After years of volunteering, and donating when possible, it took a lot for 50-year-old Tracy Dalziel to swallow her pride and ask for help.
But she did just that earlier this month when she turned up at the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society offices to register for aid.
Thankfully, she said, being armed with a pair of her handcrafted sock monkeys to donate to the cause took a little of the sting out of the experience for her.
“I’m so trying to do things on my own,” said the Haney resident. “It’s just my husband [Steve] and I, and in past we’ve said ‘we can fudge through it’… I want to leave the hamper for families.”
However, the couple was married in October and both being disabled [he’s a parapeligic] she no longer qualifies for the same provincial aid she once received.
“I got married and lost my cheque just like that,” Dalziel said, explaining that she’s had partial sight since birth and now suffers a connective tissue disease and severe arthritis in her hands and feet that drastically restrict her mobility at times. Add dyslexia to her list of challenges, and she’s not having much luck finding employment.
With rent, utilities, insurance, and prescriptions taking almost every cent of Steve’s federal disability cheque each month, there’s not much left for food, let along incidentals.
“We’re left with virtually nothing,” Dalziel said. “And I’ve tried everything I can to make a dollar stretch.”
While she called on the hamper society and the food bank back in the 1990s, when she was raising two children, she’s been reluctant to ask for help again.
“But it’s crazy how much money you have to bring in now just to survive,” she said.
So, Dalziel has taken to sewing and selling sock monkeys to help pay the bills.
She recalls how the inspiration for what she calls Heels the Sole Sock Monkeys came to roost for her.
Dalziel was “so broke” last Christmas, that she thought she’d make a few for Christmas presents.
The inexpensive but fun little characters proved so popular with her grandson and other family members and friends, that she decided to try making a few extra and selling them.
Of course her sight and arthritis doesn’t allow her to work on the monkeys consistently, but she said people ordering have been incredibly supportive and understanding – realizing they may have to wait.
“I can’t make them fast enough,” she said, noting that with her sister’s help she’s now marketing them around town and on the Internet – primarily through Facebook.
Selling the basic monkeys for $20 each, she’s also helping out another friends on disability by offering monkeys with hats and scarves for $25 and giving that sewing work to her friend.
With at least half a dozen to complete before Christmas, Dalziel said she’s hoping her arthritis doesn’t flare up again so she can have them ready in time.
She doesn’t want a handout, Dalziel said. She hopes to get a hand up and was grateful to the hamper society for its support this year.