A short plea for help brings a quick story and a quicker answer

Sep 10 2011 - 11:16pm

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Charles F. Trentelman
Charles F. Trentelman

A couple weeks ago Shelly Roche wrote this newspaper that if she could get $1,500 she could get off welfare forever.

I called Shelly, who lives in West Haven. She's not on the program now called welfare -- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families -- but she's close.

She is divorced and living on child support, food stamps and some state help for a relative's child she supports. If not for a friend letting her live rent-free for four months, she'd be homeless.

She desperately wants to avoid welfare. She wants to be independent. She is confident she could set up a state-licensed day care and support herself, but it would cost $1,500 to cover all the licenses, fees, permits and inspections to get licensed by the state.

No way she could save $1,500 in four months. No way a federal Small Business Administration loan could come through in four months.

So I told Shelly's story in this space. I tried to make it clear she was not soliciting donations, just saying she hoped to find a quick loan. I said I could not guarantee she could repay anyone.

You can guess what happened next.

"I had about nine different phone calls," she said. "I got a 1 percent loan from a gentleman. It was so funny, he said 'If anyone asks you, tell them this is better than I'm getting on my CDs (certificate of deposit) right now. This is my investment in my faith in humanity.'

"He just said to pay him back in two years and I said it's not going to take me that long."

The calls didn't stop. She said "No thanks!" but several said "Do you know anyone else?" Next thing she knew, she was brokering help "and I was able to help another person."

She connected a homeless pregnant woman with two children with one of her callers who staked the mother to a week in a hotel. Someone else offered the same woman a month's storage for her stuff.

"So out of one good deed, it snowballed," she said.

It still didn't stop.

The phone rang. Shelly heard a woman's voice say "I'm supposed to help you."

Shelly said, "What do you mean?" and the woman replied, "I read the article. I'm supposed to help you."

Shelly told the voice someone had already helped her, thanks anyway.

"And she goes 'No!' She goes, 'I'm going to be at Harmon's at noon and I'm going to help you out.' When I met her she was just like an angel, blessed from heaven. She said 'I look at you. You're a beautiful person. I know this is the right thing to do.' "

And she gave Shelly $1,500 cash. Refused to give her name, too.

"I said 'Are you sure I can't have your name?' and she says 'I'm sure.' "

So Shelly has her licensing and fees paid and all her bills paid up. She's got swings and toys and furniture, "all from thrift stores!" As soon as the state does its final inspection, she'll be in business.

She read me the card the woman put around the $1,500.

"It says 'Just because' on the outside, and inside she wrote 'I hope this will help you and your kids get back on your feet to a new and better life.' "

Me too.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or e-mail ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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