"It's Hard to Ask for Help"

On December 23rd, a senior citizen contacted 211 Northwest Florida in desperation.

"I have given to food banks and other charities in the past, and now I find myself in need," Helen said. "It is hard to ask for help, but I must do what I can to keep food on the table for my daughter and me."

Helen had to retire from her job when she was 64 when health issues made it impossible for her to continue working. She started using her savings and her daughter's small disability payments to get by. Her savings were running out, and she would soon have to start using her grocery money to pay rent and bills.

Helen applied for food stamp assistance. She was denied because she had a small Individual Retirement Account she was reluctant to cash out and pay significant penalties. She considered selling her vehicle for emergency funds, but given her health issues and her daughter's disability, giving up her car was not an option.

Helen had already cut out her phone, cable, and all other luxuries to reduce her spending. But it wasn't enough. She had little to no food or financial resources for her daughter's Christmas.

A 211 specialist directed Helen to several community food pantries, but most had suspended services for the holidays. United Way of West Florida and 211 found Helen some help, thanks to funding from an anonymous donor.

Helen called back after Christmas and said, "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Claus. Thank you so much for everything! We have the ham cooking, the dressing, and sweet potatoes ready in the oven! Thank you. You absolutely made our Christmas. I can never thank you enough!"

*Please note calls to 211 are anonymous. All names in this story are aliases.