By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Chris Becker didnt always have to stretch her paycheck at the end of the month.
But these days, with an income of $594 per month in her part-time work as an in-home care provider, the 50-year-old Becker finds herself asking for help to make ends meet.
This is kind of new to me, Becker says of her need to rely on the services of the Northeast Oregon Compassion Center at the Nazarene Church at 1250 Hughes Lane.
Becker is diabetic, but was unable to afford medical care before qualifying for the Oregon Health Plan. She also suffers diabetic neuropathy, which has left the nerves in her left leg damaged. She expects to eventually be disabled and hopes to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Her application has been in the process for more than two years, she says.
Becker had been employed full time through the state office of Seniors andamp; People With Disabilities, but to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan benefits, she chose to reduce her hours to half time, thus reducing her income by half.
Thats when she knew it was time to ask for help.
Its hard on us people to go and get help from these places, she said. We have pride. We cant help it. Things do go bad.
Becker points to the breakup of her 13-year second marriage as a turning point in her life.
Thats basically when my life started going downward, she says.
Before that, she and her family lived comfortably on income from her husbands upholstery shop and her job as a secretary for a construction firm in Las Vegas, Nev.
During the time that her marriage was unraveling, Beckers family home burned. Then she was laid off from her job with the construction company.
Several other twists and turns in her life brought her to Baker City where she found herself in need.
I had to have help, she said. To eat right, I had to let my pride go.
Theyre a godsend, Becker says of the Compassion Center. Word needs to get out there to the public that there is a place where people on fixed income and with children can go.
Becker is also appreciative of the opportunity to talk to counselors at the center and the clothing program, which provides $5 vouchers to be spent on the low-priced clothing items available.
Those who receive food and clothing at the center are required to volunteer their help wherever theyre needed. Becker enjoys the opportunity to give something back.
It makes you feel like youre not a bum, she said. At least youre trying to return the favor they have given you.
Thats the purpose of requiring the volunteer service, according to Debbie Henshaw, director of the centers food and clothing programs.
We really desire to allow people their dignity and to give them an opportunity to give back, she said. It also gets people together and they can talk and create friendships.
And Henshaw believes that by helping people with their food and clothing needs, the center can reach out to them in other ways.
I know there are so many people who are hurting in so many different ways, she said.
The center has more than 30 trained lay care givers who meet with people each time they visit the center, Henshaw said.
They help people cope with problems ranging from depression to issues related to marriage, finances and addictions, she said.
The center has more than 50 open cases in which families are receiving some kind of assistance. About 20 families per week participate in the food bank program, which opened in March of this year.
And although the amount of food collected in the community was down this year, Henshaw is pleased with the thousands of pounds contributed.
Were just overjoyed, she said. However, I think things are going to get worse.
She has faith that by working together, the food banks of The Salvation Army, the Catholic Church and the Compassion Center, will be able to meet the need.
We get our socks blessed off, she said. Things happen. Donations just come out of nowhere.