Herald Angels help keep senior chugging along PDF Print E-mail

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The Joliet Herald News is conducting its annual Herald Angels Program.  Our residents at the Grundy County Housing Authority are beneficiaries of their generosity.  As you can tell from the following article, appearing in today's newspaper, this program really is a great help to our low-income, elderly residents.  I know they will appreciate any assistance you are able to give.
T. Brent Newman, C.E.O.

December 14, 2008
By This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Staff Writer

Brent Newman, CEO of The Grundy County Housing Authority (GCHA), has quite a bit of respect for the disabled and elderly residents who come to his organization for help. He understands that most of the applicants have worked hard all of their lives, and the idea of asking for help is nearly unbearable.

"Believe me, though the people we help may sound self-sufficient, they're going through some hard times," he said Monday. "Let me put it this way, the average income is $12,000 a year for those we help, and that isn't much."

For the past 30 years, GCHA has provided affordable housing to low income elderly and disabled residents of Grundy County. Unfortunately, it's getting increasingly difficult to do so.

"Over the past five years our funding from the federal government has declined by 15 percent. Those are actual dollars, not dollars adjusted for inflation," Newman said. "With rising prices, especially rising energy costs, these cuts have been felt all the more acutely."

One of those proud, formerly self-sufficient folks is Alfred Weigel, of Morris. His needs are modest, but with a couple of health challenges and no family nearby, he could use a little help. According to Newman, Weigel lives in a public housing apartment and GCHA helps him make his doctors' appointments in Joliet.

Talking to Weigel, you wouldn't know it. He's quite obviously a self-sufficient, proud gentleman who is accustomed to being independent. It's clear he doesn't want help, but when times are tough even the proudest among us must sometimes accept help from others.

"Yes, times have been tougher, but I'm pretty happy here in my little apartment," he said. "I don't drive, but I take the senior bus over to Wal-Mart and do some shopping."



The magic of model railroads
Weigel, 72, has lived in the public housing unit for the past 12 years, and he's certainly not complaining. His needs are simple.

As long as he has his model railroad for company, he's a happy man.

"My HO scale trains -- Ho stands for half size the regular model trains -- are all digitally controlled," he said. "It's like magic, and I built my little town around the trains, it keeps me occupied and it makes me happy."

Last year, a gift from the Herald Angels allowed Weigel to buy a couple of items he coveted for his model railroad.

"A lady detective came by with Brent [Newman] on Thanksgiving to see my railroad," he said. "Folks seem to be fascinated with it. I sure don't know what I'd do without my railroad."

The Herald Angels gift also came in handy for buying a couple pairs of long johns and a few savory snacks that he doesn't often enjoy.

"We currently work with our partners to provide a variety of physical and mental health services, meals, library services, community gardening and a host of other things they need," Newman said. "Everything we do is designed to make sure the most vulnerable among us are able to live happy and productive lives."

As in the past, funds donated through The Herald Angels will be given directly to Senior Services Center of Will County and Grundy County Housing Authority for distribution to senior citizens who need a little extra help during the holidays.

This year, we will also be donating to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). CASA is a nonprofit organization initiated in Will County in 1993.

Advocates serve as the voice for abused and neglected children in court, with a goal of finding a safe, permanent home for each child as quickly as possible.

If you are able to give, Send a check payable to "Herald Angels," in care of The Herald News, 300 Caterpillar Drive, Joliet, IL 60436-1097.