I am worried about my elderly neighbor. I think she is having a hard time financially. The home she lives in is very rundown and needs some upkeep. She also has a cat that does not look well to me. I have offered to drive her and the cat to the vet, but she said she could not afford to go. She really loves her cat, so I am worried that if she cannot afford her cats medical care, she may be cutting back in other important things, too. I offered to help her around the house, but the most she will accept is if I take out her trash can or drop off an occasional plate of food. I told her about your organization, and she told me she can’t ask anyone for help. From what I can tell, she does need your help, and I would really appreciate if you could check on her.
I called the woman who had written this letter requesting our assistance for her neighbor. I know this is not always easy to do, and sometimes due to pride it is hard assistance to provide. If someone does not want to be helped, you cannot force it upon them, but sometimes they just need to be asked by the right person. I knew I would be able to find out what her elderly neighbor needed for assistance.
After speaking with the neighbor on the phone for about 10 minutes, I knew more about the elderly woman. The neighbor told me how the woman’s now-deceased husband had been suffering from dementia for five years. It had become so bad, he no longer knew who his wife was and when she had tried to prevent him from leaving the house, he was too strong to stop. The neighbor told me how she had come to her door crying when he had gotten lost after one such episode.
The elderly woman finally had to put him in a home, and had shared with the neighbor that his level of care had come at a high cost. I asked the neighbor what other signs of poverty she had seen. The neighbor answered: “I have seen a continual decline in the exterior of her home. I think her gas utilities may be off, because she told me her oven is not working. I also am very worried about her cat. Since the last time I saw the cat, it has become extremely thin and weak.”
I asked the neighbor if she had told the elderly woman that she had written to The Time Is Now to Help. She said she had. I asked what the elderly woman’s response was, and she said she had nodded her head and been silent. The neighbor said, “Let’s just say she did not say no.”
I asked if she would be willing to meet me at her neighbor’s house for the introduction, and she said she would be happy to do that. Since it was already late in the day, we made plans to meet at the elderly woman’s home the next day. The next day, I met the neighbor at the elderly woman’s home at the appointed time. We spoke outside for a few minutes and then walked to the back door together. After knocking, we waited for the elderly woman to answer the door.
In a moment, the door was opened by a petite, thin woman. She looked from the neighbor to me and then asked, “Is this the man you were telling me about?” The neighbor said I was, and introduced us. The neighbor asked, “Is it alright if we come in?” She nodded and stepped aside to let us in.
I was relieved to not smell mold when we entered the home. So many times this year, I have found our fellow creations living in dangerous mold conditions. The home was not in too bad of a condition inside compared to the obvious repairs needed outside. The elderly woman showed the neighbor and I through the few small rooms. They were not crowded with belongings as I sometimes find elderly people living. Everything was neat and orderly.
When we came upon her car sleeping on the back of her sofa it was immediately apparent that the cat was ill. I asked the elderly woman about the cat, and she told me how the last time she had been able to take it to the vet had been nearly two years prior. I could see the sadness in her eyes as she said: “I love her dearly, but I just can’t afford to take her to the vet. I can’t even afford my utilities right now.”
She turned her head away and tried to wipe away a tear before we would see it, but we did. It was the first time she had hinted at any financial problems she may be having.
I asked the woman if she minded telling me more about her situation. She said she would like to talk to me, so we all walked to the table to sit down and talk. The neighbor woman said she had to get back home, as she told me before we entered the elderly woman’s home that she knew she would be uncomfortable speaking freely in front of her. She said goodbye to both of us, so the elderly woman and I could talk together.
At first, the elderly woman only spoke about her cat and how her neighbor had told her we could possibly help with getting her cat to the vet. I told her about our veterinary assistance program and how some of our donors donate specifically for pet care. I said: “We help people when they cannot afford veterinary care for their pets, thanks to our pet care donors. But most of our donors donate specifically to help people like you, people who are living on a fixed income and maybe are having a hard time paying their utilities or paying for food.”
The elderly woman said: “There must be many generous people that care about not only animals, but people, too. My neighbor told me about how many people you help every year. She said you helped over 600 people last year. Is that correct?” I told her it was.
The elderly woman wanted to hear more about our charity work, so I shared with her about the many people we have helped and also about all of you who make our charity work possible.
Once she knew more about our charitable work, the elderly woman seemed ready to accept a helping hand from our organization. I asked if she had a budget, and together we went over her expenses and income. She told me about her husband’s long expensive battle with dementia. She cried as she told me about how she missed his companionship, and her feeling of loss when he no longer recognized her. Then she told me about the terrible night he shoved her aside and pushed his way out the door. He had become disoriented and lost outside. When he had finally been found by her and the neighbor woman, he was scared because he did not know who they were.
Since she could not safely care for him any longer, he had been put in a memory care facility. The cost of that facility for the remaining two years of his life had emptied their savings account completely, leaving her only social security to live off. This was not enough for her property taxes, utilities, insurance, medical bills, food and veterinary care.
The first thing I suggested to the woman was selling her home. She told me she had been thinking of this for the past six months, and admitted she had agreed to sell her home to her nephew. I asked what she would be selling the home for, and considering all the necessary repairs the offer seemed fair. Once her debts were paid, she would have a very small savings left to help with her expenses in the future. Since her nephew could not purchase the home for two months yet, we still needed to help the elderly woman now. We talked about where she would like to move once her home was sold. She told me about an apartment that was close by, and it also allowed cats. She said she had already filled out an application and been on a waiting list for some time. I told her I would look into her application status if she liked, and she was grateful for my offer.
I then asked about her oven not working, and indeed the neighbor had been correct. Her natural gas utilities were disconnected. They had been disconnected two months ago when she had needed prescriptions and had to choose between her health and her gas utilities. She also was struggling to keep her electric from disconnection. Now that more details of her financial state were becoming apparent, I understood why she had not been able to take her cat to the veterinarian.
I asked the elderly woman if she minded if I looked around her kitchen. She looked confused, so I explained how I was looking for signs of food insecurity. She asked, “What is food insecurity?” I answered, “It is when you do not have a sufficient amount of nutritious food.” She broke into tears as she answered, “Well I can save you the trouble of looking and just tell you I probably am what you would call food insecure.”
As I quickly scanned her refrigerator and cabinets, I found she was definitely food insecure. The elderly woman said: “When my neighbor drops off a plate, I like to make it last a few days. If there is chicken or fish, I share it with my cat. Then I have canned soup or cereal for a few days.”
I tried to hide my own tears as I listened to her tell me about her struggle with occasional hunger.
I made a call to a volunteer who was happy to pick up some food for this sweet elderly woman. I also asked the volunteer to pick up some cat food for the woman’s feline companion. When I hung up the phone the elderly woman asked, “You are having your volunteer bring me cat food, too?” I answered, “If I don’t, you will probably feed the cats your food before feeding yourself.” She answered, “You seem to know me already.”
I asked the woman about the veterinarian she usually saw with her cat. I made a call to that veterinarian, and they said they would see her cat for a reduced rate if The Time Is Now to Help was paying. I thanked them for their kindness, and made an appointment. I asked the elderly woman if she would need a ride to the vet, but she said she would ask her neighbor. She replied: “She has been asking me for the past few weeks if she could drive us there. I will let her help me.”
We called the neighbor together, and she was happy to help.
Before I left, I went over the help we would be providing. We would pay her overdue gas utilities and have them reconnected. We also would pay her overdue electric utilities. We would provide emergency food and grocery gift cards to be sure she did not become food insecure again while waiting to sell her home. We provided toiletries and also promised a new bed when she moved into her new apartment. We also would provide her first month’s rent and security deposit when she was ready to move, to ensure she was able to get the apartment she had applied for.
With all the elderly woman’s obvious needs taken care of, I asked if there was anything else we could do for her. She was now obviously wiping away her tears, no longer even trying to hide them from me. She reached out and took my hand. “How can I thank you for everything you are doing for me? You knew just what I needed without me even asking.”
I knew I couldn’t have done this without you, our donors, and the wonderful neighbor who brought this elderly woman to our attention.
By the end of the week, the elderly woman had her utilities restored and her food insecurity was a thing of the past. Her cat had been to the veterinarian, and with some medications and a steady diet will live out the rest of her time in comfort. In six weeks time, her application for her apartment had been approved, and the first month’s rent and security deposit were provided. Her nephew and his wife came from out of town to help her pack and move her belongings before they purchased her home.
The elderly woman was relieved to no longer have the expense and stress of the upkeep of an older home. She no longer had to skip meals and utility bills to pay her taxes. She had access to weekly transportation for groceries, and had a social life with other senior citizens. After years of stress, she finally was able to enjoy life once more. Thank you for helping us provide this assistance to one of our elderly neighbors in need.
Our mission to provide poverty relief to our fellow creations in need is a reality, thanks to all of us coming together to change these lives together. We together make all this possible. I began The Time Is Now to Help 30 years ago, and for many years did these good works on my own, but now I am so blessed to have all of you behind everything we do together. As we daily continue to receive requests for assistance, we together will continue to do the good works of our Lord helping our fellow creations, removing the pains of poverty. Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease the pains of poverty.
Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal
Please help: There are many coming to us in desperation. Our good fellow creations need our compassion. Together we make a big difference. Make checks payable to: The Time Is Now to Help, P.O. Box 1, Lake Geneva, WI 53147. The Time Is Now to Help is a federally recognized 501©3 charitable organization licensed in the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. You will receive a tax deductible, itemized thank you receipt showing how your donation provided assistance for the poverty stricken.
A very special thank you: Barnabas Donors, Rhoades Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, Estate of Arlis Hogberg, Ted Bluey and Bernie Swartz, Paul Ziegler, Ziegler Charitable Foundation, Kunes Country Auto Group, Kune’s Family Foundation, Lake Geneva Area Realty, The Harold and Bernice De Weerd Family Foundation, The Premium Package, The Dan & Donna Casey Family Charitable Fund, Dick and Jean Honeyager, Direct Contract Cleaning, Michael Glass, Robert and Patricia Davis, Alden United Methodist Church, Patricia Jankowski, Rita’s Wells Street Salon, Judy Dishneau, Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Cerniglia, Gregory Swanson, Jeanne Allen, Phil Allen, Karin Slayton, William Davit, Donald Bailey, Gregory Ray, and William Norton.
Honoraries: Kathryn Rodgers in celebration of Richard Driehaus’ Birthday. Memorials: Sally Rayner in memory of her husband Lawrence Rayner Jr. Bob and Mary Ann Zelenski in memory of Roger Luetten and Ann Richter.
Prayer chain: The power of prayer and positive thoughts comes from the true healer, our Lord answering our prayers. Please pray for healing for the following people: Talyn, Mike, Susan, Sylvia, Richard, Jennifer, Jayden, Maria C., Alex, Lily, Kaitlyn, Sheila, Rhonda, Deda Lee, Marilyn, Helen, Dennis, Mary, Joseph, Sal, Jordan, Jean, Tom L., Arabelle J., Dr. Peter and Alyce.
Please visit: www.timeisnowtohelp.org