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posted: 4/26/2013 6:00 AM

Naperville CARES helps clients in need survive tough times

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  • Mellissa Henry and her daughter had moved 13 hours away from friends and family when Henry's situation changed and she found herself looking for a hand and a support network. Naperville CARES gave her both and helped her get back on track, she said.

      Mellissa Henry and her daughter had moved 13 hours away from friends and family when Henry's situation changed and she found herself looking for a hand and a support network. Naperville CARES gave her both and helped her get back on track, she said.
    Courtesy of Mellissa Henry

  • Naperville CARES' Cuisine for a Cause features samples of food from 25 area restaurants. Proceeds support the organization's emergency aid for people in financial crisis.

      Naperville CARES' Cuisine for a Cause features samples of food from 25 area restaurants. Proceeds support the organization's emergency aid for people in financial crisis.
    Courtesy of Naperville CARES

 
 

A Naperville mother sits down and sorts through the mail.

There's her pay stub -- just enough to get by most of the time. There's the bank statement that shows the big withdrawal she made to cover the car repair. And there's the bill from the ER from the day her son fell out of the tree. Next time, she thinks, she'll have met the deductible on her medical insurance.

She has choices to make. Somehow, she has to rearrange the money to cover all the bills. Would there be enough if she cut back on groceries and skipped the phone bill this month? Could she wait to send the mortgage payment after her next payday?

Instead, she could turn to Naperville CARES.

The organization, launched in 1999, helps clients through tight times by providing emergency financial assistance to cover rent, utilities, car payments, insurance or other essential expenses. Beyond seeing clients through financial crises, CARES will help them find additional resources from ongoing financial assistance to counseling and health services.

Naperville CARES' car program refurbishes donated vehicles and gives them to clients who need reliable transportation to get to work. And its rental deposit program helps clients pay the security deposit that can keep some from being able to sign a lease.

To support the efforts, the organization is hosting Cuisine for a Cause, an evening in which supporters can sample dishes from more than 25 area restaurants. In advance of the event on Saturday, April 27, CARES client Mellissa Henry tells us how the organization gave her the strength to be the woman and mother she knew she could be.

Mellissa Henry, Naperville

A feeling of fear, being alone in a brand new community and new state, was not the path I was supposed to be on. I am an educated woman, I had gone to school for six years, I was working and minding my own life, but it seemed to be shattering before my eyes.

I recently had moved 13 hours from my network of family and friends to Naperville for a relationship. Shortly after moving I made the choice to leave that relationship, which I determined was not good for myself or my daughter and brought me to a place of fear and desperation. All in all, I knew I had to move on for the sake of happiness and fulfillment. Although I knew it would be tough, I had the skills necessary to take care of myself and my daughter.

A co-worker had referred me to an agency called Naperville CARES, which helps local families in financial crisis meet their essential needs by providing emergency financial support and resources. I contemplated making that initial phone call; little did I know this would be the phone call that would change my life in general.

When I reached out to CARES, I felt supported and not alone anymore. They provided me with the resources I needed. I knew my situation was temporary, but I did not have a network of friends and family to rely on.

Not only did Naperville CARES provide me with emergency assistance for rent so I could move into a new apartment, they also gave me referrals to other agencies for job counseling and food assistance. The emotional support and encouragement and, most of all, a team of sincere nonjudgmental people to talk to was what I needed to repair my newly shattered sense of pride. I slowly began to feel better after I made that initial cry for help.

I have had time now, over the past six months, to think of the importance Naperville CARES had on my life and I realize they gave me so much more than emergency assistance. I still feel connected to them. Not only did they help me when I was in need, but I have been able to help them as well.

Being asked to write this article gives me great joy, boosts my confidence and really helps me in my continuation of a career search in grant writing and management.

In my past, I have managed several food pantry programs. When I was in need I did not realize that going to Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry would actually help me professionally, as well as personally. Seeing how another program operates has helped to shed light on future work that I may do. The Community Career Center that CARES referred me to not only helped me to broaden my network but also helped me to create new business cards and update my resume to include the path that brought me where I am today.

I am forever grateful and want everyone to know that help is a phone call away. You may feel lost, scared and hopeless but there are people who care.

I would strongly recommend Naperville CARES because I found compassion and encouragement there and I am now back to being the great mother that I was.

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