Funding For Personal Family Crises

Dear Friends,

In what is probably a sign of the times, I have received a large number of letters from individuals looking for funding for various personal family crises. I am going to offer some advice to these people.

However, these letters point to the need for universal health care, for more kinds of public funding for people with permanent or temporary disabilities and their caregivers, and in general, for a more comprehensive safety net.

Here are three summaries of more than a dozen letters received in the last six months:

–My neighbor’s six year old son has been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. His mother has quit her job to stay with him, and I have made a commitment to help raise the money she used to earn. How can I do this?

–My wife was recently disabled in a car accident. I am an Army veteran and also disabled. We need to buy a van that will accommodate her wheelchair and make some serious changes to our house. Is there funding for this?

–My cousin was badly injured in a farming accident. He will be OK with physical therapy, but he needs more therapy than his insurance will pay for. Our family has contributed money as best we can, and now want to raise more. Can you help?

Your first step (which you may have already taken) is to make sure that you have exhausted all the avenues of support that are available. I am often amazed at how many organizations provide in-home care, supplemental income, physical therapy and so on for free or very low cost. These services vary community by community. Talk to a social worker at your local hospital or clinic. Call your local Easter Seals, Ronald McDonald House, and Department of Human Services. Be polite but persistent.

Next, go to your house of worship, if you have one. Many churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and so on have funds for these kinds of needs, or are willing to take up a collection to help you.

Next, particularly if you are in a small town, go to your local newspaper and try to get a story written about your situation. The story is about the person who is ill or disabled, but it is also about the family and neighbors rallying to their side. The story does not have to be condescending tear-jerker. It is a simple appeal to the humanity in all of us (or at least most of us.) These stories will sometimes raise thousands of dollars from compassionate readers.

All the time you are pursuing these avenues, continue to pursue family and friends. But think of events like an all neighborhood garage sale, where everyone puts their stuff for sale in front of their house and donates a portion to you, or an ice-cream social at the local community center. This way you begin to raise money from people who don’t even know about the cause but love bargains or ice-cream.

If people are concerned that the money goes where it is supposed to, set up an account at the bank in the name of the family or of the person you are working for.

By networking and making your needs known, you may well find the money or the in-kind services that you need. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask. People like to help and people like to help people.