Originally posted on thereporter.com: Recently, I received a letter from a financial donor who apologized for her family’s minimal donations during the last year. She told me her story and I realized how easily circumstances can change. Her husband was laid off in December 2010 after 35 years in his job as his company closed down the entire division where he worked. He has been looking for work with little success for three years, leading her to believe businesses prefer hiring younger people rather than those who bring hands-on experience to a position. As an optimistic person, she is happy they are getting by and recognizes that there are many others in worse positions than her family. Because of that optimism and her concern for other people in need, she recommended that her credit union direct part of their charitable giving to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.
I also had a conversation with one of the senior citizens we serve through our Senior Food Program. He retired when he was 62 from a job he hated yet held for nearly forty years to support his family. He had a small retirement package from his employer and had saved enough money so that he could get by. As a retired man, he spent a good deal of time hanging out with his friends at a small restaurant, drinking coffee and sharing stories of their service in World War II. He became friends with the restaurant owner so it felt like a good idea when he was offered an opportunity to invest in the business. He and his friends were always there and the place seemed really busy. He didn’t realize that the owner was covering cash flow issues by not paying payroll tax. When the IRS closed the business down, the gentleman had to demonstrate his lack of financial resources and his lack of hands-on management in order to avoid further penalties. He lost his savings and had to sell his condo in order to make things right. He was lucky enough to get into subsidized housing after spending several years in the terrible places that qualify as low-income housing in our community. He is now just getting by on Social Security, a $300 a month pension and the food he receives from the Food Bank’s Senior Food Program.
The power of circumstance and coincidence speak with force. People have bad things happen, or sometimes make a mistake in judgment. It can be a fine line between a comfortable life and needing help from the Food Bank. Hearing stories like these, I more fully understand how necessary it is to have a safety net because it could be any of us needing help at some point in our lives.