Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Saving Grace in Salem, MA Part II

December of 2009 is etched in my mind because my family finally moved into an apartment. At that same time my oldest daughter and her two little boys had also moved into their own place. Though we were excited, I remember our new landlord thinking that for a family to move into an almost 7-room unit with no furniture or household supplies such as plates, utensils, pans, and just a few blankets was rather strange. To us the word strange did not exist. We were all too ecstatic to be together in our own place again, as a family, and sleeping on the floors was something we certainly could manage. Right before Christmas arrived that year, I was not even sure we would be able to have a Christmas dinner, never mind a tree with presents. We did forgo the decorations, the tree, and the presents that year, but I had gone to a food pantry the weekend before and was blessed to receive a Butterball turkey with some trimmings for our holiday dinner. On Christmas day, the smell of turkey filled the air as we pulled patio chairs into our over-sized kitchen. We also got an old table from the basement where my family sat to enjoy our dinner and our holiday blessing.
A place where clothing, household items, jewelry, furniture, and even used books get a second chance is at the thrift store staffed by community volunteers and shelter residents at Lifebridge in Salem, MA. Bargain hunters, collectors, and even families that could not afford the prices at most furniture stores can find things that make where they live more like home. With more than $125,000 in funding provided each year to house and feed shelter residents, any type of purchase saves money for the buyer and for the homeless shelter. When I had a temporary office job I didn’t think I could afford to buy clothing for the office until I walked into the thrift store one day and left with enough outfits to dress me up for work. No one that I worked with even suspected that my clothes were second hand, and I felt good going to work as well.
As I sit in my newest place, a studio with just my cats and my husband, since our children have moved on during the past few years, I still have remnants of the donations my family received. My oldest children also have items that we passed along to them as they moved out and got their own apartments. Recycled items passed on with our recycled life, a life that has included blessings from places that help families and places that have been a saving grace for us.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ode to my Friend

Farewell once again my dear friend
Winter’s mighty strength has puttered out
Our time as one approach an end
Our time as one dwindles without a doubt
You were each day a part of me
Holding warmth caressing my body
Now as the warm winds begin to blow
Memories of you I shall forever hold
Rapture, Joy, I gently hang you away
Replaced now by longer brighter days
Until next season when we shall meet
Lovingly, I shall drape you about me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

From the Streets of Salem; Children with hearing loss deserve support

I can still remember placing a book upon my rising pregnant belly with each of my children and reading whatever I could find to my unborn babies.
Statistics state that 26 percent of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet, compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently. Also, cognitive ability such as letter recognition and the ability to write your name and to count are milestones too that reading enforces. How, then, does a parent ensure that a child who is hard of hearing or deaf has the same opportunities and abilities?
The 2000 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 8.6 percent of the population ages 3 and older are deaf or hard of hearing. In 1998, Massachusetts passed a law mandating hearing screening for all newborns born before leaving a hospital or birth center. Once hearing loss is diagnosed and hearing aids are prescribed, parents or caregivers must pay out-of-pocket for hearing aids for their children, which cost upwards of $2,000 each and must be replaced.
One agency that is attempting to alleviate costs and help children to hear is the Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children Coalition (MassHAFCC) which is a statewide network of families and professionals working together to maximize a child’s lifetime potential through educational, medical, social and emotional support.
I was blessed with many wonderful days of reading with my children and I know I have many years ahead of me reading books with my grandsons. Marsha, too, has always read to her granddaughter, utilizing both the traditional method and sign language since Madison has a hearing aid — a hearing aid provided by MassHealth because Madison is being raised by her grandparents.
Too many families do not qualify for MassHealth: They are the borderline families who are considered too wealthy for state-funded insurance yet are living paycheck to paycheck.
One of the biggest events that Marsha and her family experienced was when 5-year-old Madison mastered a new developmental stepping stone by saying her first word.
As Nana Marsha and Papa Larry summed it up, “That was over-the-moon awesome!” An over-the-moon awesome too many families may never experience without House Bill 52 being passed.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Saving Grace in Salem, MA: Part I

When my husband and I would feel our stomachs stir with hunger we would walk down to the Lifebridge Shelter in Salem, MA to eat both our lunch as well as our supper. Many times, no matter what time of the day it was, the lines were long — over 300 meals were served daily. In between our “dates” at the shelter, we usually went our separate ways. My husband went to work. I went hunting for a job, or to apply for assistance to move into an apartment, or visit with my elderly mother and help her with what she needed with our limited resources. I would also help our daughter, who is a single mother with two small children. At the end of a long day we would saunter back to our room, whether it was in a rooming house or at the Lafayette Hotel, and make plans to conquer the next day. However, at least we were not without food to keep us moving forward. It was a true blessing that the shelter had a program called “Break Bread Together” — which is a community meal program not just for the residents of the homeless shelter, but for anyone in Salem who is hungry.

According to the USDA, food insecurity is when “an individual or a family is lacking in nutritional, safe foods as well as the ability to acquire food and no access or barely any access to availability of food at all times.” Honestly, I know there have been many times for my family, and for other families, when the pantry and the cupboards are basically bare (which makes them easier to clean). However, when I did visit the Break Bread Together Community Program, I had neither pantry nor refrigerator to clean. Though my husband and I were not technically considered homeless at that point in our lives, we really were. We had no home of our own and though we previously had raised our children, who resided with us at all times, our youngest daughter was staying at her older sister’s house. Occasionally we would sneak our daughter into our room for the night just so we could feel like a family, even if temporarily. One thing was for certain: my husband and I had a place to go to eat a nutritious meal. Back then, we were allowed to bring some food back with us. We shared it with my elderly mother and our daughters.

Hunger is an epidemic within the United States whether people are homeless or not. Community eating programs such as the “Break Bread Together” at Lifebridge serves a group that does not know where their next meal may come from. This program does cost money, and according to a 2009 report of Lifebridge’s food budget of $155,000 dollars, the government only covered 1/3 of the actual expenses. With donations of either food or money this program has thrived, and a thriving program allows individuals and families like mine to thrive as well. Thanks, Lifebridge.

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