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Poverty
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North America
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USA, Nebraska, Marriage, Children, Family
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Darlene Dockhorn, 35, is a single mother who works as a data entry worker earning $6.50 an hour in Grand Island, Nebraska. During the course of the documentary, Darlene marries, although the finances remain tight.
Teresa Hurteau

1992 — student award of excellence

Darlene Dockhorn, 35, works at Principal Financial Group in the micrographics department as a data entry worker earning $6.50 an hour in Grand Island, Nebraska. She began working there in October 1994. This photo was taken in March 1995. She says she likes working there because "everybody works together."

Grand Island is located in Central Nebraska near the Platte River and is the third largest city in Nebraska with a population of 40,000. Most people work in agriculture.

Especially valuable to Darlene is make-up time from her job which gives her the flexibility she needs as a single mother of three young children. Employees are allowed to make-up twelve hours a month. That way, if she knows she needs an afternoon off, she can work an extra hour the other four days in that week.

"I've worked hard all my life since I was 13-years-old," Darlene proudly says. She de-tassled corn for two summers until she was old enough to work at McDonald's. When she was in high school, she worked full-time at McDonald's and went to school full-time.

Where did the money go?

"I spent it," she said.

Prior to working at Principal, she worked at the Nebraska Veterans Home in the housekeeping department, babysat out of her house, worked as a cashier at a department store and in the accounting department at the local meat-packing plant. She has taken business courses at what is now called the Spencer School of Business in Grand Island.

She continues to work at Principal and says that she likes her job. "It's the easiest job I've ever had," Darlene says.

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Darlene Dockhorn, 35, works at Principal Financial Group in the micrographics department as a data entry worker earning $6.50 an hour in Grand Island, Nebraska. She began working there in October 1994. This photo was taken in March 1995. She says she likes working there because "everybody works together." Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Darlene gets her daughter Savannah, 5, ready for school as her youngest daughter Diana, 3, watches the cartoon channel on cable television at 6 a.m. on a school day in May 1995.

Darlene wakes her three children, Savannah, Steven and Diana, one at a time, dressing them individually on her lap in the living room. With blank stares toward the television, they wipe their own faces with dampened washcloths.

Each child gets two pieces of toast. Then it is time to leave for the babysitter's house and on to work for Darlene by 7 a.m. The babysitter was paid for with state funds while Darlene was a single mother. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Diana, 3, attempts to cool her chicken and noodles lunch by blowing on it as her mother, Darlene, showed her how in their home in March 1995. Darlene made the lunch from government commodities of canned chicken and noodles.

Because Diana is underweight for her age, she continues to qualify for benefits from a federal program called Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The program gives Darlene vouchers for milk, cheese, eggs, dried beans, cereal, juices and peanut butter. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Darlene's sister Tiffany Williams, 22, left, often trades off babysitting with Darlene on weekends and evenings when either one needs some time off from the kids. Tiffany is married with one child, Stephanie, 2, left.

Steven, 8, right, asks his mother a question while she holds Diana, 3, in their kitchen.

Darlene is the oldest of eight children. All but one lives in Grand Island, as do her parents. She sees her parents and siblings throughout the month.

Her father and brothers help her out with repairs on her 1980 Buick Skylark. "We have four mechanics in my family," Darlene says, "but sometimes I have to take a number." Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Darlene went to work at Principal Financial Group, in Grand Island, as usual, the morning of her wedding to Stan on Friday, July 28, 1995. Stan also went to his new job at the Juniata Feed Lot, in Juniata, Neb., where he works as a large equipment operator.

Before going to work that morning, Stan said to Darlene, "Let's call in sick."

She said, "No. We can't do that. We don't have any days left."

To be able to take the afternoon off for the wedding, Darlene worked an extra hour the four preceding days. Principal employees are allowed up to 12 hours make-up time each month.

During her 10 a.m. break at work, Darlene was given a wedding present from her co-workers - two tickets to the local dinner theater. She was all smiles after that. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
On the morning of her wedding, Darlene's wedding ring arrived via United Parcel Service.

She and Stan had been watching the home shopping channel on cable television the week before the wedding and this ring came up on the screen. They ordered it over the phone. The next day they sent a money order.

"It arrived just under the wire," Darlene said. The UPS driver left the package containing the ring in the garage for safe-keeping. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Often Darlene's daughters watch her as she puts makeup on and the wedding day was no exception. Their three bedroom has one bathroom.

The children were excited about the wedding. However, they did not get to go to the courthouse for the actual ceremony. Darlene's sister Tiffany stayed home with the children. Later the children were brought to the reception. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Darlene Dockhorn marries Stan Osterhoudt in a Hall County Courtroom on Friday afternoon, July 28, 1995.

Stan's sister Patty Vanevery, left, and Darlene's sister Sherry Andrews, at right, witness the marriage. Hall County Judge Martin officiated. Darlene's parents attended the brief ceremony along with some of Stan's family from Broken Bow. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Darlene watches her children from across the room at the reception with Stan sitting next to her.

The reception was held at the Blue Flame Room at the local gas company. The community room was reserved at no cost. Darlene and her mother split the cost for refreshments. The cake was made by Stan's sister Dorothy Russell.

It was Darlene's second marriage, but her first wedding reception. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation
Darlene talks on the phone after spending an afternoon making two birthday cakes for Stan's son Joshua, 8, and her daughter Savannah, 6. The children are looking at two birthday gifts while Stan folds laundry on a Sunday evening.

Even though her life has improved since her marriage to Stan, Darlene is still living close to the poverty line for a family of seven, soon to be eight. Each paycheck counts.

They are thankful for a roof over their heads and for their jobs. Teresa Hurteau/Alexia Foundation