When Virginia Arredondo Macias decided to leave her marriage a few years ago, her ex-husband belittled her to her children.
Her twin boys, Juan Jose and Abraham Ortega, ignored their father. They were 14 at the time and made the move from Oakland to Sunnyvale with their mother, who spoke limited English and had undergone hip replacements in each of the two previous years. Arredondo’s ex was convinced that she would be unemployable after her surgeries, but she found a full-time job, working as many as 80 hours a week as a janitor.“He told them not to follow me because I was worthless,” Arredondo said, choking back tears, with siblings Diana and David Hernandez, caseworkers at Sunnyvale Community Services, translating. “He told them they would go hungry, be living on the street.”
“My dad underestimated my mom,” Abraham said. “He thought she would be too challenged with her physical problems, but she gave us the best of everything she could, she guided us through as a single mom. I’m proud of her.”
In 2011, all three became U.S. citizens, after emigrating a decade or so earlier from Michoacan, Mexico. The twins enrolled at Homestead High School in Cupertino after years of moving from place to place, and the family had a sense of stability after years of struggles.
This past year, however, turned out to be a trying one.
In July, Arredondo, 50, lost her janitorial position when the building where she worked in Palo Alto changed the requirements to include operating heavy floor-polishing equipment, something she could not manage with her history of hip trouble and other surgeries.
In addition, her oldest son, Jaime Ortega, 31, lost his job, and moved with his 6-year-old son, Edwin, into Arredondo’s small Sunnyvale apartment. There were five family members to support, and little income except for odd jobs the twins worked.
Arredondo turned to Sunnyvale Community Services, where case workers referred her to The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund. The Season of Sharing Fund provided the family with one month’s rent.
Until Arredondo spoke to The Chronicle for this story, her sons and two grown daughters had no idea she had looked for help.
“I didn’t want to worry the kids,” she said. “I didn’t want them to know we needed help. I felt bad – I didn’t want them to think they had to work even harder than they do now, they already work so hard.”
Looking down at her hands, Arredondo added, “My hands are all hard and callused. I don’t want them to have worker hands like this.”
The help from the Season of Sharing Fund did exactly what Arredondo had hoped: It enabled the family to remain in their apartment while she found another janitorial job in Palo Alto that provides her with as many hours as she was working before. And recently, Jaime got a job in Oakland as a supervisor for the same company where the twins, now 19, are working as drivers.
“I think my mom sometimes worries too much,” Abraham said. “I used to hear her crying in the kitchen, saying, ‘What will I do to pay the bills? How will I pay the rent?’
“I appreciate what she did – we only want what’s best for her. We don’t want her to work more than she has to so she doesn’t injure her hips any more.”
At this year’s Thanksgiving meal, Arredondo’s family members were particularly grateful and appreciative of each other, focusing much of their attention on young Edwin.
“He likes to talk,” Arredondo said with a laugh. “He’s very alert – maybe too much. You can have an adult conversation with him and he comprehends.”
“Edwin sounds like a little politician,” Abraham added. “He speaks really well.”
The twins, meantime, have visited a Coast Guard recruiting office and hope to enlist in the next year.
And as for Arredondo’s ex-husband, she said, he visited not too long ago.
“When I left, he condemned me, he thought I couldn’t provide for my sons,” she said. “When he came to visit, he thanked me and said I had done a good job. He said I couldn’t have found a better place for my sons to be raised.
“When I left, I promised that they would always have shelter, they would never go hungry; they would never suffer. Now, I feel really good, my happiness is to see all my little chicks together. Everything is better than before, the kids are working. And everyone is sharing and giving back to the community.”
The original article can be found here.