Bright spot for struggling family

by: SUSAN MATHENY - Terri Gano, left, is surprised by a generous Christmas delivery from PGE employees, including Janis Dinkel, right.Portland General Electric employees were planning a Christmas surprise for struggling Madras mom Terri Gano and her three young children, but she didn’t have a clue.

“When PGE called me I was scared that I was late on a bill or something,” Gano said. “But the lady on the phone explained they would be making a delivery of gifts and food. It was a big surprise. I still can’t believe it,” Gano said, while excitedly waiting for the truck to arrive on Dec. 18.

The delivery was a bright spot for the family, which has been going through some hard times this year.

As a young couple, Gano and her husband Jamie were the managers of the Madras Gospel Mission house when they moved to Madras around five years ago. They had little children, but the men staying at the mission seemed to respond to the family atmosphere it created.

Terri Gano had previously earned a degree in intercultural studies and teaching English to other speakers from Northwest Christian College and had taught English at a school in Japan. After their time managing MGM, Jamie Gano got a job at Madison Coffee House and she became a stay-at-home mom. The Ganos now have three children, David, 7, Abigail, 6, and Anna, 4.

Their troubles began last July, when her husband lost his job and became a client at the mission he once managed. “He lost his job from drinking and he chose to go to the mission, so that was good. He’s getting help there and doing well,” Terri Gano said, adding that her husband was a veteran.

With her husband living at the mission, Gano has been trying to get by.

“I decided to get a job so he wouldn’t worry about us and finish his treatment. I’ve been searching for a job since May and have applied for 150 jobs since then,” she said, noting that finding employment is tough, especially when she’s been out of the job market for five years.

To help out, her disabled sister Amee Waley from Waldport moved in with her to help watch the kids and because she gets enough disability funds to pay the rent. Others helped out, too. Landlord Danny Zook gave them a good rate on a three-bedroom rental house, and a church helped them get a supply of wood for the woodstove for just $20.

“This (delivery) is such a blessing, she’s just struggling to get by,” said Waley, adding, “The kids pray for their dad at dinner time; it’s so cute. To have a big Christmas will just blow them away. They’re used to just having a little.”

“I’m really careful with our budget and the kids get meals at school, which helps. Friends and family have helped a lot. Almost everything in this house has been given to us, even the beds upstairs. We had lots of yard sales and I tried to sell the Suburban, but it’s broken,” Gano said, noting she has a 1991 Volkswagen Jetta to get to work, but even its bumper had to be zip-tied on after it fell off.

Finally, Gano got a work experience job at the front desk of the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council office in Madras to build her job skills. The family got food stamps, and for the past two months, has received help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Meanwhile, in December, Pelton-Round Butte PGE employees wanted to adopt a family for Christmas and inquired at the Metolius Friends Church, which in turn asked Mark Harner, director of missions for Madras Gospel Mission, who immediately thought of the Gano family.

Harner began asking Terri Gano for her dream Christmas list, including food items, to see what might happen. She attends the Foursquare Church, and her sister attends Living Hope Christian Center, so she thought a church friend wanted to give them a gift.

“Mark kept pestering me, so I made a list quickly and emailed it to him. I put down some expensive food I could never afford, like saffron and lamb, for a joke,” she said.

“Anna has been praying for a stuffed unicorn, so I asked for that; David wanted a remote control helicopter, and Abigail wanted a Rubik’s Cube and a stuffed animal,” she said. Also on the list were clothes for the children, a warm jacket for her sister, work shirts and pants for herself, pistachios, cream, jello, potatoes, saffron and lamb.

“The list was pathetic. Little kids don’t usually ask for a pair of socks,” Harner said, laughing at the meager requests. When he forwarded it to Janis Dinkel at PGE she called back and said, “Really? That’s all?”

Harner said he sat down at the mission with the kids’ dad, who was able to add some ideas to the wish list. And PGE employees came up with a few of their own, including Christmas stockings, and a full sized Christmas tree with decorations to replace the two-foot tree Gano had gotten.

Then Terri Gano got the phone call from PGE. “The lady said she didn’t think we put enough stuff on the list and they would bring more. They asked to come when the kids weren’t here so it would be a surprise,” she said. When she hung up the phone, she was crying.

The same week, she got called to interview for a full-time receptionist’s job, and will find out if she got it in January.

On Dec. 18, Gano got home from work just before the scheduled 1 p.m. PGE delivery. Peeking anxiously out the window she said, “I see the truck; they’re here!” as a PGE pickup and van pulled up in front of the house.

As PGE employees Janis Dinkel, Becky Burchell, and Leanna Freeman carried in wrapped gifts, bags of food and set up a Christmas tree, Gano said, “I don’t remember asking for this much!”

Thanking and hugging everyone as they departed, Gano told them with tears in her eyes, “My kids will remember this Christmas for the rest of their lives.”

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