Key West High School freshman Aaron Arrieta does a pretty good job impersonating his step-mom’s morning sickness.
As he should. The blended, seven-member family has an intimate bond that comes from sharing a 650 square-foot, two-bedroom apartment.
Yet the reserved, burgeoning artist appears un-phased by the cramped living conditions as evidenced this past spring when he was named Horace O’Bryant’s “Most Improved 8th Grader;” an award that his dad will quickly peel from the wall and proudly show to guests.
Aaron and his older brother Isaiah are shy and passive during introductions, a trait their dad says likely comes from the cramped living conditions, while the two younger boys, David, 10, and Joshua, 7, are considerably more lively.
David is “the sweet, compassionate and wicked smart one” with a propensity to disassemble an electronic pencil sharpener. Joshua is the kind of kid who will ride his bike until the wheels fall off and whose unbridled energy wreaks havoc on any type of fastening designed to keep things together.
With mom and dad in one room and four boys in the other, their six-year old step-sister Savannah indirectly controlled the household until just recently. Her bed doubled as the family couch.
“When Savannah was sent to bed early for misbehaving, they all went to bed early,” laughed her mom, Lisa.
A recent stroke of luck, combined with the help of the Catholic Charities, helped the Arrietas secure a four-bedroom rental complete with luxuries such as their own washer and dryer and a fenced-in yard. But they still face daily challenges to meet all the needs of their expanding family — the most pressing is a reliable car big enough to transport them all, including the baby set to arrive in March.
The Arrietas are just one of countless families served by Wesley House who although teetering on the edge of poverty, are teaching their children about rewards of perseverance through their own personal triumphs and unquestionable love.
Their dad Edson, who hails from Peru and works in the service department at Duncan Auto, wed Lisa a year ago at Glad Tidings Church. She is a former construction worker who Edson persuaded to switch to a “safer” profession after two serious work-related accidents — a fall from a 14-foot scaffold and being knocked unconscious by a falling drill gun.
Now Lisa works in retail and although the money isn’t as great as construction, the labor is more conducive to her pregnancy and she feels fortunate to be able to spend the weekends with her family.
The Weekly Newspapers has partnered with The Wesley House to profile families in need during the holiday season, or, as we like to call it, the giving season. For the next four weeks, we are working together to highlight the needs of families — from Key Largo to Key West — that go beyond being able to put a toy under the Christmas tree and a turkey in the oven.
They need things like car repairs to get to and from work, and the ability to continue their education so as to earn a better paycheck. We encourage our readers to open their hearts to these families, living and working alongside us, by donating the supplies or funds they need to overcome the obstacles in their lives.
ABOUT WESLEY HOUSE
The Wesley House is a nationally accredited non-for-profit agency that administers programs to nurture children and strengthen families in Monroe County. In 2005, it accepted responsibility for the child dependency care system throughout the Florida Keys when the program was privatized in 2005. That includes case management, foster and adoptive family recruitment, training and support services when it’s necessary to remove a child from the family. It also runs a family development center and helps mothers-to-be and families with instruction and counseling.
The Arriettas most pressing need is a gently used vehicle, big enough to transport the entire family — including the baby who will arrive in March. The five children, ranging in age from 6 to 15, agree a family trampoline would be a great addition to the backyard of their recently rented four-bedroom apartment with its own fenced yard. The funds collected for each family will be deposited in a distinct account for their needs. Please make checks out to Wesley House and include “Arrieta” in the memo line. Mail the checks to The Wesley House, 1304 Truman Ave., Key West, FL 33040. The Weekly will update readers in coming weeks on the status of the fundraiser for each family.
Update: The Arietta family — two parents, five children, and a baby on the way — have received a $100 donation from Island Service of Marathon towards the purchase of a larger, more reliable car.