Janice Rivera


013.jpgWhen Janice moved to Belton, she had no idea she would be speaking before our state capitol’s legislative body and interviewed by the television and newspaper media.  Janice was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and is the 13th of 14 children.  She says the family wasn’t wealthy, but they weren’t poor either.  Her parents’ employment was often seasonal.  When her father wasn’t share-cropping, he worked as a carpenter and in masonry.  Her mother was a seamstress, making school uniforms and formals for weddings or other special celebrations. 

As Janice’s siblings moved away, she enjoyed spending time with her younger sister playing outside.  She quickly learned to “toughen up” as she calls it, in a male dominated neighborhood.  She often had to take up for her “baby sister,” who did not know how to handle rough-playing boys that liked to push the limits.  Janice quickly went from learning to teaching them not to mess with the Riveras.  She said they weren’t bad boys, they were just too rough.

When she was old enough, she spent summers at her older sister and brother-in-law’s home in Queens, New York.  She enjoyed it so much, she moved in with them when she was 16 years old and remained with them until she graduated from high school.  Sometimes she went to work with her sister at a clothing factory during the week and to Coney Island’s amusement parks and Far Rockaway beach on the weekends.  Some of her weekends were also spent with her brother, Hector (9th of 14), in Pennsylvania. 

In 2012, Janice, her husband and five children moved to Killeen to be closer to her brother, who had moved here from Pennsylvania, and a job offer for her husband.  The job was no longer available, and the bills had to be paid.  This brings us back to the beginning of our story.  Janice’s family was experiencing financial difficulties, so like many others, she took out a loan from a car title/pay-day loan company.  The high service fees made it impossible to pay off the loan, so the family’s vehicle was repossessed.  She sold some of her household items in order to pay the repossession fees.  Since she was a client of Helping Hands Ministry, her story was heard by Executive Director Rucker Preston, who asked Janice to share it at the state capitol during two Texas House Committee hearings.  After her second testimony, she was approached by several television and newspaper reporters for a press conference, so she told her story once again, hoping others wouldn’t go through what her family endured.  Janice has now transitioned from a Helping Hands client to an advocate.