It’s 10:10 am; my phone rings. It’s my daughter, Iman. She’s 20 years of age, my only child, and currently residing in New York attending college in Manhattan. I get on her all the time about calling me at work but she doesn’t listen, especially if she needs money. It’s all an emergency to her.
I answer the phone, “Yes Iman, what’s up?”
“Nothing, just seeing what you’re up to father,” she replies.
“Working, something you should be doing right now also,” I reply.
“Well Mr. Smarty, me and my roommates are moving to Brooklyn into this apartment and I was wondering can you co-sign on the apartment for us?” she asks.
“Absolutely not,” I respond.
“Well,” she pauses. “Can you help me with the move-in cost because we have to pay two months in advance for the security deposit without a co-signer?”
“Ok, yes,” I give in. “We’ll talk about it later today. Call me tonight with the landlord’s info. Iman, I have to go help out with registration, I’ll send the money. You can just text me this next time”.
“FINE,” she says. “Well thank you daddy, that’s all I wanted. Love you!”
After hanging up the phone, I walk into the lobby area and notice a woman coming through the double doors. I hold the door for her while welcoming her to Loaves & Fishes and asking her “how can we assist you today?”
“Hi, I’m Regina, I’m here for the food pantry,” she responds.
“Well, it’s actually more a food market because we have fresh food and household products, not just canned goods like other pantries,” I tell her. “Plus we offer computer classes, ESL classes, job support, legal support, money management, public benefits, nutrition, veterans support, and tax assistance.” I hand her a brochure while saying, “You can learn more about these programs during an empowerment interview.”
“WOW, I see that I came to the right place today,” she replies.
“Our goal at Loaves & Fishes is to assist people with locating programs or services that will improve their current status,” I explain to her. I begin leading Regina toward the grocery market, but I stop short to ask, “Would you be open to scheduling an Empowerment appointment to discuss everything in detail? You can come back within a week and shop after our meeting ends.”
“I can get more food next week?” asks Regina. “Oh I’m definitely coming back then!”
Regina returned for her empowerment meeting and we went straight to work. She explained the current obstacles she’s experiencing: married, husband laid off from work, four children between the ages of 2-11, and living in her mother’s small 3 bedroom apartment. Their only income is Regina’s $11.50 per hour job and her husband’s unemployment benefits. Regina was able to save $3,000 over the years to put down for a security deposit and the first month’s rent but she’s been turned away several times by landlords.
“Do you mind if I place a phone call to a potential resource that could maybe assist you?” I ask.
“Sure, go ahead,” she replies.
After speaking with a property manager through CHAD housing, we find a few available 3 bedroom apartments in Regina’s price range. I download the rental application and tell Regina, “Complete this as soon as possible and fax it over to the CHAD property manager over the weekend.”
“Boy, who you know and what type of magic do you have?” Regina jokes, and we both laugh.
A week goes by, and I get a phone call from Regina.
“Mr. Ward, you won’t believe this,” she starts out, barely able to contain her excitement. “I got the apartment and we’re moving next week!”
“That’s great!” I reply. “I’m happy you and your family are getting a place of your own”.
“You are a life saver, for real,” Regina tells me. “I just learned how to bake; can I make you a cake or pie to show how thankful I am for all you did for us?”
“No, No, you don’t have to do that,” I respond, laughing. “This is what Loaves & Fishes is here for, to empower your life long term by connecting you to resources that aid you in becoming self-sufficient.”
“Well you definitely did because I never even heard of CHAD and I live right by them,” Regina admits.
“If there’s anything I can assist you or your family with please contact me,” I say. “I’m happy that you’re happy.”
“Thank you, Mr. Ward,” Regina responds.
Later that evening, my daughter calls me.
“Hi dad, what are you doing?” Iman asks.
“Chillin out, about to go to basketball practice, what’s up with you,” I reply.
“Daddy, we just got approved for another apartment we really wanted though it does cost a little more than the lease we just signed, but its closer to all the clubs,” my daughter tells me.
Just then it hit me – with assistance, I was able to help secure housing for a client at work and for my daughter and that makes me happy. But it also dawned on me that these are two different worlds. I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector since I graduated from undergrad in 1996. My daughter is aware and has been with me on many occasions giving back to those with less. I told her the story of me helping Regina find an apartment for her family and her challenges in life.
“Wow Dad, I have been spoiled and privileged,” she admits, “thanks for the story. I’m thankful.”
“You’re right about that babygirl,” I reply. “I’m happy to be at Loaves & Fishes helping those who are less fortunate because there is always someone out there who has less than you. Remember that.”
I’m sure Iman will remember. My daughter is a great young lady with a heart of gold.
Director of Empowerment Programs