The sisters arrive early at the Northeast Family Center, often at 7.
Naudia Menyweather, 18, works with the toddlers at the child care center. She wipes their noses and stops their tears and teaches them colors and their ABCs and how to use the potty. Tania Bedford, 21, floats around the center during the day and, in the afternoon, helps the school-age kids with their homework.
Then they return to the apartment they share, often after 5.
And it can be like working at a daycare there, too. Naudia has a 2-year-old son. Tania has three children, an 11-month-old and 2-year-old twins. They share the parenting -- the feeding and the cleaning and the raising.
“We just take care of them like they’re all our kids,” Naudia said.
The twins were born three months early, and one suffers from pulmonary hypertension, the other from cerebral palsy. The sisters take turns carrying him because he can’t walk. They call him sack of potatoes, because he is such a big boy.
Somehow, they still find time to go to college; Tania is training to be a nurse, Naudia wants to be a teacher.
“I’m trying to keep my eye toward the prize,” Tania said. “When I’m done with school, everything’s going to be better. I’m trying to work my butt off, do what I’m supposed to do now, and it will pay off.”
They’ve worked at Northeast for less than a year, but they’ve already impressed their boss, Renee Foley.
“They’re incredible for as young as they are,” she said. “They’re amazing mothers, amazing women.”
Foley nominated them to be featured in the Lincoln Journal Star’s annual Thanks for Giving drive, which invites readers to donate to those who need a little help around the holidays. This year, 20 agencies and nonprofits submitted more than 50 requests.
She didn’t ask for much for the two: gift cards to buy clothes for their kids; gift cards for grocery stores and restaurants; sensory-related toys.
Foley wrote: “These two sisters are incredible hard workers and loving mothers who want to give their children the very best.”
Because they didn’t have the best childhoods. They were living in Norfolk when their family broke. Their mother moved out of state, and her husband took four of the five kids -- his kids -- to Lincoln.
Tania was on her own at 16. She moved into a cousin’s house and almost gave up.
“I was about to drop out, it was so stressful,” she said. “I thank God I had people who supported me at school. The principal, she was on me. She said, ‘You don’t want to be like your parents.’”
She graduated from Norfolk High in 2014 and moved to Lincoln the next year.
Naudia nearly dropped out, too, when she was attending Lincoln Northeast. “It was hard for me, with my son, having him at such a young age,” she said.
She left her father’s house nearly two years ago, and ended up living with Tania, and graduating last spring.
“We basically had to use each other,” she said. “We only really had each other.”
Lincoln attorney Dan Alberts has mentored both sisters, and their stories have astounded him on two levels, he said. First, how they were forced to survive alone, without the help of their parents. And second, how well they did.
“Watching how they’ve made it work, I mean, they are fighters. They claw away. They have courage and character and grit and tenacity.”
They don’t always get along. Some mornings, they come to work not talking to each other. But that doesn’t last. And Naudia is moving soon. She and her son will have their own place at the end of the month -- right across from her sister and her kids.
“We’ll all still be together,” she said.