Darcie’s Holiday Hope: A Christmas “choice” gifts single mom a new outlook

For the first time in ten years, Darcie bought Christmas presents for her children and grandchildren. 

“This is something that I can do for people that I love that I haven’t been able to do in a long time,” Darcie said. “I keep having to remind myself not to feel guilty about it.”

Darcie moved to Traverse City, Michigan back in 2011–leaving her family and friends behind in Manistee, Michigan. Shortly after she relocated, her car broke down and life became significantly more challenging. Due to health complications, she’s unable to work and her only source of income is disability. 

“I always hope that I can go back to work but so far I haven’t been able to do that. So I haven’t been able to save for a car,” said Darcie. “It’s discouraging and frustrating.”

Her place in Traverse City is practically on the outskirts of town. As a result, she doesn’t have many neighbors who can lend a hand.

 “Everyone always asks, ‘Can’t you just ask somebody to give you a ride?’ and it’s like they don’t understand the idea of not having someone that can help you,” she explained.

Darcie is a mother of four children that she raised by herself. Her youngest son recently turned 18 and moved 60 minutes away, back to their hometown with his other siblings. 

“He wants to get a job and save money and he’s not able to do that where I live. It’s outside the bus route, [the bus] is expensive,” Darcie said. “He has two sisters and a brother [in Manistee] that all have cars. He has more help there than I can’t give him here.”

Darcie receives quarterly investments as a participant in the United We Thrive Fund, a partnership with United Way of Northwest Michigan. She still gets emotional when reflecting on the day she was approved for enrollment. 

“I cried because I thought ‘This is my chance’. Even if I have to get a beater car. I don’t care if it’s four colors and has dents in it. I will get a car and that will change my life,” she said. “I cried very hard, because before that I had no hope.”

At first, Darcie was intent on not spending the cash investments she received until she found a car to replace her broken one. Before long, she realized the money could be better spent in other areas of her life’s hurdles. 

“It’s very difficult to save money when your max income is $914 a month to live on,” she said. “A couple months ago I got behind on my rent, so I started out not touching it, but then I decided I would get caught up on my rent.”

For a strong woman whose circumstances seem controlled by health challenges and disability, the ability to choose how to spend her money was a big deal. It allowed her to be the expert in her life and use the money where it mattered most to her and her family–like creating joyful memories with her kids and grandkids.

“I have the chance for the first time in ten years to get gifts. So I decided to get Christmas presents this year,” she said. 

Receiving cash without conditions put Darcie into the holiday spirit and allowed her to place value on her loved ones without worry.

“I know [some of] the things that I spent it on weren’t needs, but I made the choice to do it anyway,” she said. “I did something that makes me feel really good and it’s going to make my loved ones happy and it’s ok to do that. I feel like I deserve the blessing of blessing others.”

Darcie remains hopeful that even with paying rent and purchasing gifts for her kids, she can still purchase a car with the money that she has remaining.

“The impact [of having the choice of what to spend the money on] was huge for me on a personal level because I don’t feel like I’m irresponsible with money at all,” said Darcie. “In this case, I made a decision to do something. But I wouldn’t have been allowed if it was a situation where the money was controlled.” 

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