Jacqueline came to the U.S. from Mexico to make a better life for her children. Eight years later, the economic downturn has made that dream harder to achieve.
"Only my husband is working, and our income is very low," she said through an interpreter.
For the second straight year, Jacqueline is turning to the United Way's Toys for Happiness program for Christmas presents for her three children, ages 2, 12 and 14.
Though the family preserved their Mexican traditions for a few years, Jacqueline said their holidays are now all-American, with Santa Claus bringing the kids' presents on Dec. 25.
Her older children fit right in, too, with wish lists similar to any American teenager: clothes, books and a CD player. The baby of the family will be happy with whatever is under the tree, she said.
"When they're little, you can buy anything, and they're happy," Jacqueline said, "but when they get older, they get picky."
For Jacqueline and her husband, their gift will be watching their children open their presents. She said she's grateful that she has these services that allow her to at least give them something for Christmas.
Jacqueline also is making the most of educational services to further her family's American dream. In order to help her children and to communicate with the larger population, she is taking English as a second language classes at the Adult Education Center. She said she hopes the classes will help her "not feel intimidated due to lack of language."