SOUTH ST. PAUL (WCCO) — In communities all around Minnesota, there is no shortage of good, hard-working families who just need a little help to get through tough times.
So, in this Season of Hope, WCCO-TV is connecting families in need with those who can help. On Thursday, we met a family from South St. Paul who lost everything — and almost lost each other — after a trailer with all of their belongings was stolen.
Now, however, they’re on the rebound, thanks to a helping hand from a local charity. WCCO’s Chris Shaffer and Liz Collin were there when they got some extra help to make their holidays a little nicer.
“You don’t think you have a lot,” said Kevin Demers, “but when it’s all gone, you really realize how important toothpaste is, you know?”
Sitting with their five kids in their cramped, two-bedroom home, Kevin and his wife, Melissa, talked about the bad break that changed their lives.
“We had moved to Texas to get a new start,” said Melissa. “While we were there, everything we owned was stolen, except the clothes we were wearing and the vehicle we were driving.”
Fortunately, they were able to get together enough money to drive back to Minnesota, but they were homeless. Agency after agency turned them away, because they no longer qualified as state residents, and they were desperate.
“We had come to the decision,” said Melissa, choking back tears, “that we weren’t going to be able to raise our kids, and so we were going to give them over to the state, and we were going to leave.”
As a last ditch, they turned to Sharing and Caring Hands, the charity founded by Mary Jo Copeland.
“She came up and she hugged us,” said Melissa, “and she said, ‘it’s OK, you won’t have to worry anymore. It’s over now.'”
It was the helping hand they needed. Kevin got a job as a machinist, which was enough to pay the rent at their current home. And while Melissa stayed home to take care of Jacob, who has autism, she studied, earning her associate degree, her bachelor’s degree, and this summer, the Masters that will help them turn the corner.
“Sharing and Caring Hands literally kept my family together,” said Kevin.
Times are still tight, though, so WCCO-TV got together with some of our partners to help make their holidays a little brighter.
They got free pizza for a year from Papa Murphy’s, a $100 gift card from Great Clips, and a family pack from some of our other partners, including a stay at the Water Park of America, a family pass to Nickelodeon Universe, a family membership to the Science Museum of Minnesota, tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters and a show at the Ordway Theater.
Then, Sister Nesta from Sharing and Caring Hands came into the room to present a $500 Target gift card, and gifts for the kids from Target, including a camera and a Kindle.
We also had more surprises outside their house: a snow thrower courtesy of the Toro Company and its Twin Cities employees, and a washer and dryer, from Warner’s Stellian Appliance Company.
“It’s really made a difference,” said Kevin. “My children are going to have extra gifts under the tree this year, and they deserve it.”