One Story Out of Many

One Story Out of Many

RiverWalk Church of Christ Wichita Ks  Minister

Let me tell you a story.
A woman called this week and asked to speak to me. Most of the time when that happens, it is some kind of benevolence request. And that was true with this call. On the phone, Angela seemed to be an articulate, well-spoken woman. She told me she was a veteran, and had run into some recent financial issues, resulting in a past due electric bill. The power company had turned off her service earlier that day. Curious, I asked her if she could come in and see me, and bring a copy of her bill with her.
Angela is a Navy veteran…10 years…and was in the Gulf War. She is in her mid-50’s now, and suffers from PTSD and other medical issues. She’s being treated at the local VA and is also in therapy for her PTSD. She has received VA disability status, and is on a fixed disability income. She brought in the papers that showed all of this is true.
Angela had unexpected financial expenses the past few months, and had to decide which bills to pay. The electric bill was one that she did not have the funds to pay. She applied for, and received a LIEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) payment, but it wasn’t enough. By the time she had called me, she had contacted other social service agencies…United Way, Salvation Army, Open Door, VFW, Red Cross, Center of Hope, various churches, etc. None would help her.
As I looked at Angela’s electric bill and thought through her situation, I knew I could not turn her away, even though the amount she was requesting was above what we normally do for non-members who have a legitimate need. She appeared to be exhausted, mentally tired, and emotionally drained. I was concerned for her welfare, should I turn her away.
I told her that we normally pay only up to $100 on an electric bill, and we do that only if by paying we can either keep the electric turned on or get it turned on. Then I said, “Here’s the deal. I will pay the entire amount necessary to get you turned back on, and will ask the veterans in the congregation to help cover the cost.”
Angela was visibly moved, broke down, and I saw a face of relief in her tears. She thanked me profusely, and wanted to also express thanks to the veterans of the congregation. I went ahead and paid the entire amount needed to get her electric turned back on. The amount was $318.41. She called me back later in the day and told me that they had turned the electric back on. She again expressed her appreciation and thanked us all.
Angela’s situation is, unfortunately, all too common. Not a week goes by but what we don’t get at least two or three requests for help of some kind…often a utility bill…and often there are kids, the disabled or elderly in the house. Often, multiple utilities are turned off, including water.
We cannot fix everything, but I try to work with the client to do the most good with the dollars I have available. I also encourage them, if they haven’t already, to work with other agencies, and I encourage them to be very conservative in the use of utilities. It amazes me the number of people who have to pay very high utilities because the landlord won’t fix a broken window, leaky toilet, or repair a furnace…which requires the tenant to use electric heaters for warmth and results in a sky-high electric bill.
Thank you for any help you can give. We are able to do what we do because of your generosity and your love for your neighbor. Blessings…

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