MOUNT VERNON, Va. (WDVM) — New shoes or a baseball glove may not seem like much, but for Ron Fitzsimmons and his sister, Laura, it was a rare but exhilarating moment in his childhood.
His family lived on a monthly welfare check that barely covered rent or food. Charities would arrive at their door with clothing and food donations — and the family quickly became known in the neighborhood.
“While we appreciated the gesture, it was quite embarrassing. We became labeled as the ‘Welfare Family’, those ‘Welfare Kids,'” said Fitzsimmons.
Feeling her children’s pain, their mother would earn extra money cleaning neighbor’s clothing to purchase those new shoes.
“She’d come running home, very proudly and would announce ‘Let’s go to E.J. Korvette and get those summer clothes,” said Fitzsimmons. “That feeling remained with us forever.”
The siblings started a charity, providing grants for children to finally take a dance class, or to buy a new bike, without the feeling of shame the siblings experienced all those years ago.
“My sister and I vowed to not put a child in that situation. If you go to our Twitter page, you’ll see pictures of kids that the parents have sent us, like a kid getting dressed up in a new tuxedo…but the face is blurred out.”
Their mother, named Alice, was abandoned at a young age. Dreaming of having a family, she married in 1949, only to be abused and abandoned by her husband.
Despite the difficult hand life dealt her, the immense amount of love she gave with such little means has now impacted children across the country.
“What was supposed to be a little charity for kids in the Mount Vernon area has grown into this national effort. We’re in 48 states now. It’s the best work I have ever done, certainly,” said Fitzsimmons.
Alice’s Kids has a very large budget this year. The charity encourages anyone to reach out if they are in need by filling out the submission form on their website.