In 2009, "Sue" began losing her balance and suspected a tragic diagnosis like the one she had watched her father struggle with when she was a child.
An MRI revealed she had Huntington's chorea disease - a progressive, degenerative condition that causes certain nerve cells in the brain to waste away.
As a result of the condition, one may experience uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbances and mental deterioration.
Linda Tokay, of the American Rescue Workers, sits with “Sue” and her daughter. With the help of the nonprofit’s Comprehensive Emergency Assistance Program, which is funded in part by the local United Way, the mother and daughter were able to overcome homelessness.
As her health declined, Sue could no longer work and found herself in the worst of situations. With no income, she and her 8-year-old daughter were evicted from their home in Montoursville and ended up living in their car.
"Sometimes, early in the morning, I would take my daughter to a store and put her in a shopping cart so she could stretch out and sleep," said Sue.
By referral from local agencies, Sue made her way to the American Rescue Workers and was accepted into the Comprehensive Emergency Assistance Program.
"Sue arrived late in the afternoon on a Friday, and we began to work quickly for her and her daughter," explained Linda Tokay, social service director at the American Rescue Workers.
Immediately, a hotel room for the weekend was secured in her community so her daughter still would be able to attend school. Sue also was given food and supplies to last through the weekend and the beginning of the next week.
"That Monday, (we were) able to confirm housing for her for one month in a hotel efficiency room," added Tokay. With Sue's permission, a few churches were contacted and they also came to her aid.
"We felt that Sue needed support from her own community and the churches did a wonderful job in doing just that," Tokay said.
Now, Sue is working with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program through STEP Inc. to obtain permanent housing in her own community, and churches have offered to be an ongoing support for Sue and her daughter to help whenever they can.
The American Rescue Workers' Comprehensive Emergency Assistance Program, which is funded in part by Lycoming County United Way, provides emergency assistance in the form of food, clothing, shelter, prescription medication, heating oil, rent, utility, gasoline, transportation, medical equipment, eyeglasses, auto or home repair, dental, daycare, funeral expenses and other essential items to local people in crisis.
As services are rendered, the nonprofit's document profiles on all individuals using this funding source, thereby creating an ongoing record so that evaluations can be performed to ensure those in crisis situations and repetitive participants are directed in the most beneficial ways.
Linda Tokay added, "(The assistant program's) funds are given to prevent homelessness, job loss, prohibit further medical issues that would result in homelessness, dysfunctional social issues that would result in social isolation and possibly would or may result in loss of life."
Through the annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, $73,000 was allocated to the American Rescue Workers last year for its program.
"(The) funding by (the United Way) targets and assists a crisis population that would and could eventually slip through the cracks of human service agencies," said Rosann Pelleschi, director of funds distribution and community building at the Lycoming County United Way.
"We are pleased to be able to provide funds for (the program) and support people facing a crisis and help them get back on their own feet," Pelleschi said.
For further information on American Rescue Workers or its emergency assistance program, call 323-8401.
For more information on Lycoming County United Way, call 323-9448 or visit the website at www.lcuw.org.