image source: The Blooming Homestead
Jo has Multiple Sclerosis and is on social services disability assistance (welfare), which provides her the princely sum of $625/month on which to live. The rent on her bachelor suite apartment (one room and a bathroom) costs her $540/month.
Jo earns an additional small sum each month by vacuuming the hallways of the apartment building in which she lives, and by helping to clean apartments when they've been vacated. It's physically exhausting work for someone with her challenges but she's very grateful to have it.
By most standards, Jo is poor. She lives very carefully and has no room at all in her budget for luxuries. Every scrap of food she consumes is carefully planned for and nothing in her fridge ever goes to waste. She drinks water most of the time because coffee and tea are too expensive. Her clothes are purchased at thrift stores or found in the free store in her building's laundry room. She walks everywhere because she can't afford to take the bus.
And yet Jo still finds the means to help others she considers less fortunate.
All year 'round, my friend Jo collects bottles and tins. She picks up returnable containers she finds by the road when she's out on her walks. She retrieves containers from the trash bins in public spaces in her building, and from the recycling dumpster in the parking lot. If it can be returned for a deposit, she'll pick it up. When she has a garbage bag full, she walks to the recycling depot and turns the containers in for money.
I thought that Jo used the money from her bottle returns to help stretch her meagre budget, but I was wrong. She puts that money aside and then, when the cold weather comes, she walks to WalMart and uses it to buy the single-use heat packs they sell in the sports department. These plastic packets contain two chemicals that, when combined, generate heat. The user applies pressure to break the packet's inner capsule and then tucks the packet inside gloves or boots to provide a few hours' warmth on a cold day. Jo distributes them to homeless people in our town when she's out on her walks.
Jo doesn't talk about her gift to the homeless. I found out about it quite by chance, because it was raining and I had the opportunity to offer her a ride to WalMart. When she explained about the warmers I asked her "But shouldn't you be using that money to help make ends meet yourself?"
"As long as I can help someone less fortunate than myself, I am never truly poor."
Looking for ideas about how to make charitable gifts while on a budget? Find them at A Word From Aunt B.
The sign in the title image was made by Marie, at Blooming Homestead. You can find more images of the sign, together with information on how she made it at http://www.bloominghomestead.com/2012/09/pallet-wood-sign.html. Thanks, Marie, for letting me use the image.