By Richard E. Baldwin

News Niagara reporter

NIAGARA FALLS – Andrea Frizzell is having a hard time making ends meet on her small, intermittent and undependable income, and she is staring at two birthdays and Christmas coming within 10 days of one another.

It’s not for lack of effort. Frizzell wants to work. She earned her GED diploma and a license to provide skin care. She even tried teaching and running her own business. But the money just isn’t there in these hard times, and she’s relying on help from the Salvation Army so her two small children still will believe there really is a Santa Claus.

The children – Charley Page, who will turn 4 on Dec. 30, and Amelia Page, a 5-year-old kindergartner at 79th Street School – don’t want much.

“They will be happy with whatever Santa Claus brings,” Frizzell said.

“We’ll just get by. I save by shopping at Aldi’s where the prices are lower, and I freeze the meat so we have almost enough to last us until the end of the month. The Salvation Army said we could pick up some children’s gifts there on Dec. 20, and we have a Christmas tree with some hand-made decorations and some hand-me-downs.”

Frizzell, a single mother who will turn 27 on Dec. 21, doesn’t want anything for herself, but with a bit of prompting she admitted that “I haven’t had a birthday cake in five years.”

She was born in Iowa but moved east in hopes of a better life. She and the children now live on Pasadena Avenue, off Buffalo Avenue in the LaSalle section of Niagara Falls.

She earned her GED in 2003 and got an esthetic license that permits her to do skin care, including body waxing, soothing skin abrasions, application of makeup and other treatments and mud wraps. She was good enough at it that she landed a job teaching those techniques from 2010 until early this year at the Salon Professional Academy in the Town of Tonawanda.

Frizzell said she had only a few dollars in her pocket, but she left teaching to get what she thought would be a better job.

“I tried to run my own business called Dermal Healing Center, but I just didn’t have the money to sustain it, and it closed in August,” she said.

In October, she hooked up with the Barton Hill Hotel and Spa in Lewiston, where she works on commission whenever there is work. “Business is slow in the wintertime,” she said.

To qualify for help, she worked for a while as a volunteer at the Salvation Army in Niagara Falls, and now she has become a client there. She also qualifies for Medicaid and food stamps to help get her over the rough spots.

The News Neediest Fund will help to make this Christmas and the two birthdays a little happier for Frizzell and for little Charley and Amelia – and for thousands of other families like them – through generous donations from throughout Western New York.

This is the 31st year of The News Neediest Fund, started in 1982 as a way to help families who could not afford holiday gifts. The need today is greater than it was then. The fund is collecting gifts of cash and new, unwrapped gifts to be distributed to families who apply. The program is administered by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.

During last year’s drive, the fund helped more than 12,000 families – 14,000 children – by distributing more than $700,000 in toys and food.

Today is the deadline to apply for gifts, but donations still are being accepted at dozens of sites in Erie and Niagara counties.

Cash donations may be mailed to The News Neediest Fund, P.O. Box 2667, Buffalo, NY 14240-9873; donations can also be made to