It's tough enough living as a single mother trying to raise children in public housing.
The last thing Thykeyia Posey, 39, counted on was being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a life-altering condition that forced her to quit her job.
But since her June diagnosis, Posey wakes each morning in her Riverside apartment unsure of how she'll support the family she's desperately trying to keep together.
"I've been a single mother [and] worked just about all my life," Posey said. "I'm used to being the provider in my household, and I'm struggling this year."
The condition, which attacks the central nervous system and is often disabling, has left her without the Tops Markets cashier and customer service job she depended on especially for the Christmas season.
Barely able to pay her rent and phone bill, she got rid of her cable TV and took her car off the road. And last week, her disability payments ran out, and she was denied her tax refund Christmas loan.
"If somebody out there in the world could help me, it would literally bring tears to my eyes, because I've always been a supportive mother," she said. "I've always tried to do the best I can."
Posey said it's hard to explain to her daughters Tawiah, 16, and Javona, 9, that this year, Christmas may not come.
She said she'd love to give them, as well as her son Jalon's 1-year-old daughter, Javieea, something special for the holiday season. Javieea lives with Jalon, 19, who has his own home.
"I try to make a joke out of it with my kids," she said. "I [said I] buried a nickel in the ground and I said, 'If I water it, maybe it will sprout 5 dollar bills.' Money doesn't come out of nowhere, and I try to explain it to my kids, but it's hard."
Jokes aside, her reality remains.
"It's depressing," she said. "I'm sitting here home alone. I'm so used to acting out in the world, getting up, going to work, and now I'm not able."
Javona has been able to take her mind off the situation by volunteering at the All Saints-Shaffer Village Boys & Girls Club, where she joined the "chores club" to help clean up after the children leave the club each night. She gets homework help there, and on Friday won the club's beauty pageant and its award for best comedian.
"She's always coming in, cracking jokes and making everyone smile," her mother said. "She's a sweetheart."
Javona, who attends True Bethel and Mount Olive Baptist churches with her mother, needs pink shirts or a pair of sneakers. She would love to have a Barbie doll with the camera feature, a laptop or an iPod Touch.
Tawiah could also use a new pair of sneakers and would like a digital camera or a new cell phone.
"I would like to get her those things but I can't," Posey said.
Javieea, the 1-year-old, could use diapers, stuffed animals, clothes or a Barbie doll.
When asked what any gifts would mean to her family, Posey responded with excitement and exhilaration.
"I'd be so relieved," she said. "I'd be so less stressed out. It would relieve me out of my depression. It [would] be so great, be so wonderful. Oh my God, you just don't know I've been trying, stressing out everyday, trying to make something happen and I just can't figure it out."
"My God, it would be a load off my back."
>The News Neediest Fund
How to apply for gifts:
Applications will be accepted until Dec. 10. For application sites, hours of operation and eligibility requirements, call Central Referral Service/221 at 211 or 1-888-696-9211, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Cash donations to purchase 12,000 holiday dinners and other perishable items.
• New, unwrapped toys for very young children.
• New, unwrapped items for for 8- to 12-year-olds, such as books, electronic games, board games, crafts, gift cards, cosmetics, athletic equipment.
Where to give:
Drop-off sites for gifts include:
• The Buffalo News lobby at Washington and Scott streets
• All Wegmans stores in Erie and Niagara counties
• HUNT Real Estate Corp. offices
• Tops International Niagara Falls
• Tops Lewiston
• Cornerstone Community Credit Union
• Toys for Tots donation barrels scattered throughout the region. (For a complete list of locations and times, go to buffalonews.com/newsneediest)
• Cash donations may be mailed to: The News Neediest Fund, PO Box 2667, Buffalo, NY 14240-9873 or donate at buffalonews.com/newsneediest.
Who are the sponsoring organizations:
The Western New York Holiday Partnership is a collaboration between The Buffalo News Neediest Fund, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo and the Northtowns, F.A.T.H.E.R.S., Hamburg Youth Bureau, Ladies of Charity, Lancaster Youth Bureau, New Creation Fellowship, Niagara County Partnership, Response to Love Center, the Salvation Army, the USMC Toys for Tots program, West Seneca Americorps, WNY Hispanics & Friends.