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Students bridge gap for needy family

Each year thousands of residents of Fresno County suffer financial hardships without basic necessities required for daily life. Often their plight goes unnoticed amidst the holiday rush and New Year’s festivities.

During December, Leticia (last name not used to protect family) and her family of five children found themselves in government housing without basic necessities as the man of the house was recently imprisoned.

Leticia, who works full-time as a night janitor, is currently attending school part-time during the day to become a medical assistant. According to the social worker (who did not want to be identified), she has fallen through the cracks for government assistance and they family has been forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor in their clothes in order to keep warm.

While the five children live with their mother in Fresno, Leticia has two 10-month old twins living in a foster home in Visalia. The five children at home range from 20 months to 12-years-old. A warm plate of food is not always a guarantee for them each day.

Local government assistance only gives $60 a month to purchase food and other necessary supplies. According to the social worker, Leticia’s wages are garnished which means money is automatically taken out to pay for her two children in foster care and rent to the government for her two-bedroom 900 square foot cinderblock house.

Just before school let out for Christmas vacation, Greg Stobbe, English teacher, was made aware of Leticia’s situation through a meeting with the foster mom.

“My wife is a friend of the foster mom and she explained the unfortunate circumstances and living situations Leticia and her children were living under,” Stobbe said. “As teachers we encourage students to participate in community service and I felt compelled to do something for someone who obviously needed help.”

While Stobbe’s family gave to help needy families in town, he also decided to challenge his English classes to bring whatever they could to help this unfortunate family on Dec.11. The class has responded favorably with food, clothes, blankets, pillows and Christmas presents. Stobbe delivered much of the needed gifts and supplies in time for Christmas.

“I gave to this needy family because I realize how much I have compared to less fortunate people,” Chris Byrnes, ’06, said. “I wanted this family to have a better Christmas. I hope what I did helped in some way.”

The 11 and 12-year-old boys cried when blankets were delivered to their home.

“Do you mean we really get to keep these blankets?” both the boys said. “This is so great; we normally sleep in our clothes.”

Before campus parents and students donated, the families basic needs were barely being met.

“I decided to participate in helping the family because I have been blessed with a lot,” Rene Charest, ’04, said. “The family can not even keep warm. It just felt like the right thing to do. I take seriously what James wrote in 2:16: ‘Suppose a brother is without clothes, or food. If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well feed, but does nothing for his needs, what good is it?'”

Leticia was overwhelmed with the support of the students and sent a belated Christmas card to Stobbe. In the card, she wrote, “We want to thank you and all your friends for all the great gifts and food. You are a wonderful blessing. Thank you from my family.”

Students have continued to bring in extra food and supplies to Stobbe’s room. He has made two more trips to Leticia’s apartment. And to her credit, she is also sharing supplies with her neighbors she does not need.

“I feel so blessed that I had to share with the woman who lives above me,” Leticia said. “She is worse off than I am and I couldn’t let her kids go without.”

Stobbe said he will continue to deliver goods and supplies as long as students bring them and Leticia needs them. She is scheduled to move to more permanent housing in the beginning of February.

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