Asking for help was the hardest thing Kelly Jane Hanvey ever did, but when the Victoria mom was down to her last $20 and Christmas was coming, she had no choice but to reach out.

“It was the most humbling experience of my life, because I had never needed to ask for anything,” says Kelly Jane.

A collision with a drunk driver in 2009 had left the mother of two with long-term disabilities—nerve damage, bladder and bowel issues, shoulder and wrist injuries as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The catastrophic damage—both physical and emotional—put a lot of stress on her marriage and within two years, Kelly Jane and her husband separated. Without his modest income, she struggled to provide for her daughters.

Dedicated Volunteer
Just before the holidays in 2011, Kelly Jane acknowledged she needed help to get through the season

“You have a lot of pride that you have to overcome,” Kelly Jane says. “I had to acknowledge that I had severe, prolonged disabilities and they were not getting better.”

She applied for a disability pension and visited the local Salvation Army, where she found the support she needed.

While every day was a struggle during those first years, Christmastime was the hardest.

“The commercials come on TV, and the kids write a list. To see the list and to think that you don't have the funds and you won't ever have the funds to provide that—it was really hard,” says Kelly Jane.

A Christmas hamper in 2011 relieved a lot of the holiday pressure, providing her with the fixings for a turkey dinner, treats for the kids, fruits and vegetables—everything she needed. And through The Salvation Army's toy collection, Kelly Jane acquired new, age-appropriate gifts for her girls.

The experience inspired her to give back, and she began volunteering with The Salvation Army that same year, and the dedicated volunteer continues to do so.

Kelly Jane still faces daily challenges, but she has been able to upgrade her education and secure a part-time job working with the provincial Ministry of Justice. Her disability pension fills in the gaps.

But she continues to give back and shares her story in hopes of encouraging others like her to ask for help.

“It doesn't matter where you come from, or what your beliefs are—when you need help, you need to ask,” Kelly Jane says. “Living on disability was not my choice, but it was my only choice at the time to survive.”

“That's why volunteers like her make a world of difference,” says Sipili Molia, who works with The Salvation Army's Stan Hagen Centre for Families in Victoria. “They can relate to people walking through that door. Having been on the other side, they're a lot more compassionate and they want to try hard to make it easy for them.” For Kelly Jane, reaching out was life-changing.

“It has made me a better person. The most important thing I can teach my children is that everybody needs some help sometimes.”

Reprinted from The Province, November 18, 2015.

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