With a Front-Row View of Poverty, She Needed Help

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The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund recently featured this Children’s Aid story by Jennifer Mascia about Yolanda Clinkscales balancing a full-time job and motherhood and still needing help. Below is an excerpt from the original article:

Shaquille White and trophies, at home in Manhattan. His mother, Yolanda Clinkscales, received assistance paying off a large Con Ed balance when surgery forced her to take time off work.

For more than half her life, Yolanda Clinkscales has balanced a full-time job with the demands of motherhood, and in all that time she has never needed a handout.

A longtime employee of the city’s Department of Homeless Services, Ms. Clinkscales, 45, already knew how easily a person could slip into poverty. Then it happened to her.

When she needed surgery and quickly used all of her sick days, she had to take an unpaid six-week leave and found herself in the uncomfortable position of asking for money. Though she earns $2,126 a month as a clerical associate — one of dozens of positions she said she has held at the department — she quickly fell behind on rent. She pays $774 for the subsidized two-bedroom Hamilton Heights apartment she shares with her son Shaquille White, 12, just seven blocks from where she grew up.

An aunt stepped in and lent her $2,000 for back rent — “She’s letting me pay her back $200 a month,” Ms. Clinkscales said — but there was still the matter of a $609.31 Con Edison bill.

In April she approached the Carrera Program, an adolescent outreach program at Shaquille’s charter school that has formed a partnership with the Children’s Aid Society, one of the seven beneficiary agencies of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Within days she received a $100 voucher for groceries from Pathmark; two weeks later the agency paid her electric bill.

When asked whether it was difficult to ask an outsider for financial help, she nodded solemnly.

“Sometimes you have to put your pride aside,” she said.

Though she is still hindered by sciatica, bursitis and a herniated disc, ailments that forced her to take another unpaid week in June, Ms. Clinkscales regularly tends to a gaggle of nephews and grandchildren, who treat her apartment as their local headquarters. On any given afternoon she will come home from work to find rambunctious pint-size relatives scampering in and out of her living room.

“My sister lives on the sixth floor, and my mom lives on the fifth floor,” she said in gravelly tones as she bounced her 21-month-old grandson, Misoun, on her knee, her eyes sparkling. He climbed off her lap and began stomping repeatedly on one of her sofa pillows. “They use my son’s room as a playroom,” she said of her grandson and his cousins.

Though Shaquille’s bedroom — with its bunk beds, sky-blue walls and posters of Bow Wow and Shaquille O’Neal, after whom he was named — is the main draw for his cousins, the centerpiece of Ms. Clinkscales’s tastefully decorated living room is Shaquille’s collection of trophies, some three dozen in all, dating from age 6 and commemorating victories in football, baseball and basketball. Half a dozen medals are slung around the trophies, and plaques line the wall.

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To learn how you can make a difference for this family and many others, please link over to The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund or contact:

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund
230 West 41st Street
Suite 1300
New York, NY 10036
(800) 381-0075

Photo courtesy of Eirini Vourloumis for The New York Times