A work in progress. 12 feet up a tree in the small yard outside of Chrissy’s trailer is a treehouse in progress. Her Dad is building it for her and her four siblings. It isn’t finished yet, and will require a great deal of time, effort and resources but those boards sitting up amongst those tree branches are a symbol of hope for this family. Hope is building. This treehouse will be a place that they will play. It will be a place where they can just be kids. While they are just kids, they have faced some harsh times that most kids would never even imagine.
I met Chrissy when she was a 3rd grader in my classroom. I knew (because I was her teacher) that she was receiving food through the BnB program. She was a quiet, polite student with such a big heart for others. Chrissy was the kid who would slip sweet little handwritten notes on my desk at the conclusion of a school day. It broke my heart when, halfway through the year, she told me she lost her home and was moving to a motel. Motel life was rough and I worried about her family. At first her mom still managed to get her to school. But soon she ran out of money for gas and Chrissy withdrew from our school. I wasn’t sure she’d be back. I worried how her family would make ends meet without the support of a program like Buses n’ Backpacks.
Just months before, her family had been saving for a house. What turn of events could lead this family from anticipation of a new house to anxiety of living in a motel in just a few months? As it turns out, Chrissy’s grandma was diagnosed with cancer. Much of the family’s money went into her treatments and her income was lost as she recovered. Soon after, Chrissy’s family lost their trailer and were forced to relocate to the motel.
“I can’t count how many times we’ve moved,” she said when I asked her how she felt about it, “That time three of us shared a twin bed in the motel room.” But her family pulled through this difficult time and secured a trailer and soon Chrissy and her sister returned to school. They have lived in that trailer with her grandparents for over two years now.
Inside their trailer resides eight people. Chrissy’s grandma and grandpa share a room. Her mom, dad and three-year-old brother are in another room, and she and her two sisters share the third room. Not only does everybody not have their own room, but they don’t even have their own bed. Space is tight, but so is their family. They’ve been through a lot but with the help of Buses n‘ Backpacks, they are making it.
“It helps a lot when we have no food and then we have some,” Chrissy said of the Buses n’ Backpacks program. It takes some of the burden off the parents to buy all of the food essentials for her large family to feed them through the weekends. “Mom can spend money on snacks more and can pay her car payments when she has money.”
“I love the macaroni, the green beans, peas, and the corn,” she answered when asked what was her favorite food in the backpacks. On second thought, she recalled one time when she found a chocolate bar in her backpack. While she admits to calling “dibs” on certain food items in the backpacks each week, she shared her chocolate bar with her siblings.
The backpacks provide hope for her family. They help provide additional food essentials during this transition. The hope is that they will one day buy a house of their own with a bedroom for each child. Maybe it will even have a pool and a yard complete with a treehouse. Chrissy is in middle school now… she just started 6th grade. While she no longer receives a backpack, she says their family relies on the one her little sister brings home each week. “She sometimes forgets to return the backpack and we set it next to her school backpack to help her remember.” One day they will no longer need a backpack. But today they are incredibly thankful to bring one home each week.