November 14, 2010

Couple needs help with house taxes, insurance

Velma Thomas has had one tough year. She hopes the worst is over.

Velma Thomas has had one tough year. She hopes the worst is over.

Last October, her 48-year-old husband, John Wade, told her he just wasn't feeling right.

He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with kidney failure, then hospitalized. While in the hospital, he suffered a stroke. He spent a month in a nursing home while he recovered.

"It was a dark time," she said. "I wouldn't wish this on nobody."

Her husband has slowly recovered and is at home now. She left her job to take care of him, relying on her retirement savings. She had to pay the nursing home $1,300. Her insurance at that time took care of some bills, but not all.

She has resumed working, but the couple face a bill of $874 in taxes on their house and an additional bill of $898 for house insurance.

"They all came in at the same time," she said.

She has turned to Share the Season, a nonprofit local effort that provides one-time aid to people over the holiday season. The Wichita Community Foundation coordinates the annual program along with the Salvation Army and The Eagle.

Share the Season began accepting applications at the beginning of November.

"Compared to last year at this time, we are receiving more requests," said Cheryl Warne, director of the Salvation Army's emergency social and disaster service. "We have a lot of need requests for help with medical issues. People aren't able to afford insurance and are struggling with medical issues and then getting in trouble with other bills."

Beginning today, The Eagle will be running daily stories of need. Most of those featured will remain anonymous, but their needs will be verified by the Salvation Army.

Last year, 228 families were helped with $162,000 from 747 donors.

Since Share the Season began in 2000, more than 1,962 Wichita area families have been helped by more than $1.5 million from 7,264 donors.

Each year, the Wichita Community Foundation provides $20,000 in seed money. All money raised goes to help local people in need.

The average recipient gets about $700 in assistance, mostly to pay the mortgage or rent and utility bills.

The payments are made directly to creditors, such as a landlord, utility company or doctor.

"The hope is that we get enough in contributions to meet the needs of the people applying," said Rob Allison, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation. "We have for several years been able to meet the approved requests with contributions. Our goal is to meet the needs of the working poor during this very special time of the year."

Donations are already coming in, Allison said. The program continues through Dec. 15.

"We send thank-you letters to every person who has contributed any amount," he said. "Everybody is giving what they can. We expect to see a lot of momentum building up over this next two- to three-week period."

Velma Thomas is hoping for some help from Share the Season.

Her new paycheck won't be enough to meet all the immediate bills and help provide a Christmas for her seven grandchildren.

"John and I usually be the ones to buy most of their gifts because their parent's can't do too much for them," she wrote on her application for Share the Season. "But with John not having any income and myself just starting back to work, I really don't think I will be able to do that this year. Mostly what I am worried about is taxes and insurance."

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