It was Mr. Rogers who so beautifully said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Rarely since 9/11 have our military families not seen something scary in the news: a helicopter crash, a convoy hits an IED, another firefight in a far off land … the threats that face our service members are innumerable, and the worries that consume our families are real. And yet now, a new worry was thrust upon our Coast Guard families: how to feed their children and pay their bills in the wake of the government shutdown.
A quick search of #ShutdownStories on social media will bring the struggles to the front of your screen. A USCG spouse whose mother in Alaska saw her on the news in Connecticut at a food pantry, too embarrassed to ask her parents for financial help. Homeowners, trying to sell furniture on Craigslist in order to make their mortgage payment. Thread after thread of ways to scrimp and save, tips for making extra cash, and posts like “breakfast for dinner again – it’s all we can afford.”
The stories are heartbreaking and the stress of financial insecurity and uncertainty is palatable. We feel the deep empathy as we know it’s only a designation that separates the Coast Guard from the other military services. We, too, waited with bated breath to see if we would get funding. We are separated only by a difference in a reporting structure, but our ethos, our dedication to service, our sacrifices remain the same. Yet, they are now over 30 days into working without being paid. It just doesn’t seem fair.
And so, we must look for the helpers.
Across the country, businesses, individuals and entire communities have encircled our Coast Guard families to let them know that they are not forgotten. While faith in our government might be tested, the countless offers of help, assistance and kindness will certain bolster your faith in humanity. Here are five of our favorite “Shutdown Stories:
The #BeTheLight Food Pantry
In Oregon, the MOMS Club of Astoria, Boy Scouts of America Troop 211 of Astoria and local military spouses pooled resources to open a “pop up” pantry for USCG members and federal furloughed employees. Coordinator Stacey Ayers Benson shared, “Over the weekend, we had 503 families come through the door totaling 1,372 individual people helped. We still have donations rolling in, in the form of gift cards and food donations. Our doors will be open again this weekend to serve everyone again. We will continue to serve our community until the shutdown ends or we run out of food.” If you’re interested in donating, you can do so, here.
Great Harvest Bread Co.
Known for their phenomenal baked goods, we can also add a giving spirit to the reputation of the Great Harvest Bread Co. From their Facebook page: “Feeling emotional about the stories of federal employees on furlough or working without pay during the government shutdown, Sarah Butch, a Great Harvest franchisee in Lawrence, Kan., decided to do something to give back to her community. She set up a ‘Shutdown Shelf’ in her bakery, offering free bread to federal workers and contractors in need. Since then, Great Harvest Bread locations across the country have jumped in and set up Shutdown Shelves in their own bakeries. Now, more than 30 locations nationwide are offering free bread to federal employees impacted by the partial government shutdown.”
When milspouse and founder of the “Work From Anywhere Business Academy,” Kayla Roof heard the Coast Guard wasn’t getting paid, she knew she had to do something to help.
“My specialty lies in helping businesses grow with easy to implement marketing and systems,” she explained. “If there’s a way I can help a Coast Guard business owner get a boost in sales during this shutdown, I’m going to do it.”
Kayla took to Facebook with an incredible offer: “Coast Guard families that woke up without a paycheck this morning …” she wrote on January 15, “I see you. Sending love and hugs to you right now… but I know that doesn’t pay the bills. So … I’d like to offer any Coast Guard spouses a free consult if you need ideas for how you can generate cash flow for your business this month. I’m here for you. I can’t control what the government does but we can control the income we make in our own businesses. That’s the amazing part of being an entrepreneur.”
Canadian Air Traffic Controllers
We love this story from CNN about how “Canadian air traffic controllers have been sending more than just radio signals across the border … they ordered hundreds of pizzas for the American counterparts working without pay due to the shutdown.”
When Coast Guard spouse Tamy Medalis learned that her husband overheard junior CG members talking about how they were going to have to extend themselves on credit, she knew she needed to do something.
“We only requested items for 24 hours,” she said. “But in that time we collected a carload and over $1500 in gift cards. People have really been very supportive and we look to collect again and again to help, until this mess is over.”
From the sixth grade Navy “brat” who set up a GoFundMe account to help USCG families, bookstores offering free books to furloughed employees until they can pay it back, to countless restaurants around the country providing free meals and even “Pay it Furloughed,” a crowdfunding site that allows you to buy a beer for a furloughed employee, it only takes a little looking to find light in this darkness. We know these are scary, uncertain times. Keep looking for – and keep being – the helpers.Read comments