A New Start
After six years in prison, Karol Solomon found himself a free man, without housing, transportation, employment, or his son. It was October, and he vowed to himself that by this time next year, he would change all of that.
It wouldn’t be an easy journey, but he was determined. Without so much as a driver’s license or social security card, though, he knew it would be impossible alone. His first stop on the road to getting his life back was the DCEA Neighborhood Service Center, where he learned about the Partners For Success program. His Advocate helped him set goals, create a timeline, and figure out where to start. He’d walked into the NSC with nothing and walked out with a plan.
By December, he and his Advocate had worked together and gotten Karol both a social security card and a driver’s license. He’d found work on a friend’s farm, and by Christmas had managed to buy a $300 car. It was a fixer-upper, but Karol had the skills and determination to keep it running. It wasn’t easy, but it was a start.
January saw him moving into more permanent housing. With the help of the housing assistance program and food vouchers, Karol was becoming settled. He had transportation, documents, and references, and it was enough for him to find a job at Clayton Homes, the nation’s largest manufactured housing builder. With a steady income came the ability to afford rent, and with assistance from the Neighborhood Service Center with Utilities, he was able to find a place he could afford, and was no longer reliant on Section 8 housing.
Determined to “do it right this time,” he met with his Advocate for another goal-setting meeting, and by April, he’d become established at his job, completing his probationary period and receiving full benefits and a pay raise. He’d opened a bank account and was on his way to being fully independent.
He had other goals, too, such as planting and maintaining a garden to minimize food costs, and fixing his credit score with a newly-acquired credit card. He was spending weekends with his son, and they cared for the garden together. He applied for custody in June, and by July, his request was granted.
When he’d stepped out of jail nine months ago, Karol Solomon was determined to change his life. He found the help he needed, and by working together with the DCEA Neighborhood Service Center, he rebuilt his life from the ground up. “If I can do this,” he said, “Anyone can. I accepted and made up my own mind that I wanted to change my life, and I did it.”
For Want of Shoes
Often, the choice to seek help doesn’t come when you can’t support yourself, but when you can’t support your family. One of the members of our community, a 74-year-old widower, didn’t reach out for help because he was thin from lack of nutrition, or because he couldn’t pay his power bills. It wasn’t even that he’d lost his teeth and couldn’t afford dentures, or that he depended entirely on the goodwill of neighbors for transportation to and from the grocery store.
It was because his mentally disabled daughter, age 49, had no shoes.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, was referred to the Blount County Community Action Agency Community Services Programs through the Blount County Sheriff’s Office Senior Outreach Program. The BCCAA immediately sprang into action on his behalf to see how they could help.
He was able to finally receive a pair of dentures through the CSBG Emergency Dental Assistance Program, and the Commodities Program helps stock their pantry with USDA provided, shelf-stable food every quarter. His application to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program was approved, letting them use their thermostat in even the coldest part of winter.
The Smokey Mountain Meals on Wheels is providing meals for the family, helping them get back on a healthy diet, and they’re no longer in danger of losing their home. The man hadn’t heard of any of these programs before this, but he was grateful.
One day, one of the Meals on Wheels volunteers brought out a present. In their warm home, stocked with food, they gave his daughter a pair of shoes. She loves them so much she sleeps in them, and the family is proud of how far they’ve come.
Something to SMile About
Barbara Davis is a Townsend resident who says she doesn't know what she would do without SMiles senior-friendly transportation program. She moved to Tennessee with her husband after she retired from teaching. Once her husband passed away, Barbara had great difficulty getting around, and couldn’t keep necessary appointments. She drives comfortably in Townsend but is nervous about driving in Maryville, where the roads are busier and quicker thinking is required.
Barbara was frustrated and upset until she struck up a conversation with a local exterminator who recommended SMiles. The next day, she went to her mailbox and the paper featured an article on the Smiles program. She took this as a sign and called right away to register as a member. The program has helped her make her appointments and stay active in the community. The SMiles staff and drivers have become her friends, and she’s always happy to see them.
Barbara enjoys her affiliation with the Office on Aging so much that she has recently begun a volunteer campaign to increase socialization with homebound seniors. She calls program members during the week to talk with them and catch up on their lives, providing a comfortable routine as well as a touchpoint for social activities. Volunteering helps Barbara make friends and bring joy into the lives of those she talks with, and her favorite part is giving back to the community that gave her so much.