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August 30, 2016
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Voices from the Narrowsburg Food Pantry

One of the clients who was willing to give his full name was Glenn Clark, who was also willing to talk in detail about his situation. Before fracturing his ankle last July, Clark had no problem providing for his family. A truck driver for years, it was hard for Clark to ask for help. If money was ever tight, he would go out and get a second or third job, sometimes working seven days a week for 70 hours, he said.

But now, Clark is in the process of training for a desk job. He is collecting Social Security Disability, which, he said, is “keeping me afloat and helping me out until I can get back on my feet.” Clark is looking to go to college where he is considering a job in bookkeeping or accounting. His wife recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree that will allow her to become a paralegal, but she is struggling to find a job.

Clark would like to be working now, but because he is collecting Social Security, he is unsure of what jobs he can have because the amount of money he can earn is limited. Looking at job ads, he said, “I’m afraid if I go out and do something, they’ll take my benefits away.” Finding the rules of the system confusing, he said, “Once you get in the system, it seems like you’re stuck.”

It took months before Clark received his first disability check. Because of the waiting, he said, “You’re starving to death.” Since he was unable to afford food, Clark said he lost 30 pounds. He has since gained the weight back. To help with the food bill, he has planted a garden to grow various fruits and vegetables.

Before getting injured, Clark said he was not aware of the resources available to people in the area. Now, he volunteers at Katie’s Café at St. Paul’s, an outreach program that provides a free community lunch on the first Saturday of the month. But he questions if he is “taking advantage: am I on this too long, am I coming too often?” But he said by volunteering at the café, he feels better.

At one point, Clark was five months behind on his rent. He said he is very thankful that his landlord took a “gamble with me.” He asked, “Do you know how hard it is to go to your landlord and tell him you don’t have money to pay him?”
To help ease some of the financial responsibilities, Clark has learned a few money saving tricks by watching “Extreme Couponing,” on TLC. With coupons, Clark said he is saving 50 percent off his shopping bill.