A true “child of the 60s,” 72-year-old Lorraine Campbell is a warm, upbeat, free-spirited woman with a wealth of life experience. She is a three-time cancer survivor. She’s also a published author, and is currently working on a memoir which she hopes to fund through an Artist Trust Fellowship. Yet despite living life to the fullest, Lorraine can barely afford to eat. She lives on only $710 a month in Supplemental Security Income with $100 a month in food stamps. She can afford to spend $1 on each meal. (more…)
School’s out, and one long sunny day stretches into another…but for many low-income families that rely on the free and reduced-price lunch program during the school year, the summer months can increase their food insecurity. For the kids in our community, this should be a time for playing outside, not worrying about their next meal. You can help! For just $7, you can support our Groupon Grassroots campaign and help our Food Bank provide sack lunches to kids this summer.
Evelyn is one of those people who fall through the holes in America’s “safety net.” Working for many years in an accounting office, Evelyn was laid off in May 2013. Suddenly without a job, Evelyn struggled to find work in order to support herself and her ten year-old daughter, Angellynn. Unemployment pay helped her and Angellynn manage during the summer of 2013 as Evelyn applied for job after job, only to get turned down time after time. Without a degree in accounting, nobody wanted to hire her, so Evelyn decided she needed to return to school to get her degree.
Studying, still looking for work, and trying to scrape together enough to keep her and her daughter housed and fed, Evelyn’s utility bill came last on her long list of obligations. Because Evelyn had a moderately well-paying job before being laid off, on unemployment she and her daughter just barely don’t qualify for food stamps or housing subsidies. Evelyn is completely on her own, paying full-price for food, market-rate rent for the small house she leases in Southeast Seattle, clearly struggling to keep her head above water, but “making too much” to qualify for most assistance programs.
Eventually Seattle City Light came looking for their payment from Evelyn, less than a month after the United States Congress ended emergency unemployment benefits, and drastically reduced others for 1.3 million Americans. For Evelyn, the unemployment cut hit like “a kick in the butt,” but not a motivating one. This cut acted as another punishment for Evelyn, a single-mother trying to help herself and her daughter reach self-sufficiency. Facing an emergency shut-off notice from Seattle City Light, Evelyn found out that once again she “made too much” to qualify for assistance from Centerstone’s federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, when anonymous donors from Centerstone’s Bridge the Gap Campaign stepped in. $500 from Bridge the Gap literally bridged the gap for Evelyn and Angellynn, for once closing the arbitrary chasm that exists between those who “qualify” for public benefits and those who don’t. For Evelyn, it was a moment of grace.
“I want to say thank you very much. I so appreciate it,” Evelyn said recently, when asked what she would like to say to the donors who made this possible. “I don’t know how we would have made it without you.”
On April 7th, we are asking everyone in Seattle to skip lunch, and donate the money to Centerstone. You can donate your lunch money online here. We are asking your help in spreading the word to coworkers, friends and family. You can download a poster here and help us publicize this event. No one in Seattle should go hungry, so please donate your lunch money. Together, we can make a difference.
Centerstone works hard to provide nearly 10,000 Seattle households with grants to maintain their heat in the winter, but sometimes that grant isn’t enough to prevent a disconnection. Private funds through Centerstone’s Bridge the Gap Campaign can help these families hit by hard times find some comfort during the cold, wet Seattle winter, literally bridging the gap between Centerstone’s grant and the amount they need to maintain their power. Find out how you can help change a life today.
Life in Seattle isn’t easy when you are a single parent. Many are familiar with the plight of the single mom, but more recently there has been a rise in single dads, without a commensurate increase in resources. For a single dad such as Emmanuel, losing his housing could equate to losing his kids, since very few shelters accommodate single men with children. This nightmare confronted Emmanuel in early January 2014, until Centerstone stepped in to help him restore his power, remain in his apartment, and keep his family together.
A single dad working to raise his three year old daughter and his five year old son, Emmanuel wasn’t aware that he was going to be disconnected from his electricity until his power was shut-off. The warning notices never arrived, and he was horrified to find himself powerless with a purple disconnection notice taped to his door. Not only were his kids cold and his food spoiling with the temperature hovering in the 30s outside, but Emmanuel knew that “the apartment complex doesn’t allow any tenant to have no power. You can get an eviction notice for that.”
A certified dive master who has made a living for himself doing voiceovers for movies and dubbing for TV shows, Emmanuel’s work slowed down significantly when he became a single father. Without any family to help take care of the kids and struggling to afford daycare, Emmanuel saw jobs slipping away from him. “I haven’t done as much networking as I would have liked.” Surviving on only $286 a month in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) while he looks for more work that also accommodates his role as a primary care giver for his children, Emmanuel turned to Centerstone for help.
$300 in Bridge the Gap funds coupled with his federal LIHEAP grant quickly restored power to Emmanuel and his kids. More than just turning back on his electricity, Emmanuel wants the anonymous donors to know “that they did help someone that really, really needed it. Because of them we still have a place. We would have been kicked out without that donation. I’m extremely grateful. They helped us in a lot of different ways.”
Deshaye was in a tough spot. Employed as a caregiver for an elderly and disabled man, Deshaye’s employer passed away in October 2013, leaving her without any income to support herself or her two children, a six year old boy and a 21 month old girl. In addition, Deshaye’s nephew had moved in with her family that summer. Already struggling to support her expanded family on her caregiver’s income, including her growing teenage nephew, things turned from hard to nearly impossible in a matter of weeks.
A ward of the state and a foster child herself who was moved from house to house and family to family, Deshaye had nobody she could turn to for support when the bills started to pile up. Deshaye knows she can only depend on herself to keep her family together: “Literally, there is just me. My kids have no grandparents, uncles, aunties. I didn’t stay long enough to get a family I can call my own.”
With a staggering bill of over $1000 that was transferred over from a previous address and without work, Deshaye found herself at Centerstone seeking help. She discovered she only qualified for $275, as she hadn’t lived at her current address for the 12 months needed to give her a grant based on her family’s personal energy usage. The $275 would not prevent her impending disconnection from Seattle City Light. After Deshaye left in despair, she received a phone call only 30 minutes later informing her of a Bridge the Gap donation of $400 to her account. “The extra donation allowed my lights to be kept on. I cried when I found out. I don’t know how to express my gratitude. It is a blessing that there are people out there who are able to help,” Deshaye reflected a few weeks later.
Now Deshaye is fighting to get back on her feet and look for work, “any type of work,” so that she can keep her family together and provide a better future for her nephew and children.
Music is Qian’s life. A professional concert pianist and survivor of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Qian studied piano at Beijing’s premier musical college in the 1970s, despite losing his eyesight at age 13. Playing by feel and by ear, Qian is a prodigy, as he cannot read the notes written on the page. His immense talent helped him qualify for the Royal National College for the Blind in England, where he received a full scholarship in the 1981 to continue his musical training. Once out of China, Qian never went back. After he graduated, Qian settled in Europe and traveled around playing in hotels and in smaller venues until 1998, when he immigrated to the United States.
But life in America was not as forgiving as life in Europe, and Qian struggled to keep himself financially sound as he began to struggle with mental illness. Soon Qian lost almost everything. Now he relies on disability payments, and lives in a small, subsidized apartment without a piano. His radio is his solace, to listen to music.
Qian relies on grants from Centerstone to keep his heat turned on, as he has had it shutoff twice in 2013 for past due bills. Living on $710 a month, it is hard for Qian to get caught up on his past due bills, until Centerstone’s Bridge the Gap campaign stepped in with a pledge of $300 to help pay down the balance. Now Qian can start over with a clean slate and hopes for better fortune in 2014. He also has hopes of a new surgery that might restore some of his vision with advanced stem cell treatment, making 2014 a very auspicious year for Qian.
Qian was touched by the Bridge the Gap campaign of anonymous donors to help those less fortunate. As his way of giving back and giving thanks, Qian offered to play music for any donors as an expression of his gratitude.
Life has been hard for Opal W. Now in her early 60s, Opal is unable to work due to crippling arthritis in her knees. She walks painfully with crutches, because there is no cartilage left to cushion the blow, so each step causes her shooting pains.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Opal moved to Seattle at the age of 18 in 1971, where she raised her two sons and daughter as a single mother. Working various jobs to get by, including at a daycare and at the Seattle Union Gospel mission, Opal was barely able to keep her family afloat over the years. Tragedy seemed to strike at every corner: first her oldest son died, and then her younger son was sent to prison, leaving all of her grandchildren fatherless. Sadly, Opal sees her life mirrored in that of her daughter, who also lives in Seattle struggling to raise her three children as a single parent. Opal’s joy comes from the successes of her grandchildren, one of whom is at college in Utah on a football scholarship. When he graduates, he will be the first in their family with a Bachelor’s degree.
Barely able to scrape by most months living in subsidized housing on her Supplemental Security Income, things got even harder with the cuts to food stamps at the end of 2013, which coincided with Social Security reducing Opal’s monthly check due to an “overpayment,” a common practice that affects many of Centerston’s clients. When you only receive $1000 a month, losing 10% of your income hits hard. The $100 that could have gone towards her light bill evaporated, and Opal found herself relying on Centerstone’s Energy Assistance to prevent her disconnection from Seattle City Light. $210 from Bridge the Gap maintained Opal’s electricity after she qualified for only $52 in federal funds.
When Opal discovered she received an anonymous donation to maintain her power, she was very grateful for those whose generosity keeps her warm. “Thank you so very much, and God bless,” Opal wants all the donors to know.
“The struggling musician” is a stereotype that holds true for many trying to make it in the music industry, as performances are unpredictable and gigs can be feast or famine, subject to the whims of public tastes. Jody is just one of hundreds of struggling musicians in Seattle who previously made a decent living. He plays the drums in some smaller bands, but the economic downturn hit the small to medium-sized music scene hard. A man who made music in many of Seattle’s famous venues such as The Tractor, El Corazon, Neuoms, and The Crocodile, when he wasn’t travelling to California or Las Vegas with the bands, Jody has been struggling to keep himself afloat for the last five or six years. When he isn’t playing, Jody works refurbishing drum sets, but those services aren’t as necessary when his customers can barely afford to pay their own bills, let alone fix their instruments.
To complicate matters, Jody has severe inner ear problems and needs another surgery to fix the tumors growing there, but if he gets the surgery, he will be unable to play the few gigs he has, leaving him without any income. It was in this situation that Jody found himself applying to Energy Assistance at Centerstone at the end of 2013. With his federal grant only covering about half of his electric bill, Jody didn’t know what he was going to do, until he got a call from Centerstone informing him of a Bridge the Gap donation of $315 to keep his lights on. A proud man used to taking care of himself since he left home at 16, Jody struggled with the decision to come in to apply for assistance, and was appreciative but uncomfortable with the anonymous donation made to his account. “It is not a common thing for me to accept charity, but I appreciate it,” Jody said, his tone of voice distant as he reflected on how much his life has changed in the last few years.