Blessings in Disguise Bridges the Assistance Gap
By Chris Watson
Sometimes we need a little help. Not a long-term loan, not a new car, not a new job or even a new life. In those awkward times, when unexpected things just happen, a little help can go a long way. A small amount of assistance can steer us away from longer term problems like depression, poverty and homelessness, preventing otherwise productive lives from degenerating into hopeless ruin. All it takes is a neighbor to share, a willingness to accept a blessing, and an organization that makes the connection. That organization is Blessings in Disguise.
The Crucible of Experience
John Sayre knows all about needing help. “Back in 1993 I was victim of a swindle and I lost everything.” Sayre is the Founder and Volunteer Director for Blessings in Disguise. “I went looking for some help from what I would call conventional sources. I needed some assistance in transitioning from this unexpected mess back to an even keel. However, everywhere I went I was turned down because I made too much money.”
This not an unusual issue. Although there are a myriad of assistance programs for those who are truly at financial
bottom, for those living at or near the median household income assistance is hard to come by. It was a problem that Sayre felt keenly. “I started to lose things that, even though I was working, I didn’t think I would ever lose. Things like housing. I fell into a pretty deep depression. How could one thing cause so much trouble? As I climbed out of the hole I decided to launch an program that was dedicated to helping people who fell into the shadows of larger organizations.” Enter Blessings in Disguise.
“Think about those people working jobs and get injured without short term disability. Sure, long term disability may kick in after 3-6 months but what do you do in the interim,” asks Sayre rhetorically. Those circumstances form a litany of issues that people face every day in our community. Issues like when a spouse has a long-term illness and the household loses a second income. A parent or child falls sick or faces end of life care, reducing the hours a person can work. Even something like the reduction of hours from full to part time for an injury rehab.
“There are real people who start with and may still have some assets. They have households that they have worked hard to build and now have it threatened due to income interruption. They are not looking for or even need a full-blown program of poverty recovery. They need some assistance to stabilize the situation well before those advance programs are called for.” That assistance can be very simple and small yet very impactful. A car payment, a utility bill, a month’s rent, even some basic groceries can make a huge difference in relieving the threat of financial collapse.
Sayre illustrates with a recent client story. “We worked with an educator whose spouse was diagnosed with ALS. They were facing going from two incomes to one with the primary income taking an unusual amount of time off for medical
appointments. These were unforeseen, life altering circumstances. You shouldn’t lose your house because of something like this. What a situation like this requires is a small amount of help to bridge between the crisis of the moment and a permanent adjustment to a household.”
How it Works
To get assistance it all starts with a simple qualification. “We put our requirements to qualify right on the front page of our site,” says Sayre proudly. “These are straight forward questions that start our process. We then asses each need based on severity and impact and take the need to our committee for review.”
The goal is to help those in short term financial crisis. Payments are made directy to the companies that are at issue, including things like housing, car payments, utilities and food if required. Things like cable, TV, the internet, and cell phone service are not involved in the program.
“We work with people in these circumstances,” says Sayre. “We look at our clients bills, and think out loud with them about ways to slim down their monthly requirements, all the while helping them from falling behind on the essentials. Our goal is never to make choices or impose direction on their lives but provide that small lift at a time when no one else will. What a difference it can make to not worry about one month of rent during a period of unemployment or under employment.”
A recent addition to the Blessings in Disguise arsenal of assistance is the HELP (Helping Elderly Live Productively) program. In basic, HELP assists families with seniors get the adaptive products they need to keep their seniors safe in their homes. Loaner products like walkers, canes, shower stools, shower benches, portable toilets, grabbers and grippers. “It is amazing how many times insurance will deny a claim for these assistance items,” says Sayre. “With seniors on a fixed income and family members facing expenses of their own, something simple like getting a shower set up in our parents’ home can make everyone feel more secure. We take items that have been donated and loan them to those in need. A family shouldn’t have to experience financial distress over a toilet safety seat.”
Becoming a Neighbor in Disguise
Helping is easy. “Of course, we always are looking for donations,” claims Sayre. “The important thing to note is that we are a 100% volunteer organization. We strive to put every penny that comes to us as a donation and make it a blessing
in someone’s life.” Blessings in Disguise is also a part of the Kroger Rewards program and Amazon Smile. Occasional events, like their Ugly Christmas Sweater fundraiser, also help raise awareness and funds.
“Above all,” says Sayre, “we want people to know that there is a real need for this service. We live in times where things happen in the short term that can, if not addressed, devastate our futures. No one in our community should have to face that alone. With the resources that we are graciously given, we can help the neighbor you may not even know is in crisis. The best resource we have in our community is each other.”
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