The Time is Now: Struggling seniors grateful for a little help

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Sal Dimiceli | April 18, 2017

Dear W.C.,

I am the manager for a low-income housing project. We have several senior and handicapped residents that I think would be good candidates for your assistance.

Marge is a 72-year-old woman who has lived in poverty most her life. Her deceased husband was an alcoholic and left her destitute. She has told me how abusive he was until the time of his death 10 years ago. I worry about Marge because while she has housing and social security she cannot afford a new bed or a much needed dental visit.

I also have a handicapped veteran that needs a bed and some household necessities. He lost all his belongings in a fire over five years ago. His health and vision are poor. The only furniture he has is an old recliner he took from someone's trash years ago.

George is a kind man who does not receive nearly enough in compensation for what he gave to his country. I see him struggling with his handicap and living in poverty yet he always has a kind word for everyone.  

Theresa is a 78-year-old widow. She has a grown son that never even visits. She too needs a bed and if you visit maybe you can see for yourself what else she may need.

Theresa is very proud and never asks for anything. I have asked her several times if there is anything she needs and she always says no. Please consider helping these residents as I see them struggle in poverty every day.

Dear Readers,

I have visited this low-income housing project in the past. Many of our fellow creations that call this complex home are our forgotten veterans, senior citizens and the handicapped. Many of them live without beds, furniture and household necessities. I called the manager to set up a time when I could visit these residents.

When I arrived at the apartment complex I had a bag of food and toiletries for each resident. I know most of the people that live there do not have cars or transportation to get to the food pantry. Many of them do not have the physical ability to get anywhere on their own due to age-related disabilities and handicaps. I met the manager in the parking lot and we spoke a little about who we were visiting. She answered some more questions I had about their backgrounds and family situations. Then we walked in to visit our first resident.

Marge was a thin, frail woman who looked older than her years. When I see 72-year-olds I always compare to my own robust, active mother at that age. Even with many orthopedic surgeries and health problems my mother was active and energetic.
Marge looked like she had lived a life of abuse and neglect. People who constantly hear verbal abuse and feel physical abuse often begin to believe they are not worthy of anything good. “We” had to overcome years of negativity in our short time with Marge. I shook her hand but she never did more than glance up quickly and then look away.

When Marge finally spoke to me I noticed her bad teeth. Several were broken and missing. I could see she was embarrassed about her teeth and trying to not look at me when she spoke. The manager had already filled me in on how the years of abuse and never being allowed the luxury of seeing a dentist had caused the damage I was seeing. I knew she would be embarrassed but I asked her if she had pain in her mouth. She immediately went to cover her mouth with her hands, probably from the habit of years of trying to hide her poor teeth. Marge nodded her head yes. I asked if she would like to see one of the wonderful dentists who help our clients. Again Marge nodded her head yes.

Then she surprised me when she reached over and took my hand and said, “I can tell you are a kind man. I have not known many kind men in my life but I know you are one of them. Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand and told her, “I am sorry you have not known much kindness in your past but we will do our best to make sure you only know kindness going forward.”

I saw tears in her eyes as she again looked away.

I looked around her small studio apartment noting the few old furnishings, including a saggy twin mattress. I added a full size bed and new bedding to the list of items Marge would need. I gave her the bag of food and toiletries I had brought with and I saw the smallest hint of a smile on her worn sad face. She carefully unpacked the items and looked at them like it was Christmas morning. It always touches me to see the gratitude we inspire with the smallest gifts we give. Even I forget how meaningful a new toothbrush and a loaf of bread can be.

 We sat to talk for a few minutes more before I told her I was visiting some neighbors and would come to see her again after she visited the dentist. I reached out to shake her hand when I was leaving and this time she hesitantly looked me in the eyes and said thank you.

Our next visit was to the veteran George. The manager told me George was disabled so we patiently waited as we heard George slowly make his way to the door with his cane. George had been injured in the line of duty but never received proper medical care over the years. His injury had progressed to the point he needed an electric scooter to go any further than the lobby for his mail. He also suffers from diabetes and glaucoma. His many medical needs have stretched his budget beyond what he can afford on his minimal income.

In spite of all this George enthusiastically invited us inside. He gave the apartment manager a hug and shook my hand. His demeanor was such a change from the previous visit with Marge.

Even though he had endured hardship I could see he was choosing to keep an upbeat attitude. He smiled and said, “Welcome to my humble abode.” I entered the studio apartment and looked around the small surroundings. There was the old recliner the manager had mentioned in her letter. What I did not see was a bed or any other furniture. A TV tray served as his table and night stand. A small old television was the only other possession I saw. I asked if I could look in his cabinets and they too were empty except for a few mismatched cups, a few chipped plates and odd pieces of silverware. It did indeed look like he had lost everything in a fire.

George offered the manager his only chair as he stood grasping his cane.

She told him, “George you are always such a gentleman. No thank you, I've been sitting all day. Please, you sit down.”

We both noted the look of relief as he sank into his chair. His hands were trembling from the effort and he was breathing hard. I waited a minute for him to catch his breath before asking him some questions.

We ended up talking for over an hour. George was a very interesting man with a sharp wit and good sense of humor. He told me about his injuries and health problems he was struggling with. He made regular trips to the V.A. for treatment for both his eyes and his heart. George was 85 but you would not know it when talking to him. After I finished my home check visit I had a list of items, including a bed and other pieces of furniture for George. He again shook my hand enthusiastically as we said our goodbyes.

My last visit was to Theresa. She reminded me of my own proud mother. After what the manager had told me about Theresa I knew she would never admit to anything she may need, much less ask. The manager asked if we could visit and she hesitated before letting us in. I noted the hesitation and knew she probably did not want us to see how she was living.

We entered the small studio apartment and the manager introduced me to Theresa. Even though she was not going anywhere she had her hair fixed and lipstick on. This too reminded me of my mother as she would do this every day herself, even when our utilities were disconnected and we did not have money for food. We were never allowed to let the neighbors see how we were really living.

Theresa at least had a few more belongings in her apartment. She had dishes and very old furniture. I knew she would probably not want me looking through her cabinets so I settled for looking around the single room apartment. Even though her bed was neatly made it was easy to see the threadbare sheets and blanket. This bed too sagged in the middle from far too many years use.

Theresa confirmed this when she said, “My late husband and I bought that bed over forty years ago.”

I said to her, “Well, it certainly has a special memory but how would you feel about a new bed. This one looks like it might be kind of painful to sleep in.”

Theresa immediately said, “Oh no. I could never ask for that.” I replied, “You didn't ask. I am offering.”

I could see she was thinking about that and after a few moments said, “Well, this bed is one of the few things I have left after all my wonderful years of marriage. But I can't keep it just for the memories. I haven't had a good night's sleep in years so maybe it's time to replace it.”

I knew I was making some progress with Theresa.

We sat on her few chairs and talked some more. Theresa began to open up with me about her present situation. She told me how her husband had battled cancer for the last four years of his life, eating up all they had saved for their retirement. They had even lost their home and car.

Theresa said, “We were so in love and had all these dreams of traveling when he retired. We ended up spending it all paying medical bills and then for his funeral.”

I asked about her son and she shared how her husband and son had often quarreled. When her husband had become sick their son never even visited. He came to the funeral to ask for an inheritance and when Theresa had told him there was nothing he never came back.

When I asked to see Theresa's outstanding bills I could see she was squinting to read the papers on her counter top. I asked if she had glasses but she said she did not. Her only glasses had broken several months prior and she did not have the money to replace them.

When I said “We” would like to get her glasses she immediately put her hand up and said, “I did not tell you that so you would buy me a pair of glasses. You have done enough already.”

I told her a volunteer would be taking her for an eye exam and glasses and I did not want to hear another word about it.

She looked surprised at first, then smiled saying, “I think I have found someone as stubborn as myself. I guess you don't take no for an answer.”

We all laughed as we all knew this was true.

In reviewing her bills I wrote down her utility account numbers so we could pay herutilities ahead. I had noticed her budget was so close each month that she would never have been able to buy glasses or anything important she may need. We paid two months' rent into the future as well. When I told Theresa we were going to do this for her she again protested. I told her this would allow her to save additional money for an emergency fund. How could we have left her there knowing she had no money at the end of the month to buy necessities?

After our goodbyes, this time with a hug from Theresa, the manager and I walked out to the parking lot. We both felt much better knowing these three fellow creations were about to receive the assistance they needed to live a much better life. They all had endured pain and struggled to survive but were now about to have some of the burdens removed from their lives. This was thanks to all of “You” supporting our mission to remove the pains of poverty. We are always so grateful for your help in everything we do. Thank “You” and God Bless “You” for helping.

Health & Happiness, God Bless Everyone,


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(c)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: Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust, Fox Charities, Family Foundation, The Harold & Bernice DeWeerd Family Foundation, Martin Business, Charles & Barbara Taylor, Joyce Dougherty, James & Lynne Newman Foundation, Gregory Swanson, The Home Depot Foundation, Aurora Health Care Employee Partnership Campaign, Gene Krauklis, Jeanne Mc Donald, Tom Wigton, Mary Cucchi, Shawna Kneipper, Heidi Hall, Judy Dishneau, Yvonne Mol, John & Kathy Poiron, Sid & Patty Johnson,  George & Lauretta Clettenberg, Gerald & Joyce Byers, Jeanette Logterman, Donald Lightfield, Margarie Egger, Ed & Kathryn Drexler, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and 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.                 

W.C. Food Pantry: The W.C. Food Pantry is located at: 205 E. Commerce St., Elkhorn, WI. 53121. This is in the old Aurora Clinic building off of Hwy. 67 just east of Interstate 43. Their phone number is (262) 723-4488.                            

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