•Picture this: A well-regarded social service organization arranges a distribution program for children in poverty in a New York City neighborhood. Some 320 children each receive a new book: Shawn Baisley, 8 years old, gets one; but, he’s not happy—he cannot read. Yvette Norton, 10 years old, gets one; and she’s not happy—her glasses broke a year ago. José Alvarez, 9 years old, also receives a book. He’s not happy either, although he reads well. José simply has no time to read: with Mom working until midnight, he spends all of this free time babysitting his sister, 3 years old, and taking care of his wheelchair-bound grandfather who has Alzheimer’s. Ashley Peralta, 7 years old, loves to read. She gets an uninspiring 1958 edition of Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” Scott Patel, 11 years old, a highly gifted honors student, appreciates any book; but, his favorite subjects are Math and Science—so an unabridged copy of “Swiss Family Robinson” is not exactly high on his list.
The story above illustrates why the typical “better than nothing” lawn-sprinkler-approach to addressing poverty simply does not work. The RIVER FUND is different. Taking poverty personally, we see and touch every individual, in every family, where they are—and we move them forward in ways that are real to them...
•It’s not easy to swallow a diabetes diagnosis when you’re the young mother of three. But, when Lilly discovered that she also has high blood pressure, heart disease and is going blind in both eyes as a result of the illness, the emotional strain was almost unbearable. So, when her family was finally granted Green Cards, there was a lot riding on the decision to move to the United States. However, the cost of living in New York City was a tough wake-up call: Lilly’s husband found work, but not enough income. He became abusive. That’s when Lilly found the RIVER FUND. The situation had deteriorated to the point where an Order of Protection was needed for the safety of Lilly and her children. They’re now in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with no furniture. The RIVER FUND stands by her side with groceries, clothing, school-supplies, toys and the legal support Lilly needs; plus enrollment in various benefits—including Medicaid. In the midst of this complicated ordeal, she also required immediate surgery in both eyes to save her vision. Now, blindfolded for a month, and in recovery at home, Lilly depends on her 16-year old daughter to be her eyes and hands as she battles on.
•Loretta arrived at our office with two large bags, three tiny daughters and her partner. The night before, the landlord had put their belongings into the street. Having consistently paid the rent on time, they could not understand the sudden eviction. Apparently, the unit was illegal—so was the eviction, of course; but, they had no recourse to be returned to an unlawful apartment. The shelter system was unable to place the whole family, so they spent the next few weeks moving from one friend’s cramped apartment to the next. With no debts, they also had no credit history—which is a serious handicap when you’re apartment-hunting with three small kids. They finally got a single room on a temporary basis: the kids share a bed and the parents sleep on the floor. The room was in horrible condition; so Loretta’s partner painted it lilac to make his daughters feel better. The RIVER FUND provides groceries, clothing, school-supplies and other essential items; but, with all the moving, they don’t qualify for child care; so Loretta had to quit her job, leaving the partner to work overtime while they continue the hunt for a place. However, without Loretta’s contribution, the current income makes them even less likely to find a better apartment.
•Tanya holds a Master’s Degree in Language Arts. She worked for Delta Airlines—but her job was eliminated in their last cycle of downsizing, just before she gave birth to their second child. Then, six months later, her husband, Simon, who was employed as an English Teacher with an independent school, got laid off when the corporation found software that “could make faculty more efficient”—requiring fewer teachers in core subjects like English. Overnight, the family went from middle-class to subsisting on Simon’s unemployment check of $405/week. Tanya applied for Food Stamps online. The application process failed, and she came to the RIVER FUND for help. We also got her on the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program, and got Medicaid for the family. Months behind on their rent and utility bills, both Tanya and Simon also have large unpaid hospital fees. From the very first visit, we have been providing baby food, formula, diapers, etc. and they also get weekly groceries from our pantry program—as we gradually stabilize the family and build a plan for them to emerge from poverty once again.
•Poverty is not homogenous. It’s the intersection of multiple contributing factors. Hence, just as it’s almost impossible to find two identical intersections on a map, it’s almost impossible to find two families in identical poverty circumstances. We get into the nitty gritty details. We build a customized path, made up of solutions that really address the entire situation that brought the family into the state in which they find themselves today...
No other method really works.
And, because we take poverty personally, our organization is designed to give YOU an opportunity to be personally involved.