Imagine living your entire life providing for yourself, and then one day something catastrophic happens you find yourself unable to do so. Suddenly the life you once knew has been turned upside down.
Living with disabilities, medical issues, overwhelming monthly bills and other struggles can get in the way of making ends meet. Carol Guyer is one of many senior neighbors struggling to keep food on her table and provide for her other basic necessities. Fortunately, Carol and many seniors like her, has found support through her community. Feeding America West Michigan, alongside our partnering agencies, have been there to fill in the gaps for Carol when they arise.
Carol and her husband of 41 years, John, used to live in Lowell in their 35-year-old doublewide trailer on the river. They were struggling to get by, but managed to make ends meet. In the last few years, however, John’s health began deteriorating. Carol did her best to care for her husband, but when she was no longer able, John was moved to a nursing home. After the move, Carol found herself alone and scrambling to afford her bills. The nursing home is expensive, and while she said that “Medicaid is paying (some),” she is still left to come up with $1,800 every month for his care. When taking her other bills into account, there was no way she could stretch the monthly budget far enough to cover all of her expenses.
As a result of medical issues stemming from a car accident where she broke her neck, Carol was unable to find employment to cover the deficit in her monthly expenditures. Some of her lumbar vertebrae were left completely smashed, and others are fused together after healing. “By all rights I should have been paralyzed,” she said. Since then, Carol also broke her femur and was told she would never walk again. She pushed herself to prove her doctors wrong, and through hard work, today she is able to walk with a cane. Carol also struggles with other medical conditions including Lupus, Lyme Disease, and the removal of her stomach which brings on costly diet restrictions. Unable to work, Carol depends on a fixed income consisting of her husband’s pension and welfare to make ends meet.
After struggling to live off a fixed income, Carol decided that she would give up her home by walking away from the mortgage and move somewhere more financially viable. After a physically and emotionally taxing move to a more economical apartment, Carol found that she had just enough to scrape by when it came to her non-negotiable bills. What she was left with, however, wouldn’t be enough to cover all of her unbilled necessities, food being one of the most crucial. This is where Feeding America West Michigan and other community outreach programs picked up the slack.
Carol receives food from the mobile pantry at Belding Area Schools, and it has made all the difference for her. She spoke recently about how she was thrilled to have received protein shakes from one food distribution as her diet is restrictive and must be protein-rich. In addition to Feeding America West Michigan’s services, her community has supported her as well. Some friends she made at the mobile pantry helped her move into her apartment, and with the help of Flat River Outreach Ministries, she was able to furnish her new space. One of Carol’s closest friends, who she met through the mobile pantry has her over for dinner Sunday nights to ensure that she has at least one home-cooked meal every week. Carol also has two cats that help with her loneliness, whose food is provided free of charge through the kibble connection, as is their vet care through the local humane society.
Carol says she’s “always been a giver, never a taker.” Because of this, she gives back to her community as much as she is able. Four days every week, she volunteers her time at the local thrift shop. She sees that she is making a difference there, which is crucial for her. Long before needing the support of her community, she contributed to it. Between 2011 and 2015, she and her husband put in 15,000 hours volunteering. She mentioned that “the donation room (at Flat River Outreach Ministries) is called the John and Carol donation room.”
Throughout the year, with the help of partnering agencies, Feeding America West Michigan serves approximately 46,773 seniors like Carol. Without these resources, senior community members would struggle to keep food on the table. Carol is grateful to have found the calm after the storm. Having access to resources throughout her community provides Carol with peace of mind in knowing that she will to be able to manage her finances and make ends meet each month.
Story written by Molly Kooi, Communications Intern