by Jennifer Blanck, Call Center Staff Member
In November of 1996, I was involved in a house fire where we lost everything. It was a devastating experience. What made it even harder was knowing that the holidays were coming up and we were now homeless with nothing but the clothes on our backs. I was barely 19 and on my own for the first time. I had never experienced such loss.
Despite the tragedy, it was probably the best and most impactful time in my life. Within hours of the fire, there was an out pouring of donations and support from total strangers to help us build our lives again, and they asked for nothing in return. It was completely overwhelming; I had never felt this kind of love or kindness or selflessness from anyone but my own family. I did not know that people like this existed. I knew then that I would definitely pay it forward. I didn’t know how or when yet, just that when the time came, I would without hesitation. Since that day 18 years ago, I have had many opportunities to give back. I do every time I can and I will always continue to do so.
I began working at Elder Law of Michigan three months ago. With the holidays drawing near, I inquired if we adopted a family to help for the holidays. I was told that it was something that had been thought about but never done before, and so I was given the opportunity to organize and lead our first Adopt-A-Family campaign. I was excited to be in charge of this and for it to be the first one. No matter how well (or not so well) it turned out, there was nothing prior to compare it to, I was setting the bar so to speak.
I had no idea where to begin since we were looking for a senior family and it is not as easy to find a senior family as it is a younger family with kids. But with the help of some co-workers, I was able to get in touch with a couple through The Salvation Army. They are a senior couple with 12 grandkids and two great-grandkids with number three on the way. They are living on a fixed income and sometimes just buying food is a struggle, much less any other type of extras. Elder Law of Michigan came together and we gathered a large box of non-perishable food items, a box containing shoes and boots for the husband, lots of neat little gifts for the family, a laundry basket full of clothes for the wife as well as two winter coats for her, a gift card for a pedicure for her, and some extra money so they could buy gifts for their grandkids.
It was so exciting being able to do so much for this family. They were extremely grateful for all our generosity. I believe they were even shocked by how much we had done for them. We chatted with them for a little bit and talked about some other resources they can go to for assistance, especially for food and other needs. A few co-workers who came explained briefly about the type of work that Elder Law of Michigan does. I think it was a bit of a relief for them to know that there is somewhere they can go to should they ever need legal advice. As we left their home, the wife was fighting tears and they both said they hope to be able to pay it forward in the future.
This whole experience was amazing for me. I am beyond grateful to have been put in charge of this project and I hope that it will become an Elder Law of Michigan holiday tradition. I feel the more people I can touch with kindness, the more kindness that will then be given to others. It may not always be by the person I helped, but maybe by someone who witnessed it or was in some other way affected by it. I may not know the names or faces of all the people who have helped me in the past, but I know their hearts. It is because of the kindness in their hearts that was shown to me that I try so hard to help others. If a complete stranger can help me, then why can’t I help a complete stranger?