Outpouring saves family's home

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 31, 2011

By Scott Jenkins
SALISBURY — To everyone who helped keep Linda Worth and her family in their home, she’d like to say, “Thank you.”
There’s just one problem.
“ ‘Thank you’ is just not enough,” Worth said Monday when she came by the Post to provide an update on her financial situation.
On Friday, it looked dire. Worth had been told that if she didn’t get her gas heat turned back on by the end of this week, she would lose the federal rental assistance that allows her to live in her South Craige Street home. And that would mean not only Worth, but her quadriplegic son Eric and niece Iman would be forced out.
She just didn’t have the money to pay the bills.
But the community stepped up in a big way. Rowan Helping Ministries and the Salvation Army had already pledged help, and a parade of good Samaritans knocked on Worth’s door over the weekend. Now, she not only has the money to get her gas bill caught up and the heat turned back on, her other bills have been paid as well.
That means Worth and her family are going into the holiday season knowing they’ll still have a home, and a warm one. And that’s a lot to be thankful for.
“I cannot believe the goodness of the people in this town,” Worth said today. “I just didn’t know.”
She found out Saturday after the Post published her story.
Worth has lived in her South Craige Street home about 30 years. It’s where she’s cared for her 38-year-old son Eric since an accident at age 6 left him paralyzed from the neck down. It’s where she took in her infant niece, who she now calls her teenage daughter.
Last year, Worth’s gas was cut off when she couldn’t pay the bills. She kept her family warm with electric space heaters.
This year, though, the Rowan County Housing Authority told Worth she would lose her Section 8 housing assistance if she didn’t get the gas turned on. She had to come up with $757.56 to pay the gas bill now or $525 a month for rent starting Dec. 1.
Neither of those options seemed realistic to Worth, who cares for her family on the $875 she gets in monthly assistance for Eric and Iman. She was desperate. What happened next, Worth said, is nothing short of a miracle.
People started showing up at her home to help. And they kept coming. They gave her money for the gas bill, the electric bill, the water bill. A woman whose son is a quadriplegic showed up first. Freightliner employees took up a collection Saturday and sent it to her house.
A businessman bought the car that’s been sitting in Worth’s driveway since the transmission went bad and said he’d work something out with her on a car with a new transmission.
Iman called them angels.
“It’s truly a miracle,” Worth said. “We were on our way out.”
More than 40 people left messages at the Post over the weekend wanting to help Worth and her family. Some wanted to give $100, some more. Some were retirees on fixed incomes and could only spare a few dollars, but they wanted to help.
One man, when told the bills had been covered, said he and his wife wanted to buy Worth a bed. She’s been sleeping on a sofa since giving hers to Iman.
At least two people went straight to Piedmont Natural Gas to pay the $232.56 left after Worth got pledges from Rowan Helping Ministries and the Salvation Army and the gas company said it would bill her for a $125 deposit.
Helen Corpening went on behalf of the Steppin’ Out Social Club.
“I’m so glad that everybody has come forth to help this lady, and I’m glad we could be a part of that,” Corpening said. The club, she said, challenges other organizations to “step up to the plate” and help people in need.
Worth said with such an outpouring, she might not even need the money that Rowan Helping Ministries and the Salvation Army had promised her. And that’s just fine.
“That money can go to help somebody else,” she said.
Sherry Smith, director of client services for Rowan Helping Ministries, said the nonprofit can use every dollar. The poor economy has slowed donations even as it’s created more need, lately for help with heating bills.
“With temperatures being below 50 nightly, there’s definitely great need,” Smith said. “We don’t expect that fund to last long.”
Capt. Jason Smith, corps officer with the Rowan County Salvation Army, said his agency is also getting more requests for help with utility bills from clients who are already “barely able to make ends meet.”
“When there’s a spike in their utility bills from running the air conditioning over the summer to going to running gas over the winter, it really hurts them immediately,” he said. “They don’t catch a break.”
Unlike Rowan Helping Ministries, the Salvation Army is a United Way agency, so it benefits from donations to the United Way’s ongoing fundraising campaign. And Smith said the organization needs it. Because of the economy, “Our waiting area went from typical clients to some of our donors waiting for assistance. People just aren’t able to give.”
Worth’s story is a testament that even in bad times, many are still willing to help. And though she can’t give money, Worth said she’ll do “anything I can ever do to help anybody. … Whatever’s in my power to do to help somebody, I will.”
Then she went off Monday to pay those bills and keep her family in the home they’ve known for decades, but not before saying one more time how thankful she is to all the people who helped her do it — as Iman would say, to all those angels.
“It’s just overwhelming,” Worth said. “I don’t know how they walk around with hearts that big.”
Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248.
Want to help?

The community stepped up and made sure Linda Worth’s family could stay in their home and keep warm. But many others still need help. Here are some ways to give:
• Rowan Helping Ministries’ crisis assistance fund depends on support from local churches and donations from the community to help people pay their utility bills, buy medication and meet other needs. With the economy straining its resources, the agency needs funds. To give, log on to www.rowanhelpingministries
.org and click the “Donate”?button, call 704-637-6838 or mail a check to Rowan Helping Ministries, 226 N Long St., Salisbury, NC 28145-4026. 
And right now, Rowan Helping Ministries is conducting its annual honor card campaign. Artist Cara Reische has designed a card with sales benefitting the nonprofit and its mission. For more details and locations to buy the card, check with Rowan Helping Ministries.
• The Salvation Army of Rowan County’s crisis assistance fund helps people with utilities, rent, medication and other needs. Donations can be made directly to the Salvation Army by logging on to www.salvationarmycarolinas.org, clicking the “Contribute”?button and following the prompts to give to the Rowan agency, by phone at 636-6491, or by mail at The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 625, Salisbury, NC 28145-0625. Donors can note on their checks how they want the money to be used.
The Salvation Army is a United Way agency, so donations to the ongoing United Way campaign benefit the nonprofit, and it will soon begin its annual Red Kettle campaign.
• Many churches have benevolence funds that provide aid to church members and other local residents in need. Check with your church to see if it has a benevolence fund.
• Piedmont Natural Gas and Duke Energy have “share the warmth” programs. Piedmont’s lets customers round up their bills to the nearest dollar, with the extra money going to government and nonprofit agencies that help people pay thier heating bills. Duke customers can make a donation by mail or online. For more information, log on to www.piedmontng.com or www.duke-energy.com