Thank you for recognizing the situation and for reaching out to us.
I am so sorry it took me so long.
And now, I will ask all of you for help which is something I almost never do.
If you would like to continue helping this particular family, we would take monetary donations dropped of at our store to keep this laundry service going for as long as we can.
If you happen to have a gift card to Ardene’s, Safeway, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Winners, or Subway… I think these would go a long way in helping them.
Always stay humble and kind.
~ Amanda & Trevor Wilhauk
Wilhauk Beef Jerky Ltd. Spruce Grove