Reader letters, April 3

Apr 03, 2017

Anna's story

To the editor:

I had the opportunity to meet a little lady by the name of Anna.  She is 80 years old andhas no family living in North Carolina.

She talked about her past work experiences and said she worked two to three jobs at a time most of her life.

Her first official job was as a dish washer, and this was at the age of 14.  She had to have a special stool to stand on in order to reach the sink.

On one job she went 14 years and never missed a day’s work.  She had a heart attack at the age of 46 and was out of work for a few days.

She said her boss was upset that she was out of work, and when she got the chance, she said she went and patted him on the shoulder and said, “you know I have not missed one day of work in 14 years,”  and he said, “yeah, I know, someone told me that.”

She worked at that particular department store in New York City for 33 years. She said her dad always told her, “You work, and you work hard. You always give them a good day’s work and you always need to be there.  You take care of what you have and don’t waste because you never know when you are going to get more.”

I have worked with her on and off for about two years as there is a waiting list and priority points that have to be followed to rehab or weatherize a home.  I felt really concerned for her because she had to have a couple of different major surgeries and was told by the doctors that she needed to stay warm and not to be in a cold home.

When I first talked with her, she told me her heating furnace was tearing up, and she was using her electric cook stove to heat the home along with a small electric heater.

We were able to temporarily repair her furnace in hopes that we would have the funding to help her soon.

She knew that 100 gallons of heating oil would last six weeks as long as she did not turn her furnace up past 58 degrees.  We weren’t able to help her that year but her name came up on the waiting list of the Urgent Repair  Program the next year, and we were able to replace her heating system.

Her name then came up on the weatherization list, and we were able to weatherize her home as well.   Anna receives less than $10,000 yearly in Social Security benefits.  With her mortgage payment, taxes, electric bill, phone bill and water bill, Anna has very little left to purchase food.

She told me she scrimps and saves but many times she just eats peanut butter and bread  to have enough to pay her monthly bills.  We finished weatherizing her home in December 2016.

I told her the day we went out to do the final inspection that I felt that with all the weatherization we completed on her home such as attic insulation, floor insulation, vapor barrier, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarm, duct wrap and sealant, air sealing the home, air sealing the attic, Compact fluorescent bulbs, pop off piping for water heater, faucet aerator, water heater jacket for water heater and weather stripping for both doors, she should see a huge difference in her home and her heating bills.

When I recently called and spoke with Anna and she said that her fuel had lasted three weeks longer than it had in the past.

She is so grateful for these programs that Mountain Projects Inc. has to help the elderly and those who qualify.  I don’t know about you but 58 degrees is a little uncomfortable to me.

I know that the work we did on her home will help this 80 year old to keep her home at a higher temperature than 58 and that she will have  extra money to purchase food other than peanut butter and bread.


Vivian A. Bumgarner is the Housing Development Program coordinator at Mountain Projects Inc.

Recently returning from time away, my family was delighted to discover that during our absence, spring has transformed drab brown Earth and bare bones branches.

Daffodils, grape hyacinth and forsythia in bloom was fragrant evidence that the earth’s reawakening had come.  Sadly, that glorious show lost its luster as harsh cold winds swept through the mountains coating the landscape with its snowy blanket.

Temperatures jumped up and down on the thermometer like popping popcorn.  Knowing what to wear when you head out for the day became quite the challenge.

This frustrating pattern got me thinking.  Maybe “March Madness” isn’t meant just for the frenzy of college basketball finals.   Could this catchy phrase be shared, as a description for capricious weather that rages during spring?

Mother Nature is not to be trusted.  That is an axiom most of us learn the hard way when our picnic is rained out, or an outdoor wedding turns guests into human barbecue  as we fry in the sun.   Better yet, when a long-anticipated dream vacation is jeopardized by temps plummeting drastically below predictions, requiring investment in a bulky wardrobe that may have to be discarded at departure. Yep, the weather can do a number on our plans.

So, right about now, I snap out of my whining as my thoughts turn to the farmers with acres of trees whose ravaged buds no longer hold the promise of a fruitful harvest.  Yet, one evening news report told of such a farmer in his orchard whose words touched me.  When describing his dire situation caused by winter’s return, he said simply, “Well, we gotta have hope.”

Ashamed of myself for complaining because I’d lost a few flowers, I realized what a special breed these local growers are.

Faced with a huge financial loss on the whim of a cold snap, this gentleman stood tall and strong, choosing to keep an optimistic attitude.  I recently learned that when apple blossoms are damaged by frost, they actually store their energy and release it into the blossoms of the following year, creating a stronger yield, often called a “bumper crop.”

Maybe this is why the growers are not easily shaken by the unseasonable cold.  They are confident that one day the best will come from the combined energy, but they must be patient and stay the course.

What a lesson for all of us.  Patience is one of my most challenging characteristics to master — perhaps, for you as well.  So, as we yearn for harsh, unforgiving winds to become soothing warmth and lush greenery, let’s take a page from the farmers.  Instead of grumbling about “March Madness” weather, let’s remember all is well — God is in his heaven. Spring’s warmth with its colorful blooms we’re all hankering for will arrive.  In the meantime, watch a little basketball.


Ellen Russell lives in the Crabtree community.