It All Started with an Illness
—Alamance County, NC, aid provider and former aid recipient—
It all started with me becoming ill, having to go on disability. But before I get disability I need assistance with my utility. So I reach out to the community. I didn’t really know anything about where to go besides Social Services, and I found out about this Agency called Alamance County Community Services. I went there, and I was getting assistance with a utility bill. And the caseworker there—I told her the only thing I really wanted was a job. I said being fifty-five at the time, I said I am too old to have babies and too young to draw Social Security. So that is when I found out that seniors and disabled fall through the crack. They get left out, because you go to DSS, which is Social Services, and they will say, “I am out of funds, and we can’t help you.”
That is because the younger, healthier generation have already beat you to the funds.
And so that was very disheartening, very disheartening. I wanted to start some services on my own to assist the disabled and the homebound, but they offered me a job at Alamance County Community Services. The first job I couldn’t do because I had to stand, and that was my health issue: my legs. So their director said, “I like your resumé, and I am going to hold onto it.” Three weeks later they called me to come in and be their receptionist. And this is when I got introduced to really helping the people in the community. Seeing how many people in Alamance County that were really and truly in need, seeing also that the seniors and the disabled were the last ones to come in asking for assistance, and I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
So I stayed there through another program called the NCCBA Program—the National Black Caucus for Aged Program. I only worked for them for six months because my director at Community Services asked me if I wanted to become a Vista Volunteer. So I said yes, and off to Atlanta, Georgia I went for my training. And I was a Vista volunteer for three years doing community outreach.
I went all over Alamance County. I still worked out of community services but I got to introduce the people in the community all the way out into Caswell County about the services that they offered. So I have gone all around Caswell County telling about the services that Community Services offered. So after my three years with Vista my contract was up, so they gave me a contract through the ERA Program. That was the Obama Supplementary Program that they introduced. So we had six individuals. We went out and we just promoted these programs; all the programs that Community Services did. We had a 10-month contract.
That contract was over. So, they didn’t have the funds to hire me. I went back to the NCCBA Program. And I went to Allied Churches and I worked up at the shelter for a couple of weeks. The director at the time—Hunter—he told me this is not what I want you to do. I have other things I want you to do. So this program here was actually in Graham at the time. We were on Graham across from the Graham Post Office. And that is where I became introduced to the program called CAN—the Christian Assistance Network. I started working with a young lady with Brenda Poteat, and next thing I knew we were going to open and get this building here. So they closed the building in Graham, I went back up to Allied Churches and after about four months we came down here. So in 2010 we came down here. November of 2010. And I have been the—it has changed from CAN to the Emergency Assistant Coordinator now—going on two years.
Success Through Aid & Initiative
You have to put yourself out there. You have to want it. That’s what it is, you have to want it. You have to want it because only you can push yourself to the max to say that “I can get this.” I could be sitting at home right now drawing my little bitty disability, but I have a problem with that.
My main problem was when I told that lady seven years ago that I needed a job because I hadn’t started getting Social Security disability, that I needed assistance with my bills.
After I started drawing my disability this was not enough money. There had to be another way. So the Social Security told me I could go to work. I can only work so many hours, find something that I was able to do. I cannot stand and lift all this stuff, and I cannot stand a lot of hours anymore. So what I had to do, I had to go to ACC [Alamance Community College] and learn to use a computer. I used to use a computer in my profession. I could do my diet changes on a computer for the residents at the Healthcare Center. I could put my menu in. I could order my stock. I could do all that, but that is all. All I knew how to do on a computer is what pertained to that job, and that was it.
But I had to go to school. My daughter said, “Mama you cannot be a computer dummy.” I didn’t want to use that thing! But I did.
Second reason for that, I didn’t have any “me” money. I had no money to do anything for me, nothing. And that’s hard. That’s not fun.
So I said even though I have a disability, there’s something I can do, and that’s what I chose to do. And this is what the younger clients that I assist and the other agencies assist… they need to put this in their minds that, “I can do better than this. This is not what I want for my children.”
Parthenia is employed at Allied Churches as an aid provider, and was also a former aid recipient. She is African-American, in her fifties, and was interviewed by Tom Mould on March 27, 2013.