Done with her 4 year degree in early childhood education and sober from heroin for 6 years, Ashley takes her life very seriously and is driven to succeed. 5 years ago she was vulnerable and on the edge of crisis as she tried to navigate a Medicaid application just 6 months out of jail and forced to deal with the loss of her mother, who had just overdosed on heroin. As an addict she had given birth to two lovely little boys who would have barriers for the rest of their lives due to her addiction. She lost custody of them and was plagued with guilt about their impending struggle. How would she feel grief for the first time without drugs and face dealing with the fear of failing at the responsibility of filing for Medicaid? Instead of succumbing to the call of grief and guilt, she thought of her babies and made the choice to reach out for help.
EOC staff reached back with care and respect to help Ashley navigate the cumbersome Medicaid application process. This gave her the opportunity to feel a small success as she sorted through the wreckage around her. Ashley worked with EOC to map out two long-term goals of earning an early childhood degree and another to gain custody of her children over a period of time.
Just this year she was able to graduate with an under graduate degree in early childhood education!
Moving from a vulnerable spot into a stable place is where Ashley is today. She wants to move from stable to safe and then to thriving and understands it will take more hard work and determination.
This story is not over, there is more work to be done and EOC will still be there to encourage opportunity for success in Ashley’s story.
Jim , now 92, retired from a local True Value 21 years ago. He worked there all his life during a time when the wages were enough to bring up a family and purchase a home. His retirement income of $23,263 a year was enough for him and his wife. Even when Jim’s lovely bride was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the additional cost for medicine was nearly manageable. They knew how to make ends meet. They had a pear tree in the yard and grew some vegetables to complement their meals; everything would be ok. When the shift in the economy hit and Jim was then diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it came down to eating or medicine. The combined cost for medicines and the increase in essential living items began to affect this couple and their income was $300 too much for them to get help with heat, medicine or food.
When Jim arrived for help, EOC could help him. We were able to give them food and he in turn shared his pears with the other food pantry guests. Jim eventually got to a place where he could no longer drive and we were able to deliver the much-needed food through our Rural Food Delivery program. He still sent in pears and our staff still gave him a thank you for his kindness.
Eleuterio Martinez Ramirez arrived in Saratoga County at the age of 14. Many of you may recognize Ele as a previous Visión Best in Show winner two years in a row. Ele’s personal story is a testament to the powerful community connections this event fosters. Ele came to Saratoga seven years ago, completely on his own and without knowing English. He enrolled at Saratoga High and became an active participant in LCAP, particularly the Estamos Aquí photo exhibit. I had the great privilege to get to know Ele through Visión and saw in him not only his extraordinary talent, but his strength of character, tireless work ethic, and compassion for others before himself. I invited Ele to apply to the Pre-College Program I direct at Skidmore, which offers high school students the opportunity to live on campus and take courses for college credit. Ele attended the program last summer and worked harder than any student I’ve ever met, participated in community service projects to benefit our local community, and made many valuable connections with Skidmore faculty. Because of Ele’s involvement with Estamos Aqui and Visión, Ele was able to build relationships and prove himself within the Skidmore community, and I am beyond delighted to share with you that Ele was recently accepted and is now a Freshman at Skidmore! As Ele’s story illustrates, the extraordinary difference this event makes in our community continues to unfold long past these photos and this night.