Jon and Beth were there for each other through Beth’s battle with cancer—and the Salvos were there for them both, writes Naomi Singlehurst.
Jon* and his wife Beth* shed tears of joy as they drove away from the SalvosConnect centre in Mackay at Christmas last year.
The generosity they were shown by The Salvation Army and donors had almost overwhelmed them. They couldn’t believe they were given gifts, a Christmas hamper and a gift card.
“It was amazing,” Jon says. “Beth and I haven’t been able to give each other presents for a long time. We struggle to afford a gift for our son.”
A recurring nightmare
In 2008, Beth was diagnosed with cancer. She had to quit her dream job in early childcare because her immune system struggled to cope with illnesses carried by the children—a simple infection once led to Beth being hospitalised with pneumonia.
Jon started taking a lot of time off work to care for their son and take Beth to medical appointments.
“I soon lost my job, and then the car and the house. Everything,” he says.
But Beth responded to treatment and slowly became well enough to work again, taking on a cleaning job. Jon was also able to find another job. The couple were beginning to rebuild their lives when Beth’s cancer reappeared. She was told she would have to undergo ongoing chemotherapy and surgery. History was repeating itself, as Jon again lost his job while taking time off to care for Beth and their son.
Jon used his small redundancy payout to cover outstanding bills, but this meant he was ineligible for Centrelink support for more than two months.
“I was in a dark place,” Jon says. “We’d lost our family home and were now renting. I’d lost my job again. Beth was away for treatment. I didn’t know what to do.
“Then I was chatting with a neighbour, who is a single dad. He told me to visit the Salvos.”
A glimmer of hope
When Jon first contacted The Salvation Army he met Jenny, manager at Mackay SalvosConnect centre.
“If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know where we would be,” he says.
SalvosConnect is part of Doorways, an innovative program that provides practical assistance to people in crisis. The aim of the program is to end generational welfare dependency. It also empowers people in situational poverty to take control of their lives. Through personalised case management, Doorways enhances a participant’s self-awareness, restores self-esteem and enables them to better understand their strengths.
Jenny and her team offered Jon the glimmer of hope he needed to keep going.
“By that point, we had nothing,” he says. “Our landlord had phoned to say we owed three weeks’ rent. We had no food in the house. We had no money to run the car. We had nothing.
“I saw Jenny and explained my situation. Immediately she helped me buy groceries and fuel for the car.”
The impact of generosity
Jon is thankful for the support his family has received. But the greatest gift, he says, is the loving and supportive community he has found at the Salvos.
“The struggles do take their toll, but Jenny has done everything possible for our family,” he says. “She is a brilliant lady and her team are incredible. We always get a big hug when we come in.”
After their first visit, Jenny put Jon and Beth down for a hamper and vouchers at Christmas.
“Initially I declined because there are too many people who need it more,” Jon says.
“We know what it’s like to be unable to afford Christmas presents. Kids know Christmas is coming. So when they don’t get a present they think they’ve been bad or done something wrong, when really Mum and Dad just don’t have any money.
“It’s still like that for us now. I couldn’t give my wife a present at Christmas for three years. But because of the generosity of donors, we could have a happy Christmas.”
Knowing people care gives Jon hope for the future.
“People who donate to support The Salvation Army have good hearts,” he says. “They show they care. It reminds us we are not alone in what we’re going through.
“We look forward to Beth getting better, but sometimes there is that little thought in the back of your mind that says, ‘This could be our last Christmas together’. That’s why the Salvos’ support is so important.
“When donors give to The Salvation Army, they probably don’t realise the impact they’re making in the lives of people who are struggling. But they are giving a family hope. They are giving a mother and father the will to carry on. They are giving joy to kids who have endured really hard times.
“The support of donors really does give hope to everyday people.”