Asking for help was one of the hardest things Kelly Jane Hanvey had to do, but when the Victoria mom was down to her last $20 and Christmas was coming, she had no choice but to reach out.“It was the most humbling experience of my life, because I had never needed to ask for anything,” said Hanvey, 36.A collision with a drunk driver in 2009 had left the mother of two with a number of long-term disabilities — nerve damage, bladder and bowel issues, a shoulder and wrist injury as well as post traumatic stress disorder.
The “catastrophic” damage — both physical and emotional — put a lot of stress on her young family and within two years, Hanvey and her husband had separated. Without his modest income, she struggled to provide for her daughters.Just before the holidays in 2011, Hanvey acknowledged she needed help to get through the season.“You have a lot of pride that you have to overcome,” Hanvey said. “I had to acknowledge that I had severe, prolonged disabilities and they were not getting better.”She applied for a disability pension and visited the local Salvation Army, where she found the support she needed. The organization’s Christmas hamper program is one of dozens of community services that counts on donations from The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund.While every day was a struggle during those first years, Christmas time was the hardest.“The commercials come on the TV, the kids write a list (and) to see the list and to think that you don’t have the funds and you won’t ever have the funds to provide that — it is really hard,” said Hanvey.
A Christmas hamper in 2011 relieved a lot of the holiday pressure, providing her with the fixings for a turkey dinner, treats for the kids, fruits and vegetables, “everything you need.” She was also able to shop through the charity’s toy collection and get brand new, age-appropriate gifts for her girls.The experience inspired her to give back, and she began volunteering with the Salvation Army that same year. She is now a dedicated volunteer with the organization.Hanvey still faces daily challenges, but she has been able to upgrade her education and secure a part-time job working with the Ministry of Justice. Her disability pension fills in the gaps.Today she continues to give back and share her story in hopes of encouraging others like her to ask for help.“It doesn’t matter where you come from, or what your beliefs are — when you need help, you need to ask,” Hanvey said.“I’m living on disability and that was not my choice, but it was my only choice at the time to survive.”That’s why volunteers like Hanvey make a world of difference, says Sipili Molia, who works with the Salvation Army’s Stan Hagen Centre for Families in Victoria.“They can just easily relate to people that are walking through that door, because it’s not easy. Having been on the other side … you’re a lot more compassionate and you want to try really hard to make it easy for them.”
For Hanvey, reaching out was life-changing.“It has made me a better person. The most important thing that I can teach my children is that everybody needs some help sometimes.”
Story Credit – Larissa Cahute – The Province Reporter