Felicia Shavies managed to smile through tears as she described how a series of events that were out of her control turned her world upside down.
Those events – the real estate downturn, getting laid off, injuring her thumb and even the NBA lockout – made life difficult enough for Shavies, 42, and her 17-year-old son, Jawuan.
But the death of her husband, Charles Shavies, 48, after a yearlong battle with lung cancer was the most devastating. It also meant she and her son could no longer afford their Hayward apartment.
A Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund grant gave Shavies a chance for a fresh start in a new apartment by paying her security deposit.
“It’s tough, but I just keep going,” she said. “That’s the first thing in my mouth every day when I wake up, (I say) ‘Thank God for another day.'”
In the mid-2000s, she and her husband operated a successful Antioch real estate business – she was an escrow officer and he a loan officer – until the housing market went sour and they declared bankruptcy. She went on to work at Chevron as a sales representative.
In February 2010, Charles Shavies, a former Air Force mechanic and commercial collections analyst, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and given a year to live.
By then residing in Hayward, Shavies began spending more time at home taking care of her husband and eventually agreed to be laid off from Chevron so she could care for him full time while receiving unemployment.
“I can get another job,” she said. “I can’t replace my husband.”
Charles Shavies died April 10, about two weeks shy of their 14th wedding anniversary. Without his disability and Social Security income, Shavies could not afford her apartment and was supposed to move by Sept. 1 but had trouble finding a home she could afford.
The couple have five children, four grown and living on their own. Their second oldest, Anthony Shavies, 28, offered to chip in for his mother’s rent and car payment. But that plan was derailed by another unforeseen problem: the National Basketball Association lockout that is only now being settled.
Anthony Shavies has played pro basketball in Austria for five years and was a free agent. But the process of signing a new contract was slowed because some NBA players, locked out of their U.S. teams, were heading to Europe to play.
She finally found another apartment in Hayward she could afford but was depending on getting the deposit back on her old apartment. Instead, she received back just a small portion.
Her story struck a chord with Annetta Clark, an intake specialist with Alameda County Social Services. Clark referred Shavies to the Season of Sharing Fund.
“Some people don’t have the ability to bounce back or try to stay afloat,” Clark said. “They get buried and kind of lose themselves. But that’s one thing that impressed me about her, that with everything going on … she was motivated, and she was not going to give up.”
The grant came through just two days before Shavies was to move out of her old apartment.
“I had waited with bated breath by the phone every day to see if I was going to get approved,” she said. And when the call came, she said, “I was in tears. I said, ‘Thank God.’ ”
It’s still a daily struggle to survive. In another complication, Shavies slipped and fell in a muddy park and tore two ligaments in her thumb, which is hampering her efforts to find a job. But for now, at least she has a roof over head and the support of her son Jawuan, who attends Mt. Eden High School.
Meanwhile, she misses her husband and best friend, Charles, who she said was “a really romantic guy at heart.”
“It’s been seven months since he’s been gone. I’m still in a kind of a fog,” she said.
But every day, she says to herself, “Let’s go.”
“I’m ready for the challenge each day,” Shavies said. “I keep fighting and never give up. And it will get better. Just don’t know when or how but … take it one day at a time.”