For the Frank and Stacie Hill family, it’s been a rough year.
But then, it’s a little hard for this family of six to remember when they had a good year.
“It just seemed like no cards were in our favor coming here,” said Frank. “It’s been rough. But it’s made the kids tough.”
The Hills are the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin’s 2013 Benefit Fund Family. The family, which has pulled together to keep away from the edge of despair, could use a little community help to have a Merry Christmas.
Frank, 32, and Stacie, 35, met online and clicked. Today, they’re an Internet dating success story with more than six years of marriage under their collective belt. The pair lived in Connecticut with Stacie’s two children, a girl and a boy, and were joined by Maliah, now 4. Their lives together have been the very definition of ups and downs.
“I joke that if we ever don’t have problems, we’ll get divorced because we won’t know how to handle it,” said Stacie. “There have been good times, too. We’re not used to it being smooth.”
The family was doing fairly well in Connecticut until October 2012, when Frank was laid off from Frito Lay.
With little left to tie them there, the Hills donated most of their things to a charity, packed or mailed the rest and drove west to Grantsville, where Stacie is originally from, to be near her family.
Almost immediately, things began to look up—Frank found a good job within two weeks of moving. However, apartment after apartment fell through, and the family was left living out of a camping trailer parked on a family member’s lot. Then, because that violated Grantsville City code, they were evicted by ordinance officials.
With winter setting in last year, the Hills moved their camping trailer to Middle Canyon. With the exception of a month and a half when they were living with Stacie’s aunt and helping her cope with an injury, the family spent the coldest months of the year in a campsite. Also during that time, Frank was laid off from his new job and Stacie was undergoing a high-risk pregnancy with Mariell, now 6 months old.
“I had to make the decision to go out and look for a job, or collect unemployment and stay and help my family,” said Frank. “So I collected. I hope it was the best thing for them.”
A friend offered them a spot on their lot last summer to park the camping trailer, which is where the family had been living until last weekend. In the bitter cold this month, their trailer literally froze to the ground and they were spending $20 on propane every other day.
But on Friday, the family was evicted from there, too, by county officials citing code violations. Through Tooele County Relief Services, they were able to get a room at Valley View Motel in Tooele, saving them from having to go to a family homeless shelter.
“I got the call on my way to pick up the kids from school and they said we could move in any time after noon, and I was just like ‘Yes,’” Frank said.
“It was such a blessing,” added Stacie.
So, as Christmas approaches, the family of six is preparing for the holiday in a studio room which, though small and nearly filled with three beds, is warm. A three-foot Christmas tree sits next to the television, and Maliah will tell anyone who sees it that she colored the homemade star on top.
Frank is working part-time for Carefree Siding in Grantsville and says the company has been extremely helpful, but the work is weather-dependent and the amount of hours he can get now makes it difficult to keep up with the bills and get enough to find more stable housing.
“I feel like all we need is that little bit of a kick that will get us out of this hole and into an apartment, then I can get a better job and we can pay our bills,” he said.
Frank said he has applied for every housing assistance, but has not heard back yet from any housing authority. The family also does not have a sure plan for Christmas.
“We were just thinking of winging it,” said Frank.
The Hills’ four children are ages 11, 10, 4 and six months. Donations can be dropped off at the Transcript-Bulletin’s business office at 58 N. Main Street, Tooele, by Dec. 23. They can also be mailed to: Transcript-Bulletin Benefit Fund, P.O. Box 390, Tooele, Utah 84074.