Source: News-Press | All Things Michael
Administrator’s Note: This story is being shared in the spirit of giving, which is what Michael Jackson was all about. It touched my heart to do something and I hope it will inspire you to help someone, however you can.
For the Hodges family in Lehigh Acres, Christmas is going to be pretty thin pickings.
“It is pretty slim over here,” says mom Cathy Hodges, 36. The North Fort Myers native heads to dollar stores and looks at online garage sales for bargains.
“I try to watch that,” she said. “That way I can get things for them better than the dollar stores.”
Providing for her children and ensuing their safety and well-being are of the utmost importance to Hodges.
The Lehigh Acres resident moved with her two children, Michael Jackson, 11, and Testa Greer, 7, this year from a much-worse location to their current more sedate, less-traveled and more family-friendly spot.
“Oh yeah,” she says with enthusiasm. “This is much better than where we were. The kids can actually play in the yard here. The other place, not.”
She would like her situation to be better, and she admits that things have improved since a year ago.
“But, it is still hard,” she says.
For the past two years, Hodges has had a full-time job working as an office administrator for the Joan of Arc Corp., a group home for the developmentally disabled in Lehigh.
She also has her home health aide certificate and sometimes assists with patient care. But she has no health care, sick or vacation time benefits and aspires to obtain those as soon as she can.
“So when the kids have vacation I can take off and enjoy them,” she explains.
She also works a second job as an office worker to earn a few extra dollars.
Still, she says, the paychecks don’t go far after rent, car insurance, gas and utilities. “It all adds up,” she said.
Almost everything the children have and get is via yard and garage sales, she said, with her mother of Cape Coral also helping out. Grandma will sometimes get the kids and go to garage sales with them for gifts, she said.
“Both the kids know the situation,” Hodges said. In fact, they seem to relish the things they do have and are close.
“They build Lego cities, the two of them,” Hodges said.
Do they like to play together? Shy Testa only nods but gregarious Michael said they play together “most of the time,” adding: “She doesn’t like my Xbox.”
One of the only “extras” they have are pets, a dog and two cats that the children love.
Michael, an active but undersized 11-year-old, is fiercely proud of his mom.
“She stands up for us, and she works hard,” he said.
Hodges is concerned for him, since he is small for his age. He has been picked on in school, and she has seen his grades slip.
“Michael has not been doing very good in school,” Hodges said. “I told him he has to treat it like a job.”
Asked why, Michael responds “Being bullied.”
The issue has a connection with Hodges. She left high school at the start of her junior year due to being bullied. “I just left,” she said. She got her GED when Michael was 2, and he walked up on stage with her to collect her degree.
Eventually, she said, she’d like to home-school Michael.
Her most enduring want is to have a stable, permanent life for the kids.
“I would like to own our own home,” she said — anyplace where they could be safe and grow up in a normal life.
Michael and Testa go to the Lehigh Acres Boys & Girls Club after school most days.
“They get to go on the computer there,” Hodges said, since they do not have an Internet connection at the home. “We don’t have Wi-Fi here,” added Michael.
“I have a back bill with Comcast for the Internet,” Hodges said. “I’m looking to pay that off.”
While Hodges admits she has made a few relationship mistakes, she seems satisfied that Michael and Testa’s fathers are involved in the children’s lives. Michael sees his father regularly, and she shares custody of Testa with the 7-year-old’s father.
While she would like more for her children.
“I know my kids aren’t going to be the greedy kids you see in the store who have to have the newest things,” she said. “They know they may not get the newest version. But they are happy with that.”
Michael, 11: Nerf ammunition, remote control car or helicopter, laptop computer, Legos of any type.
Testa, 7: 3DS, a new tablet, stuffed animals, makeup, clothing, hair accessories.
To help contact Shannon Lane, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County, 7275 Concourse Dr., Suite 200, Fort Myers, 322-2349.
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