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Mom of 5 builds new life, is thankful for help from Christmas Bureau

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JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com

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  • 2013 Giving Guide: How you can help
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    Send checks to: The Empty Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. To donate online: charlotteobserver.com/emptystockingfund and use PayPal. For questions about your donation, call 704-358-5520. For questions about helping families, call Salvation Army Donor Relations: 704-714-4725.

    Total raised so far: $267,946.30.


  • The Empty Stocking Fund

    Charlotte Observer readers have given generously to the Empty Stocking Fund since about 1920. Last year, readers gave more than $286,000 to buy gifts for children in need. All contributions go to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau, which buys toys, food, clothing and gift cards for families. To qualify for the gifts, a recipient must demonstrate need. The name of every contributor will be published on CharlotteObserver.com, with the latest contributors listed daily on Page 2A of the Observer. If a contributor gives in someone’s memory or honor, we’ll publish that, too. Contributors also can remain anonymous. To donate by check: The Empty Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. To donate online: charlotteobserver.com/emptystockingfund.



Escaping domestic violence, Tyese Harris moved to Charlotte from Rochester, N.Y., with her two small children six years ago.

“I packed up one day and I said, ‘I’m going somewhere, I’m tired of it,’ ” she said.

She lived for a month with her grandmother. Then, wanting independence, she got her own place. “I was just determined for a new start and better life for my kids,” she said.

Harris, now 29, is still building her new life and works as a bus driver for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. She has three more children now, including 4-month-old twin girls, Kayliah and Ka-Leigh. Her three other children are Anthony, 9, Aniyah, 8, and Tyler, 3.

She described the youngsters as “playful, energetic, very giving and loving.”

Harris went back to work in August, just a month after the twins’ birth, because she needed the money to keep her household going.

As a single mom, raising five kids is difficult any day. And making Christmas special is even tougher.

The two most important things she wants for her children are that they’re happy and clothed, she said, but it’s tough to afford the presents she’d like to give them.

A couple of years ago, she found out about the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau and has received help from it for the past two years. The bureau will provide toys to more than 12,000 children this Christmas season. The Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund raises money for the bureau.

Harris, who will get help again this year, said the Salvation Army’s help at Christmas has been a blessing.

“I definitely appreciate them, and thank you for all your hard work,” she said. “Sometimes it may seem like they’re not changing people’s lives, but they are, because I’ve certainly been touched by them.”

Meeting with the Salvation Army staff has been a moving experience for Harris, she said, because they are always very kind. “It feels almost like family. It’s personal.”

She said when she’s more financially stable, she’d like to assist other people who need help making their Christmas as special as the Salvation Army has made her family’s.

“Someday I’ll be in a position where I can give back, because someone gave to me,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that need help.”

Ruebens: 704-358-5294; Twitter: @lruebens
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