Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Neighbors In Need Get Helping Hand

Marcela Crawford, back right, and family sit with Santa on Sunday during an early delivery to the Meiners Oaks family

By Sondra Murphy
Instead of the usual secret Santa exchange, staff at the Ojai Valley News decided to find a local family that could use a little extra holiday cheer this season. We knew we had found the perfect candidate to sponsor this Christmas when we learned about Marcela Crawford.
Crawford’s kidneys began failing with the birth of her last child, now 8 years old. In February 2005, Crawford started dialysis treatments at Santa Paula Dialysis. She currently goes for dialysis three times a week for at least four hours per treatment. “I know the machine is keeping me alive, but there’s no freedom in my life,” said Crawford. “It’s an oxymoron: it gives me freedom, but it’s like a ball and chain.”
Crawford experiences pain and lethargy after her dialysis, but tries to perk up by the time her children get home from school. Mother of six, Crawford has three still at home: daughter Heidi, an 18-year-old Ventura College student; and two sons, 13-year-old Dakota and 8-year-old Cade. Her daughter, Ginger, has three children of her own to raise. Eldest son, Andrew, is a Forest Service Hot Shot who has been on recent fire crews. Braun is 19 and works in construction as the market allows.
Her medical condition has been hard for once-active Crawford to adapt to. “For the first year-and-a-half, I couldn’t get out of bed,” she said. “So I went from ‘Miss Activity,’ having a great time to, I’m totally in bed and waiting for a transplant.”
She drove for Ojai Trolley for 10 years and enjoyed the social interaction that was part of the job. “I loved the kids and the people,” said Crawford. “As a driver, I got to know them and I really miss them.”
Crawford lost her insurance benefits after her kidneys failed and was placed on state assistance. Social Security and child support for her youngest children helps a bit. “I get $100 a month for food. I’m not allowed to get food stamps because I get SSI,” said Crawford. “All the money we make is not enough to pay rent.”
The loss of her paycheck has been challenging to overcome. She lost the house she had just bought during the storms of 2005. FEMA helped get her into another place but, once there, the emergency agency offered no other help. “I’ve been evicted three times since this has happened and that’s embarrassing,” said Crawford. “You find out who your family is and friends are.”
One good friend is Carol Yates, who helps Crawford with transportation. “She’s been taking me to dialysis because my vehicle is history,” said Crawford. “I feel bad but she’s like ‘shut up, I’m taking you.’” Crawford feels fortunate to have a friend like Yates. “Carol rocks, bottom line.”
On a fixed income herself and with a part-time job, Yates does what she can to help. To cover the cost of the trips to Santa Paula, Yates collects cans to recycle into gas money. “Whatever I don’t use for gas, I give Marcela for food,” said Yates, adding that she is happy to assist her friend. “It’s my blessing to do it.”
Another source of support has been Crawford’s parish at Church of the Living Christ. She says that Pastor Ron Triggs and the church’s faithful have been extremely helpful to her children and herself. Among other things, the church got Crawford a stationary bike to help her keep active. “We’re her family,” said Triggs. “It’s our joy to help her and her children out. She’s very outgoing and creative. She’s been a blessing to our congregation.”
Crawford does as much as she can to try to generate income. She has made jewelry for years. “I started fooling around with earrings when Andrew was born,” she said. “Now I make crosses, floral arrangements and do interior decorating, but have to keep it minimal. My mind’s one thing, but my body’s another,” she laughed.
Laughter is one thing Crawford has plenty of. “I have a great sense of humor, that’s what gets me through. You find little things to laugh at. My daughter’s like ‘that’s embarrassing Mom’ and I’m like ‘you know what — it’s getting me another mile here.” Crawford stopped to clarify. “Really, my daughter complains about nothing. She’s staying local to help me, but wants to go to an academy of art in Los Angeles or San Francisco.”
Her personal struggles have made Crawford more aware of the plight of single moms and she harbors a desire to help create some kind of organization to help others who find themselves in similar situations. “I love the community so much, I would like to start something for single women to help them overcome the hardships,” said Crawford.
As her family assembled around her this Christmas, the love and devotion rang loud and clear during the celebration. Santa Claus even showed up to deliver gifts gathered from the community. “I’m so elated,” said Crawford as Santa mingled with the children. “This is helping so much.”
Community businesses and individuals who generously contributed to Crawford’s Christmas are as follows. Rick Downard scheduled Santa’s appearance. Earthplay Eco Store, The Oaks at Ojai, Ojai Creates!, Ojai Surplus and Westridge Market donated gift certificates. Chef Marcus Hollingsworth and the Pierpont Inn prepared Christmas Eve dinner and donated other tasty treats.
The Ojai Valley News and its employees donated cash and collected contributions. Jack van Furche and John Stergen at Performance Bikes of Ventura donated bicycles. Zeb Dunn, Jody Keller, Capt. Chris Lathrop, Commander and former Ojai Police Chief Gary Pentis and Rick Wright of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department collected donations for those bicycles. “That’s what’s good about getting older,” said Lathrop. “You realize it’s more fun to give than to receive.”
There were several donors who wished to remain anonymous.
Other than a new kidney, Crawford needs reliable transportation and a rental she can better afford, especially considering the house she is renting is for sale. The OVN thanks all who gave from their hearts and wallets to demonstrate true Christmas spirit to Marcela Crawford and family.

Below, Marcela Crawford and Santa, and the extended family outside their home after Santa delivered new bikes to Cate and Dakota, provided by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and Performance Bikes of Ventura.

1 comment:

James Hatch said...

This is the kind of giving that the private sector, not the government, should be behind. This is a true Thomas Jefferson approach.

Charity by the individual (allowing the individual to put their money where they please) is far superior to charity by the government (taking money from its citizens and putting it where it pleases.)