Gas and food costs hurt locals

Gas and food costs hurt locals
The recent climb in gas and food prices have caused families to crunch their budgets just to make ends meet. Assistance comes in the form of programs that put food on people’s tables, but for a family of seven, transportation issues have reared their heads making it more difficult to cope. For Latasha and Dion Harrison of Martin, an impending job lay-off threatens the couple’s already strapped way of life. Latasha explained her husband would soon face a lay-off at a local plant while she preps for LPN licensing. Latasha expressed concerns of the financial impact that her family would endure while she sought an education that would ultimately economically assist her large family. Her concerns have become a reality. “I decided in 2005 that I wanted to become a nurse, but I was afraid. I thought to myself, how are we going to make it financially if I go to school,” Latasha described. The mother of five children spent several months taking courses by day and working a split shift at MTD Products in Martin at night. “MTD has been good to me and my family, but I decided I needed stability. I grew up around nurses and I wanted to make a difference. At the same time, I knew if I succeeded my family could see a better way of life,” she added. The drive to Paris each day for nursing classes placed a burden on the family’s income as each week, they scraped to put gas into a Chevy Suburban. As the price of unleaded gasoline crept higher, the Harrison’s family lifestyle showed in their limitations of going without wants in place of fuel. Latasha said it is not uncommon for the family of seven to spend $5-600 in food costs a month. “Without food stamps, my family would not eat. I am not ashamed of getting food stamps. I am all for programs, especially for families, that help in a positive way,” the mother of five said. While many families see a shrink in budget due to rising costs of food and fuel, those with low incomes seem to resound the same praise and appreciation for government programs when forced to utilize them. “Even with me working full time, I don’t think we could get through without the help of food stamps or the after-school program through Martin Housing. I’m grateful for these programs because when I needed them, they were there.” “The hardest part about going to school was not the price of gas or food, but the lack of time spent with my family. I have to work while I’m taking classes just so that we can provide for our children, but I know in the long run it will pay off,” Latasha admitted. The outpouring of help from friends, family and fellow Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church members has also provided a support system for the Harrison family. “People see you trying and they help you. I am grateful for that and I am glad that they bless us,” Latasha said. She described situations where co-workers and church members went Christmas shopping for her children or helped with school supplies while the family’s income grew weaker. Latasha jokingly said that her and her husband stay “prayed up” so as to avoid medical visits while lacking health insurance. “Really though, I am serious about staying prayed up. Fortunately the kids have insurance and Dion and I have not had to go to the doctor,” she admitted. Sometimes the Harrison family juggles time with their meager incomes. With a fearful economic state pending, rural families like the Harrisons are growing in numbers. These families share the common bonds of food stamps, no medical insurance and temporary jobs. The glimpse of hope and breaking from government assistance is on the horizon for the Harrison family. Latasha is scheduled to take her LPN licensing state board tests June 2. When asked what the future may hold for her and family, she took a moment to reflect before stating matter-of-factly, “Failing is not an option.”

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