JFS Perspectives

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Family Safety Net: A Path to Stability and Self-Sufficiency

Picture this: you have a steady income, always pay your rent on time, and are self-sufficient. Then at nearly 60 years old, your source of income slips away and you can no longer perform the physical labor necessary to find another job in your line of work. The rent is past due, you don’t have money for food, and you can’t find employment.

Most people in this situation have no choice but to accrue credit card debt, take out a loan, or borrow from friends and family. But what do you do when you’re single with virtually no family and few options?

Darwin ReynoldsDarwin Reynolds was co-owner of a successful carpet-cleaning business for 10 years running. The company started losing accounts and he and his partner eventually split up. His partner owned the truck, making it hard for Darwin to operate independently on a larger scale. Still, he tried to go out on his own. But at age 59, he couldn’t physically do the work anymore. Cleaning stairs was especially challenging. He wasn’t making any money and finally had to sell his equipment to make rent.

All he had was his van, which was paid for and helped him get around, but he couldn’t cover his rent and needed food. That’s when he came to JFS. The Family Safety Net (FSN) staff helped Darwin with emergency financial aid to pay his back rent so he could keep his apartment. He also received food from the pantry.

While waiting to shop in the pantry, he saw a sign for a 12-week class offered by JFS called “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World.” The class is designed to help people understand their poverty and take concrete steps to overcome it. He took the class and learned to better manage his finances. “Shelly (Hines, FSN director) was a real mentor to me and helped me through the classes,” says Darwin. He adds, “Now I keep my receipts to see how I’m spending my money. I’m much better at managing what little money I have.”

Darwin and HeatherDarwin’s biggest challenge was finding a job—one that would pay him enough to live on and not wear him out physically. He worked closely with Heather Seiden, JFS employment case manager (pictured to the right at a recent JFS event). “She’s so informative,” says Darwin. “She knew about a bunch of jobs that I didn’t know about, and that I was qualified for.” Using her network, Heather found a driving job with Revolution Foods that seemed perfect for Darwin. It called for delivering food to schools and recreation centers throughout Denver and the state. Darwin applied and he was hired with good benefits, including health insurance, which is especially important at his age. He has to do a little loading and unloading, but nothing close to the physical exertion of cleaning carpets. He’s now been there more than a year and recently got a raise.

Darwin smiles as he says, “Now I don’t even need food from the pantry. I make enough to buy my own, plus I can eat at work, which is nice.” He loves working at Revolution, and especially likes the people. “From my coworkers to my bosses, everyone is really friendly. The team is great. I get along well with everyone.”

Darwin feels good about his future and is grateful for the help he has received from Jewish Family Service. “The JFS staff has been tremendous,” he says. Everyone knows what they’re doing. There’s a lot of magic happening at JFS. Everyone worked together to help me with food, rent, classes, a job—everything. I hope to be donate to JFS myself one day to give back to the agency that did so much for me.”

You can help more people like Darwin avoid homelessness and hunger by making a donation!

META DESCRIPTION: Meet Darwin. He went from unemployment and near-homelessness to stability and self-sufficiency in a matter of a few months with the help of Jewish Family Service's Family Safety Net Services.