As a parent, you work hard to give your kids more than you had growing up – more opportunities, nicer things, a better education. But sometimes, no matter how much you want to give your kids a better life than you experienced, circumstances are stacked against you.
Dora Jamaica has four children -- two who have special needs and one with diabetes -- and a husband whose heart condition prevents him from working. Caring for her children and managing the budget for a family of six that is reliant on SSI benefits to make ends meet is more than a full-time job for Dora.
She definitely understands difficult circumstances.
“We don’t have a big budget for gas or anything, but if it’s going to help him, we’re going to do it,” Jamaica said about transporting her son to special services for his disability. “We have to budget what we eat. And when something goes off, we have to step it up, go to pantries, and do whatever we have to do to make it to through the month. He needs to go to that school to make it in life.”
Day-to-day is tough, but holidays are sometimes the hardest times of the year to face the reality of not being able to give to your kids.
Without organizations such as For Love of Children (FLOC) and their Christmas for Kids program, families like Jamaica's wouldn't have had a Christmas at all these past few years.
“That makes a difference because, when you don’t have anything to give your child, you feel empty, too,” Jamaica said. “It just brightens your day to know FLOC is out there to help you when you really need it.”
Jamaica and her family relocated to Dayton in 2013 from the south side of Chicago, where gang violence was prevalent.
“It was just too much, and my kids were getting ready to be teenagers,” Jamaica said. “We didn’t even know anybody here. We had to make sure our kids were safe.”
Knowing her family was safe was a gift, but during their first Christmas in Dayton, there were no gifts under the tree. They had just scraped together enough cash to replace the furnace in their home.
"We don't have family here, so when we found out about FLOC, that there was someone to help us out when we need it… it makes a big difference," Jamaica said. "We wouldn't be able to keep on going. To know they are there, it makes me feel like we have family around."
Christy Lowe, volunteer community outreach coordinator and board member for FLOC, works tirelessly to solicit donations for Christmas for Kids because she knows what it was like to be an underprivileged child.
“Kids in a bad place don’t deserve used gifts or cheap dollar store gifts, regardless of their parent’s or foster parent’s situation,” Lowe said, recalling the Christmas she received a used yarn kit that had been taped back together. “It just made me feel like that was my worth.”
Volunteers like Lowe organize the Christmas for Kids program, and hundreds of others contribute toys and financial gifts, helping more than 2000 Miami Valley children each year receive Christmas gifts.
“My strength is getting donations. People give because I have the personality where I don’t mind asking people to give,” Lowe said. “The worst they can say is no, then you just keep asking until they say yes. If you have a good heart, and it’s a good organization, who doesn’t want to help an underprivileged child?”
FLOC does so much more than put Christmas gifts in the hands of children who might not otherwise receive one. With more than a dozen programs that provide enrichment and educational support for local children, FLOC serves over 6000 Dayton-area children annually. For the 2018 holiday season, FLOC will be serving children attending Emerson Academy and City Day Schools, in addition to children cared for by Montgomery County Children's Services.
Jamaica and her family have benefited from so many of the resources that FLOC provides, from a formal outfit for her oldest to attend a dance, to school uniforms and school supplies. FLOC has been instrumental in making sure Jamaica can provide for her family and keep her kids focused on their education.
“I feel like I have to be doing something right even though I don’t have anything to give them,” Jamaica said about her oldest son, who started college classes this fall. “Hopefully I’m pointing them in the right direction in their life, so they won’t have to struggle as much as I do. You can’t give them everything, but you can show them what you know and be there for them.”
You can help families like Jamaica's and many others in the Miami Valley ensure that their children have gifts to open this holiday season. Click here to learn how to donate to FLOC, or you can call (937) 223-3562.