This I Believe

Dianne - Topeka, Kansas
Entered on December 7, 2006

A Day at My Social Service Agency

My car kept dying on the way to work. Applications kept coming in for the Empty Stocking fund. I had several people call to see if they were going to get help and I had to tell one client that I couldn’t pay her rent. I had to tell another guy that I couldn’t locate his application. The volunteers cooking lunch for the poor in the kitchen burnt it twice and the fire alarms were going off all afternoon. Now that I’m home, I realize just how much my clothes smell like smoky food.

I assisted a lady with funds for her prescriptions and tried to help her properly fill out an application for a Walgreen’s discount medical card plan. I tried to contact another applicant about her rent and found out that she was in the hospital because she just had her baby at midnight the night before – it’s a boy. Her landlord dropped by to fill out the application for her. The new kitchen manager was here today; he is really nice.

I walked outside mid-afternoon to let a co-worker from the other building in who was dropping off donated toiletries, and when I opened up the door to let her in, there was a client standing behind the door of her van, apparently adjusting her pants or zipping them up or something and I thought, “What in the world?”

I helped my co-worker sort out the toothbrushes, soap, and shampoo. And then a lady dressed in nice clothes, walked in a little later saying she had a guy and his daughter in the car and they didn’t have any food. We technically weren’t open, but the food bank guy just happened to be standing there and said he would make up a food box if I would take their information. The lady and the guy and his daughter came in. His daughter was adorable and I found out that he had gotten laid off from the Frito Lay factory in August and was having a hard time finding work since then. His wife worked full time making $8 an hour. The lady said she was going to take them to the State welfare office and I agreed that she should. I gave him information about the food banks in the area that give out food once a week and told him about our lunch program. I gave him a list of temporary agencies and employment agencies in town too. I think he had already been to a lot of them.

I gave a check to a lady who needed help with her water bill and had her teenage nephew living with her, but wasn’t getting government assistance for him because she was family. I had to wonder a little bit if I had done the right thing as she walked out the door with the check because she had about $10,000 in credit card debt and was probably going to be filing for bankruptcy soon.

I also had an Emergency Service applicant in my office today who had not paid her electric or gas bill since August or September. I had to let her know that we may not be able to help her because she had not been paying her bills. She had drawn-on eyebrows that subtly looked like rainbows because they were drawn on in about three different colors per eyebrow. Oh ya, and her son had epilepsy which is why she lost her job. She had to take him to so many appointments. They live within 2.5 miles of the school so her children were not able to take the school buses to school. Busing is available for children 3 miles away. It cost her $200 per semester to take the school bus and they could not afford it. So she needed to keep her old car going so she could take her kids to school.

Another client came in to drop off a landlord form which was good because now I might be able to help her get into a bigger apartment for her and her children. She works full time and had gotten a better job at Holiday Inn (better than Sonic). She got to work more now since a lady quit. It seemed as if she was really trying to make a better life for her and her children. I really liked her. I had a good feeling about her anyway.

Then at lunch I talked with one of the guys that repairs toys. He said that we were going to be buying about four thousand pairs of gloves to give away for Christmas. Oh yes – all day long but especially at lunch, a lady I work with was trying to hook me up with a guy who teaches her grandson drum lessons.

And now I get to go take my research final. My stomach kind of hurts a little bit. Earlier I thought it was from the smoke inhalation from the burnt food at my service agency. Now I’m not so sure…my supervisor got sick last night so I hope I don’t!

I am tired, I smell smoky, I have to take a final with an upset stomach, but I am thankful that I am blessed to be able to be working somewhere helping people. I am thankful that I am able to look people in the eye after helping them to try and let them know that I really care even though it seems like I am so busy, and to say “I hope things work out for you.”

(This essay was written by a social worker in the Let’s Help Emergency Services when she was an intern at our agency. We hired her! Her essay captures the essence of what Let’s Help does everyday to make a difference for the poor.)