Lake Stevens family is grateful for help they received when told they didn’t qualify for aid

Kristine Williams received charitable help at Thanksgiving and Christmas for her family, she’s willing to say so, and thank organizations that offered her family meals and gifts.

It the took the Williamses of Lake Stevens three years to call for help. Williams said life used to be good with h

er husband, Michael Williams, 47, and son, James, who is 5 years old.

“Nothing grand,” she said. “We were comfortable in the middle-class lifestyle we built for ourselves.”

Three years ago, her husband was laid off from his truck driving job. Her home business folded.

The bank foreclosed on their home.

“We moved into a nice rental,” said Kristine Williams, 34. “Thankfully, his work picked back up that spring and summer.”

They thought they were on the road to recovery. She worked for a topsoil company.

“Last May, my husband began having seizure-like episodes,” she said. “He was immediately pulled from work by more than one doctor.”

His employer, because of the terrible economy, she said, eliminated all benefits other than medical. There was no vacation pay or sick leave to prop up the family.

“Thankfully, we did have Aflac (insurance coverage) which helped a little with the bills,” she said.

In November, Mike Williams, a Navy veteran, was still not able to work. His wife’s workweek was reduced to 20 hours.

“Here we were,” she said. “A middle-class family with no more savings, and very little money.”

They investigated every program they could find, including calling 211, asking for assistance from the Snohomish County PUD, applying for food stamps, talking to the Red Cross and St. Vincent de Paul.

“We called everyone,” she said. “And guess what? We made too much money to qualify for help.”

Her pay from part-time work and her husband’s insurance brought in too much.

“We did not qualify for any assistance from a state we have been paying taxes to for more than 20 years,” Williams said. “We were shut down left and right and had no idea what we were going to do.”

They found two amazing groups, including Holy Cross Catholic Parish in Lake Stevens and the Lake Stevens Family Center. They received help with a water bill. The church gave the family Thanksgiving dinner and helped pay $50 toward the December rent.

Kathy Bates, director of the church outreach program, said they helped 800 people last year.

Then there was another miracle.

The Williams family was chosen by The Everett Clinic in Lake Stevens for Christmas help.

“They showed up at our door the weekend before Christmas with boxes and boxes of gifts for everyone in our family. Myself, my husband, our son, and my mother-in-law who lives with us.”

She cried for days, Kristine Williams said.

April Zepeda, spokeswoman for The Everett Clinic, said there is an Everett Clinic Foundation, funded by employees, that supports charitable organizations.

“Some employees donate thousands of dollars to the foundation,” she said. “Others give $5 per paycheck, but it all adds up. Last year, the foundation was able to give away $250,000 dollars, thanks to employee donations.”

They also do grass-roots giving, especially at Christmas, Zepeda said. Each department is given a recognition fund to note hard work.

“The fund can be used for anything from employee gift certificates to a holiday party. However, it is not uncommon for department employees to collectively decide to not spend the recognition dollars on themselves, but on people in need instead. What’s more, they often add in their own money to make the holiday special for those who would otherwise struggle.”

Kristine Williams said she thanks those who understood and responded.

“People saw us for the struggles we were facing, rather than how much money we made,” she said. “We were able to smile through the holidays.”

Williams said her husband still can’t medically return to work and she has been laid off from the topsoil company. She’s now looking for full-time work or hoping her company hires her back.

She has two goals in life, Williams said. She plans to put together a Caroling for Gifts event this year and donate all of the gifts collected to her community and The Everett Clinic to help support those who are struggling.

And when she retires, she wants to organize a nonprofit organization that helps those who run into bad luck.

She said she will call her organization “Miracles for the Middle Class.”

Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451, oharran@heraldnet.com

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