Listen to Pat's story

Pat is in her 50s. She has been working since she was 15, often two or three jobs at a time. She worked hard to be able to afford to give her two daughters opportunities like Girl Scouts. But then she fell while working and can no longer stand for long periods of time. She has struggled to find a job that matches her skills and accommodate the pain in her back and legs.

By her own admission, she became depressed. She does not like having to rely on the government to pay her light bill. With the help of programming from the Burlington Housing Authority, she started a small business, selling her crochet work to friends and neighbors and donating hats to the children in the cancer ward at Duke Hospital. She’s trying to expand her business by advertising on the Internet, but has a lot to learn about web design and development and has no computer at home. She doesn’t have a car, so getting to the store requires help from neighbors who also rely on government assistance and struggle to make ends meet.

While Pat was out of work, she turned her attention to her community, serving as a community representative and providing activities for the neighborhood children such as cooking classes, crafts, and movie nights. One of their projects was to make mats for the homeless using recycled plastic bags. Pat has always cared for those around her, raising the children of friends and family when they were not able to and providing food and care for elderly neighbors. Now, she is caring for people as a job. This past year, Pat was able to find work as a homecare nurse, something she can do while she continues to seek medical treatment for her back injury. Pat hopes to be able to save enough money to move back to Hickory to help her sister care for their aging parents.

Interviewed by Tom Mould, 2015. Photographed by Erin Turner, 2015