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.
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Since 1983, the Journal Star has asked local human services agencies to share stories of real people with real needs as part of its Thanks for Giving project — and readers have stepped up every year.
Mary, 37, has been sober for six months and wants to improve her cooking skills to better care for herself. She needs a 6-inch or 8-inch nonstick omelet pan, a 12-inch nonstick skillet with a lid and a 2-quart saucepan with a lid. She also needs a strainer, ladle, slotted turner and rubber spatula.
Mike, 46, is a former Marine with a mental illness. He lives in a group home, and he is making an effort to integrate into the community through volunteer work.
Jane, 27, has graduated from St. Monica’s Project Mother & Child program and is now in an apartment with her two young children. She is working and continues to reach her dreams and goals. Jane could use gift cards to help cover the costs of winter clothes for her children.
Cali, 26, arrived at Friendship Home this month with her three sons: Gabriel, 4, Tyson, 2, and Mason, five months. She was relieved when she realized many necessities for her children would be provided at Friendship Home. Cali, along with other residents who have children, have asked for diapers, size 4-6, baby wipes and pajamas and robes ranging in size from infant, toddler and youth.
Katie is a single mom raising two kids: Blake, 13, and Becky, 14. Due to unforeseen medical issues, Katie missed a lot of work at her job this year. It's been a struggle for her family. Katie would be grateful for gift cards for gas and groceries.
Kasey, 7, and Kamden, 9, are brothers who recently came into the care of Cedars foster parents Becky and Dan. Even during the winter, the boys enjoy spending as much time outside as possible. Kasey would really like a new Razor scooter. Kamden would appreciate a new bicycle, 20-24 inch, and a helmet. Both boys would enjoy having new DVDs for cold winter days they can’t be outside. They both enjoy superhero movies. Becky and Dan would also like winter clothes and coats for the boys, size 7 and 8-10. Becky and Dan could also use movie theater gift cards to treat the boys to a movie and snacks.
Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach
Bob is a 67-year-old man who uses a wheelchair because he had to have his leg amputated. He lives in a rental house that has six stairs to the entry, which he can’t navigate on his own, so he needs to move to an accessible apartment. Bob needs $600 to pay for movers and for the security deposit to a new apartment.
Jane, 37, has spent the last three years of her life living in shelters and couch surfing from house to house. Throughout these moves, she lost all of her personal belongings and furnishings.
Susan is a mother with two young children, a boy, 8, and a girl, 3. Susan recently left an abusive marriage with nothing but some clothes. She has been in a shelter and now has her housing voucher. As the family transitions to their new life, they will need kitchen and bath items and cleaning supplies.
Naudia, 18, and Tania, 21, are sisters who support each other with their children. They live together so they can work full time and attend school.
Tasha is a single mother of three boys under age 3, including a set of twins.
Amy, a woman in her 40s, came to Fresh Start Home to escape a domestic violence situation. She had a long relationship full of criticism and fear. Fresh Start staff has helped Amy see her strengths and abilities, and is helping her believe in herself again. Amy works a full-time job, while attending school part-time. She could use notebooks for classes, a Walmart gift card and a bus pass.
Lincoln Housing Authority’s Reading Matters program is looking for new or gently used books for children up to 14. These books will be redistributed to children whose families are receiving housing assistance to empower these youth to reach their potential and to give them a foundation for success by getting books into the hands of children and families and encouraging them to read aloud together.
Maria is the mom of Daniel, a 10th-grader at North Star; Samuel, a fifth-grader, and Anna, a third-grader, both at Clinton Elementary School. Maria currently works four part-time jobs to support her family and is finding it difficult to make ends meet.
Sarah, 37, and John, 35, were hoping to find a new life in Lincoln when they moved here over the summer with their five children. Unfortunately, John was diagnosed with a debilitating blood disorder that left him at one point in the intensive care unit and on a ventilator for days.
Cassandra Fry, 25, and her daughter, Baye, 2, came to the People's City Mission three months ago. They had previously been at the mission for three months at the beginning of the year.
Robert, 49, is about to be homeless going into the winter season with no money for a deposit or rent for an apartment or warm clothing. Robert has to begin his life over with having none of the possessions required to live even a simple life. Robert must seek new employment in a new town. With the financial assistance of enough money for deposit/rent Robert can start over with a foundation to build on.
The Riecker family includes two parents and six children ages 16, 13, 12, 11, 7 and 6. Dad recently tore his Achilles tendon, leaving him out of work until after January. Mom is working two full-time jobs to try to make ends meet.
Ellen is a hardworking, single mother of five children who recently got out of a violent marriage.
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.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.