Save Money in this Sunday's paper

Empty Stocking Fund

comments

Tight budget puts Charlotte couple’s focus on small joys

By Fred Clasen-Kelly
frkelly@charlotteobserver.com

More Information

  • Donate to Stocking Fund
  • Giving Guide: How you can help
  • 2013 stocking fund donors
  • More stories
  • 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.


  • How to help

    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: $270,771.30.



Janine Bettis-Daniels and her husband, Elijah, appear deeply in love, but they haven’t bought Christmas gifts for each other since they married nearly 10 years ago.

That’s because they have have bigger worries: They don’t have the money to pay their bills and buy Christmas presents for their four children.

“I try not to get stressed out, but you want your kids to wake up to presents,” said Bettis-Daniels, sounding weary as she looked toward a small Christmas tree in her living room. “Financially, we’re trying to catch up, pay the rent. It’s really hard.”

She and her husband both work jobs that pay slightly more than minimum wage, so they are seeking help from the Salvation Army Christmas Bureau to get toys for their 12-year-old daughter and three boys, ages 5 to 8.

The program, which helps low-income families, will provide more than 12,000 children with gifts, paid for partially with donations from Observer readers to the Empty Stocking Fund.

Bettis-Daniels prefers to talk about the good times ahead. She plans to go back to college to obtain a bachelor’s degree. She wants the same for her children. Her daughter, Victoria, is on the honor roll and made the middle school basketball team.

“Things are going to get better,” said Bettis-Daniels, who said she has a two-year associate degree in early childhood development. “We do what we gotta do. I have four kids, and all of them have to go to college.”

But the family’s financial issues are daunting.

Bettis-Daniels said the monthly bills are late. The couple struggle to pay the $715 monthly rent for their three-bedroom apartment in southwest Charlotte.

The problems worsened in 2009 when Bettis-Daniels said she lost her job at a local Head Start program. Despite a vigorous search, she said she could not find work until September, when she landed a job through a temp agency.

Now, she works 11-hour days at a warehouse, where she packs products. After taxes, Bettis-Daniels said she brings home $300 a week. She acknowledged feeling “embarrassed” that, at age 34, she makes $8 an hour.

Elijah Daniels, 33, said he works 12-hour shifts at a plant that makes recycling bins, earning $8.50 an hour. He recalls moving to Charlotte from Long Island, N.Y., about a decade ago because it was more affordable and had a slower pace.

The cost of housing is lower in Charlotte, but Elijah Daniels said his wages are disappointing.

That means the family makes sacrifices.

Bettis-Daniels and her husband, who were high school sweethearts, said they could not remember the last time they could afford to purchase Christmas gifts for each other.

To help the children cope, the couple said they emphasize the religious meaning of Christmas rather than gifts. The children, they said, have learned to appreciate even small joys.

Added Bettis-Daniels: “I will take my boys to the Dollar Tree, and you would think they were at Toys R Us.”

Clasen-Kelly: 704-358-5027
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
CharlotteObserver.com