The First Time I Needed Help

We would get up in the middle of the night to sneak into the laundry room of an apartment down the street to do our laundry.  Some lady had given my mom an extra key.  I thought it was a grand adventure.  Alone time, just me and my mom.  We would read books by the light of the little laundry room.  Other times my mom would put the clothes I needed to wear for school the next day in the bathtub with me and tell me to scrub them.  In my elementary class, wearing my stiff corduroy’s that I’d washed in Palmolive dish soap the night before, I’d borrow pens and paper from my classmates, because I didn’t have school supplies.  

The first time I needed help I didn’t know it.  I was a just a little kid.  I didn’t understand why we didn’t have enough food to eat in our house, didn’t understand why the landlord was mad at us.  I definitely didn’t understand the prices and costs of addiction that my parents were paying.  I only knew what I didn’t like.  I didn’t like to see my mom crying and I didn’t like being out of my favorite cereal.

It wasn’t clear to me that I needed help but I did.  And when my parents could no longer take care of me, someone else did.  My next door neighbor became my legal guardian and I didn’t have to worry about where food or school supplies would come from.  We didn’t have much, but we had enough.

There were a lot of years in between that time when I needed help, and a time I was able to be a giver myself.  Today, when we volunteer, and I see the sick, the hungry, the needy, I remember what it was like especially for a kid, I can’t help but remember.  I know the kids don’t understand their own need, anymore than I did.  If they are old enough to understand, I can remember the embarrassment that came with having less than my classmates.

If I needed help today, like the women diagnosed with breast cancer, that have no health insurance, how would I feel?  Dr. Vera Packard, Executive Director of HERS Breast Cancer Foundation knows.  The HERS foundation fills that gap providing prosthetics, wigs, and other needed help those survivors need.

When I realized I was a bright kid with no money to go to college I felt discouraged.  I made it through that, I carved my own path.  But for another bright kid, what would it be like if a stranger VOTED for my success and choose me out of many to receive a scholarship?  Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of the New Haven Schools Foundation tells that exact story in this week’s special episode of Union City Advice Givers.  

Most of us have experienced the fear and stress of losing a job at least once in our lives.  Maybe you never had to worry about the roof over your head or your next meal.  But if you have ever given someone a chance of employment when they were at their lowest point, then you know what Patty Breslin, Social Enterprise Director of Saint Vincent de Paul feels when she offers that hand up.

There is a lot of need and the east bay and lot of locals here that give with love whenever they see an opportunity.

Each year Mike, Michaela and I, along with a bunch of other Union Families, volunteer at the annual Turkey Drive in East Oakland passing out over 1000 turkey’s to people in need.  We also help out at several church feedings every year.  As we were organizing for those events this year it came to me – I know many of my listeners are givers.  I know how important it is to our family to make an impact HERE close to home.  Why not highlight a few local causes that have a need right now?  Our goal in this show is to bring some attention these amazing local causes each is so deserving of our gifts of time money and donations.  Every bit you give makes a difference.

As I conducted these interviews I realized the women featured have something in common.  Dr. Vera Packard Executive Director of Hers Foundation, Helen Kennedy Executive Director of New Haven Schools Foundation, and Patty Breslin, Social engagement director for Saint Vincent de Paul. Each of these women enjoyed successful careers in their fields and each chose to make a change.  The common thread in each story is a moment when the chose to use their amazing skills and professional experience to make a difference in our community.
Please take some time out to listen to Episode 10 Local Causes Special Edition

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