Monopoly money, something I remember thinking as a young child standing impatiently by my mother’s side, watching her tear paper coupons out of a book and hand them to the cashier. I was too young to understand anything different about the poverty my brothers and I grew up in. Not long ago, I found myself in a similar situation. A few years back, instead of waking up Christmas morning excited about opening presents like most children, my oldest daughter Lilia ran into my room and jumped on my bed exclaiming to the world that she knew it was Christmas because Santa had come and filled up the kitchen with food. That was my epiphany. I’m Marla Williams and this is the window into the life of a struggling family. A mother determined to break the cycle of poverty. A woman fueled by the love of my family, my community, my education, and leadership.
Our family has faced some challenges in the past few years. In July 2008, I held a job in the mortgage industry that paid fairly well. Two years later, I was laid off. Michael, my husband, is a veteran who has served two tours in Iraq. He was enrolled at Los Medanos College working on his associate’s degree at that time and employed full-time making minimum wage. Through the discouragement of the situation, the children had to adapt suddenly to several new changes at once. They went from a life that was comfortable to a life that left them struggling. They have slept in the backseat in the early hours of morning while I worked a second job throwing newspapers out of the car window to make ends meet.
My daughters, Lilia and Toria, know what it is to be hungry and go without. It is their love that keeps my husband and I motivated. I decided to seek out help within my community. I went to social services to see what programs I might qualify for to temporarily better our situation. After the frustration of being told we make too much money for some forms of assistance, I discovered that we could get help with groceries and fresh produce from the Food Bank.
After taking career training courses, I am helping my family change our circumstances, the holidays this year will look different for my girls. Michael is no longer working at a minimum wage job, however money is still tight. The Food Bank is the glue that holds struggling families together when we have expenses like a $900.00 car repair and there isn’t enough money left over to buy groceries. I went to the local pantry to pick up groceries just this morning so we can make it until his next payday this Friday.
I’m a dedicated individual when it comes to making our communities more resourceful for families in need. I believe in the power one individual can have to change not only their circumstances for the better but for the community around them as well. My family is on our way to no longer needing support from the Food Bank, but many like us are still in need of a helping hand. I will continue to fight to save community programs that are so vital to hundreds of families facing financial challenges in this economy.