The Ruiz’s Wishbook Story

The Ruiz's Wishbook Story

Clarksville mom Yojana Ruiz is busy, working seven days a week, raising three kids and navigating Southern Indiana as a Spanish-speaker.

She and her children, Yosari Torres Ruiz, Michael Ruiz and Yeimy Guillén Gamez, are part of the Healthy Families program at New Hope Services Inc.

They’re being featured as one of the News and Tribune’s Wish Book families in the hope that readers see their story and help them have a Merry Christmas through donations. Ruiz spoke to the News and Tribune through New Hope Services staffer Lisa Camacho, who is fluent in Spanish.


“I’m here in Clarksville for five years. I have a really long history,” Ruiz said. “When we were in Honduras, we came here because they don’t really let us work over there, so we came over here. You get to have a better life for your children here. There’s not so much danger.”

Ruiz and her eldest daughter, Yosari, came to America from Honduras. The pair stopped in Texas before making it to Southern Indiana. Her youngest children were born in the area.

“If you know somebody who’s low income, we need everything,” she said. “And, it’s going to depend on the goodwill of others, from what they want to give. More than anything, I need some help with Yosari’s teeth, probably an orthodontist to help with her teeth.”

Yosari, 13, could also use help getting glasses because the family does not have access to health care for her.

The family would also benefit from donations of king-sized bedsheets, a chest of drawers and pillows for sleeping. Pots, pans, living room chairs, furniture, towels and scented plug-ins are also needed.

The children would also enjoy books and Yosari could use a laptop to do school work.


“It’d be nice to have a really nice Bible in Spanish, or a nice Protestant hymnal in Spanish, with the Spanish songs in it,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said the Healthy Families program is very helpful for her family as it provides advice for her, diapers and sometimes offers a food pantry. Having advocates in the area that can speak Spanish and interpret is important too.

“We Hispanic people, we go through a process to be here....we come here to fight for our families, because we flee from violence,” she said. “More than anything, it’s the poverty. If it wasn’t for the poverty, we’d stay there.”

Ruiz’s family is also looking for new housing and hoping to move from an apartment to a home they can rent.

New Hope staffer Lisa Camacho said it’s important for Spanish-speaking families in Southern Indiana to have access to what they need, especially since many of them work long hours.

“I think when you’re working your butt off to support your family, especially a lot of people that I’ve heard this time and time again, a lot of Hispanic families feel like (they are forgotten,)” she said. “And when someone does actually welcome you and says here, ‘nothing’s going to happen to you,’ we just want to give you this because we care about you, it means a lot to people.”

For Ruiz, she knows her faith and her family will get her through whatever she’s facing.

“God never stopped giving me a hand, so I never lost faith,” Ruiz said. “All through all of that, God never stopped giving me a hand.”

*This story was written and published in partnership by the News & Tribune
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Nicole & Christopher’s Wishbook Story

Nicole & Christopher's Wishbook Story

Cian and Jeannette McKenna want what’s best for their adult
children who are nonverbal autistic.
The couple wants to make sure their children, Nicole Helbig and Christopher Helbig Jr.,
can get items this Christmas that will help them with their development and keep them

Cian and Jeannette were married in 2020 but had been together since 2013. Cian, their
stepfather, has been in Nicole’s and Christopher’s lives since then and sees the two of
them as his own children.

Christopher and Nicole go to New Hope Services every Tuesday for therapy that works to
help them get more engaged and become more verbal with people around them.
New Hope Services began in 1958 when a group of Clark County parents met to help
support and incorporate their children with developmental disabilities in local society.
Today, it works to meet the needs of the individuals, families, and seniors in the area.
Christopher is 24 and loves sports. He can participate in any sport and he will be able to
play. Every week he goes to New Hope’s recreation therapy to explore his love for sports.
Nicole is 21 and loves to sing. She goes to music therapy every week. At New Hope their
behaviorist plays into their strengths.

“The kids are amazing with their therapist,” Cian said. “They absolutely enjoy it.”
Their therapist has almost become a part of the family because of how much time is
spent with Christopher and Nicole.

Cian and Jeannette try to keep the two of them occupied as much as they can. Nicole has
a karaoke machine that she sings with and Christopher has dice, dominoes and PlayDoh.
“He’s (Christopher) very creative when it comes to his sports, he makes his own,” Cian
said. “Whenever we’re at restaurant he would take a piece of straw paper or whatever and
he plays soccer with himself… to watch him do that is hilarious. I’ll ask him who’s
winning and he goes ‘Me.’”

On top of taking care of their two children, Cian and Jeannette also babysit for Cian’s
sister’s three children and drive them to school. With that many people in their car, they
are running out of seats. Jeannette works evenings in Louisville and Cian takes care of
Christopher and Nicole as well as his sister’s children.

Not only are they running out of seats, but they are also having car problems. Their van
needs a full tune-up, new battery and new rear brakes.

“We finally got the front brakes fixed because they sounded like birds,” Cian said. “Now
the back ones are starting to grind. We didn’t have money to get both sets fixed… It’s like
we’re just trying to play catch-up, I need to get everything done.”

The family has a Christmas tradition of everyone making their own Kool-Aid pies and
they get to eat them as a dessert.

One year, Nicole chose grape Kool-Aid for her flavor. They went to Cian’s sister’s house
later and she made the mashed potatoes purple potatoes.

“She thought she was getting her grape Kool-Aid pie,” Cian said. “She took a great big
bite and the look on her face was just utter disgust.”

The McKennas are working on creating other family traditions as the years go by. This
year, Christopher will help Cian make the glaze for the ham and the two kids will make
cookies with their grandma.

For Christmas this year, they want items for their children that will help them further
their development.

“If we can get them things that will help with keeping them busy, development of using
their words, just getting them moving… I would be happy,” Cian said.

If Nicole has music that will get her up and dancing and Christopher has something that
will help him get away from his desk and play in different areas, Cian and Jeannette
would see this as a successful Christmas.

For Christopher, they are looking for LEGO car models, six-sided dice any color, Play-Doh
or modeling clay and more. Nicole would like snow globes, instruments, music books,
Disney dolls and more.

Cian and Jeannette would like some fabric and craft supplies as well as home needs such
as laundry detergent and paper towels.

“As long as they’re happy, I’m happy,” Cian said.

*This story was written and published in partnership by the News & Tribune
The Perfect Christmas--– Kara Skinner Family

Kara Skinner’s Family

Kara Skinner's Family

The perfect Christmas is what everyone who celebrates the holiday wants to have. The idea of the perfect Christmas varies from person to person. Some want to be home with their families and others want to travel for the holiday.

In the case of Kara Skinner, a single mother raising eight children, her idea of a perfect Christmas is one where everyone is together, knows how much they are loved, and feels fulfilled with where they’re at so they do not feel like anything is missing. 

Kara has been taking care of her niece and nephew who lost their father. She also is caring for two other children in a family that struggled with addiction. “I worry about the kids I am fostering as far as them missing out, or feeling like they’re missing out, because they are not with their siblings or with mom and dad,” she said.

Inflation, construction to their house, and taking care of eight children have made it really hard for Skinner to give her family the good Christmas that she would like. 

“Having this many kids, it’s really tight this year,” Kara said. “After I get paid, there’s very little left for extra.”

New Hope Services has been working with the family to help relieve some of the stress of having to take care of eight children. Healthy Families is a New Hope program to support parents that helps connect them with community resources.

*Abridged story & photo courtesy of News and Tribune 
Clarksville Mother-to-be Ready for a New Beginning

Seanna’s Story

Seanna's Story

Seanna Kidd has never had a Christmas tree. She can’t afford a traditional tree this year, especially since her son is due a few days before Christmas, but the 20-year-old won’t let that stop her.

“I was never really allowed to celebrate Christmas so I was, just like gung ho crazy for Christmas, and everything is going to have glitter all over it,” she said. 

Kidd created three triangular Christmas trees from a box her Healthy Families case manager, Amy Speedy, gave her. She wrapped the trees in glitter wrapping paper from her boyfriend and said she will use the homemade ornament stickers as decorations. 

Seanna moved to Southern Indiana a few months ago with a cousin; she’s from Denver, Colorado. “I was in a really tough situation in Denver, and it was either move here (with my cousin) or pretty much be homeless,” she said. 

Now she’s pregnant and navigating a new world. She said she was extremely sheltered as a child and didn’t even know her own age until last year. Her grandmother helped her get her birth certificate, which told her how old she was. 

Samantha’s Story

Samantha's Story

The road to motherhood did not start out smoothly for Samantha Jones. While pregnant she was attacked in her home by a burglar with a knife, causing severe injury to her face, neck and torso.


Shortly after this traumatic experience, she was offered the opportunity to participate in Healthy Families. Samantha accepted, and in doing so developed a support system that walked alongside her as she healed both physically and emotionally.

Her home visits with Family Support Specialist Sandy Goen began three months before her daughter, Harmony, arrived. The program helped her transition into her new role as a mother and to create a warm, nurturing environment for her daughter.

Samantha wanted more for her daughter than she had experienced as a child, as she had been raised by a drug addicted mother.

“Samantha asks great questions,” said Sandy, “and she explores new ideas and activities with Harmony. Her excellent parenting is evident when I see her thriving, happy baby.”

Sandy helped Samantha explore personal goals. Samantha set a goal of obtaining a better education and career; Sandy provided support and resources for her; seeing the potential in Samantha, she encouraged and validated her positive choices.

Today Samantha has completed a medical assisting certificate and is working in a medical office. She is committed to her goals, working four days a week and attending class the other three. Sandy could not be more proud of her and her wonderful progress.

Samantha in turn is thankful for the support she receives. She states, “Healthy Families is a great program. I look forward to Sandy coming each week because she brings all kinds of information on my daughter’s growth and development and she has helped me reach our goals. Harmony absolutely loves her!”

Help in Times of Crisis

Help in Times of Crisis


To provide direction and leadership in the development of safe, affordable and suitable housing in response to public need.

At New Hope Services, we’re building homes that improve an individual’s quality of life and the health of communities overall.

New Hope Development Services, Inc. handles the entire process of a project, including market selection, site selection, design, financing, construction management, asset management, building management and leasing, and strategic planning.

Furthermore, issues with the boys’ parents led to a custody hearing. Dawn took in the boys and their mom, her daughter, and tried to make everything work.

“It just wasn’t an appropriate environment for the boys to be in,” Dawn said. “About two years ago, we had to go to court and apply for temporary custody for them to be in my care.”

She’s worked to make sure they have a better place to grow up, and has secured housing through the New Albany Housing Authority. They still need a few things to fill out the space, but she said she’s grateful to have a stable place for all of them to stay.

Through everything, Dawn said she wants stability for the holidays, for her and the boys. She said the boys cook and they enjoy a few TV shows together. Whether it’s “Empire” or “Family Feud,” they gather together as a family most days.

David said he likes to go to the library with his friends sometimes, just to hang out or use the internet. Dawn said Jason likes to play basketball or hang out with his friends outside, or sometimes go over and play video games.

But they also like to get creative. David said he likes to write poetry, which sometimes turns into rap. Jason said he’s better at it than his brother. When he writes, Jason said he wants to express what he’s been through. “I want people to know my struggle,” Jason said.

But he’s got his eyes on the future. The middle-schooler said he wants to be a musical artist, involved in culinary arts or something else.

Dawn said she’s proud of her grandsons and glad she’s taken them on by herself. She said part of that comes from her own grandmother rubbing off on her.

“I guess it would go back to my past, with my dad getting a divorce from my mom and her leaving the five of us on his doorstop,” Dawn said. “He turned to his mom, who helped him out. She didn’t raise us, but she helped raise us while he worked as a truck driver, and she instilled that in me.”

Wishbook: Mother-daughter team support each other through tough times

Marcella Howard and her 14-year-old daughter, Haley, have seen their lives dramatically uprooted in just a short span of time. The mother and daughter have faced one struggle after another in the past few years.

But the bond between Marcella and Haley is one thing that hasn’t changed. It’s difficult to pay all the bills, and the family doesn’t expect much for Christmas, but they know they will be there to take care of each other. “We’ve had each other,” Marcella said. “I know that what’s kept me going.”

Marcella, a single stay-at-home mother, lives with Haley in a small two-bedroom apartment in New Albany. She suffers from epilepsy, which prevents her from driving. She doesn’t live on a TARC route, and she often cannot afford the bus tickets. This makes it difficult to find work, and she relies on disability benefits.

In December 2015, the Howards lost their house, two dogs and their possessions to a fire. “It was really difficult, because I had lost every- thing,” Marcella said. “All of my clothes, everything. I haven’t been able to get everything back.”

They moved into another house in New Albany after the fire, but about two years later, they battled another difficult situation. Last year, Haley’s father was imprisoned for child molestation after sexually abusing her best friend.

It was a traumatic experience for both of them, Marcella said, and it turned the family’s world upside down. Marcella had been with him for about 16 years, and it came as a huge shock, she said. He had been the family’s breadwinner and their main support system, and in the past year, it has become much more difficult for the mother and daughter to make ends meet.

“It’s been so, so rough,” she said. “It’s like, can we catch a break?”

The Howards have been living in their current apartment for about a year — it’s not the best living situation, Marcella said, but it’s what they can afford. They meet with a case manager from New Hope Services, Inc. to help them with their budget and other challenges.

The mother and daughter only have one bed in their apartment, which they share. They hope to get another bed for Haley, but right now, they just cannot afford to buy one, Marcella said. She’s been scared that she won’t be able to provide much for Haley this Christmas.

Their apartment is also not suited well for Marcella’s epilepsy. She has to go down to the basement to do laundry, and this week, she fell down some stairs when she experienced a sudden seizure.

For Haley, her mother’s epilepsy is a constant concern. The seizures are often triggered by stress, and her mother is often at home by herself. Marcella’s safety is her number one priority, she said.

“I just want to help my mom out the best I can, because I don’t like seeing her struggle because of me,” Haley said. “I feel like she stresses out more because of me — she stresses about how she’s going to please me and make me happy, and as long as she’s happy, I’m happy. When she stresses out, I worry about her, and I worry about her seizures.”

Marcella said she wants her daughter to know that she loves her and she is sorry for all the struggles she’s experienced. “She always tells me, don’t worry about it, mom — next year I can get a job, and I could go do this,” she said. “I don’t want her to have to worry about that. I just wish she didn’t have to worry about that.”

Both mother and daughter hope to get out of their apartment soon and build a better future. As soon as she can drive, Haley plans to get a job, and Marcella wants to find a home on a bus line so that she’ll be able to work and run errands.

Marcella and Haley have plenty of disagreements, but, ultimately, they are a team. “We get in fights and stuff, but that’s because we’re so much alike,” Marcella said. “At the end of the day, we love each other, and we’re each other’s best friends. We’re willing to take a bullet for each other.”

Since her father was imprisoned, holidays haven’t felt the same, Haley said. But the mother and daughter feel lucky that they have each other. This Christmas, they plan to continue their tradition of watching Christmas movies and drinking eggnog together.

“Every day, I’m just happy I’m with her,” Haley said. “At least I’m with her during the holidays — at least I still have her. Everything’s not different because I still have her in my life.”

Story by Brooke McAfee Photo by Tyler Stewart

New Hope Services partners with News and Tribune each year for the Holiday season Wish Book project. Click here to help families in need.

Group of staff at New Hope services food drive

Extol Magazine Teams Up With New Hope Again

50 turkeys and other foods help our families celebrate

Once again we sincerely thank our friends at Extol Magazine for their efforts to collect turkeys and other foods for the Thanksgiving holiday. Editor Angie Fenton, Jason Applegate, and their staff worked hard this year to arrange the food collection for us.

Our thanks also to members of the Christ Gospel Church for hosting the collection last Saturday. Volunteers at the church received the food and kept the turkeys cold until they could be delivered to New Hope Commons on Monday.

Everything was quickly distributed to families that needed the food; some families would not have had a holiday meal without the generous donations from you and others like you, and we are grateful!