Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Man in need reluctant to take help

April 05, 2012

Dear W.C.,

I am writing to see if you would be able to check on my neighbor. He is an elderly man that I have a feeling really needs your help. I have tried to ask him how he is doing several times since his wife passed away two years ago, but he will not admit to me he is having a hard time. I can see he has lost weight and I noticed his lights are off all the time. I have not even heard the television on for the last few months. I brought a plate of food to his door yesterday in hopes he would ask for help. At first he refused the food but I told him I would not leave unless he took the plate. He finally took the plate and shut the door right away. In just those few minutes I could feel the chill coming from his apartment and see it was very dark inside. Please see if this man needs your help.

A concerned neighbor

Dear readers,

Our seniors are having a hard time in this economy as well. Many of them still drive but can no longer afford both gas and rent. If they were lucky, some of them had savings that have now dwindled. Social Security is not enough to cover utilities, rent, food, and the many prescription medications our senior citizens are taking. If a senior has been married for many years, and then becomes a widow, it is even harder. The widowed seniors are lonely and often have not had to manage things on their own for many years. It can be hard or impossible to budget the many expenses on only one social security check.

I contacted the writer of this request for assistance and told her I would be stopping by to check on this elderly man. She was very happy we were looking into this widowed senior man's conditions. She offered to meet me at the apartment building entrance and take me to the senior man's apartment. I met the letter writer at the door to the building and she showed me to the senior man's door. She knocked and called out, as she said the man was known to not answer his door to strangers. After several minutes I heard a slow shuffling to the door and the lock opened.

A thin, frail elderly man peered out a crack in the chained door. He said he was busy and did not want any company. The neighbor quickly introduced me and asked the man if he knew who I was. He said he did not and began to close the door. I quickly put my hand out to introduce myself and prevent him from shutting the door in our faces. He looked me in the eye and asked, "Who are you?" I showed him the newspaper column with my picture on it and a picture from CNN.

He looked worried and said, "I don't want no news people here." I told him I was not with the news, I was with an organization that helped people, just like himself. Not to embarrass him any longer the neighbor excused herself and left. I told him I wanted to help him. He asked, "Who would want to help an old man like me?" I looked him in the eye and said, "I would." I could see he wanted to believe there was someone in this world that cared for him and his well being. I could feel his hesitation easing. I showed him my identification and asked if there was anyone else he would want me to call to be there with us. He said sadly, "I have no one."

I told him, "You now have someone and I'm standing right here in front of you." He looked up at me with a bewildered look. I told him of my own history of living in poverty with my mother and my vow to God to help others. I asked again, "Will you please let me help?" He finally agreed and opened the door to talk. After a few minutes speaking in the hall I asked him if he would mind if I saw his apartment. He opened the door and invited me in.

The apartment was very small, cold and dark, just as the neighbor had said. When I asked why it was so cold, the senior man said he had turned down the thermostat and kept his lights off to save on utilities. I could see he was embarrassed by his dismal living conditions. I quickly looked around the room and saw photos of a much younger version of the elderly man, smiling with a lovely woman beside him. I asked if this woman in the photo was his wife. He smiled and looked at the photo.

He told me it was a picture taken on their honeymoon over 60 years ago. I congratulated him on such an accomplishment. He said it was easy to be married to such a wonderful woman, it was much harder being without her. When I looked at the man this time he was no longer smiling, he now had tears in his eyes. When I told him The Time Is Now to Help was there to try and make it easier for him, I saw the tears he was trying to hide begin to fall. His voice kept breaking as he asked again,

"Why would anyone want to help an old man?" I proceeded to tell him about all of you, how we have come together to care and share with gracious hearts for our fellow creations. The elderly widow looked at me in disbelief saying, "Are you people for real? No one really cares about people anymore." I told him how good people do exist and are coming together as good Americans helping one another.

Finally believing me the elderly man began to cry, it seemed as if he had been holding it in for years. He cried hard for several minutes, as he tried to hide his face. I put my hand on his shoulder to comfort him. When his tears began to subside he said, "I am so alone in this world now. We never were able to have children. Neither of us had any other family still alive."

I assured him there were many caring and sharing people that would like to be there for him, if he just let them in. I asked him if I could ask his wonderful neighbor in that wrote me about his well being. He nodded yes. I wanted him to be open to allowing volunteers to check on him. I invited the neighbor to join us and she did.

After we spoke for a half hour the neighbor said she had to go back home to take care of her family. She knew we had more personal things to talk about and the proud senior would probably not open up about his financial state in front of her. She left after reminding him she was just across the hall if he needed anything. I had spoken to this neighbor before and knew she had just enough to take care of her own family, and yet here she was offering what little she had to share with a neighbor.

Once she left I asked the proud man more personal questions. I went over a budget with him. He admitted to being behind in his utilities. He said he had an unexpected medical emergency and that took the balance of his savings. I told him he should have made very small monthly payments, hospitals do understand. Instead he had given them everything he had. He also was having to pay for a cab to take him to his doctor's appointments and to pick up prescriptions and food.

I told him there were several volunteers that would be happy to do these things for him and come check on him from time to time, if he would like the company. He said, "It would be nice to have someone to talk to every now and then." I also told him his pride was standing in the way of good people who really wanted to help. I asked him if he would join us, allowing our good works to continue. In disbelief that we existed, he nodded yes and his eyes filled with tears again, but this time with a smile.

When I finished my evaluation of his expenses I came up with a plan that would help him stay within his budget. With the help from volunteers he would no longer need to spend money on cabs. We paid his past due utilities. Volunteers brought him food and toiletries he had not been able to purchase in a very long time. This proud man was so very happy to have a new razor so he could go out in public without being embarrassed over his appearance. He had not been able to purchase one for months. He also was very thankful for the food his neighbor prepared. We also made sure he was receiving Meals on Wheels, one of several services available to our seniors he had not signed up for. I contacted the owner of the apartment building and he was willing and able to cut his rent by 25%.

With the additional assistance, I noticed a marked difference in the senior gentleman's health and demeanor. He no longer shut himself off from neighbors and caring new friends. He was much more outgoing and even joined a group for widows at his church he had not gone to since his wife's passing. He made his new family from a group of friends and volunteers that grew to care and share for this man. The next time I saw him he had gained weight on his previously frail frame. He was smiling until he hugged me, then started crying tears of relief, telling me to thank all of you for changing his life.

Together, we took a lonely, starving, and cold elderly widow and put life back into him with love and compassion. Thank you to everyone that has donated to our Montei Foundation $20,000 Matching Grant. Please help us meet this matching grant. Every dollar you donate will be matched by another. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful supportive group of donors and volunteers. Your help is what makes The Time Is Now to Help so successful in its fight against the suffering of poverty. Thank you for your caring and sharing for our fellow Americans in need.

Health and Happiness, God Bless Everyone, W.C./Sal

Please Help: Make checks payable to: The Time Is Now to Help, P.O. Box 70, Pell Lake, WI 53157. The Time Is Now to Help is a federally recognized 501(c)3 charitable organization licensed in the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. You will receive a tax deductible, itemized thank you receipt showing exactly what every penny of your donation provided for the poverty stricken. A Very Special Thank You: Fox Charities, Montei Foundation, CNN/Turner Broadcasting System, The Rhoades Foundation, Kunes' Country Auto Group, Petco Foundation, Lake Geneva Petco, Martin Business Group, John Stensland and Family, EnerNOC, Inc., Gary Darman, Inc., Dick and Jean Honeyager, Martin O'Brien, Helen Miller, George and Jackie Leedle, Claudia Garber, Carolyn May Essel, Robert and Alanna Gordon, Marie Kerkman, Robert Keller, Rosemarie Reiherzer, Margarie Egger, Joan Marabito Rietz, Shawn and Donna McLafferty, Victoria Wertz, Marvin Hersko and Audrey Wunderlin-Hersko, Dorothy Heffernan, Network for Good, W.C. Family Resource Center/Food Pantry volunteers, and all the God loving volunteers of all our caring food pantries, ALL of you who support The Time Is Now to Help donation boxes, and the businesses that allow our donation boxes. Anyone who would like a Time Is Now donation box in your business, please call (262)249-7000.

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