Janette “Garcia” of Lake Worth Beach never believed COVID-19 could happen to her. She never believed she would be so sick she couldn’t work and provide for her family. And she never believed she would have to consider living on the street.
But she did believe someone would answer her prayers for help. That someone was Andy McAusland, director of grants and evaluation at Palm Health Foundation. He called Janette in April with the news that the foundation’s new Neighbors Helping Neighbors Fund would pay her rent through mid-July to keep her and her family safely in their home. McAusland learned of Janette’s story after she submitted it to the foundation’s SenseMaker COVID-19 story collection website that is tracking the impact of the pandemic on the lives of citizens.
A house cleaner by profession, Janette provides for her sister, 72-year-old diabetic mother and 12-year-old son. All were stricken with COVID-19, but Janette’s case was the worst, with effects that still linger months after receiving the results of her positive test on March 31. Janette lives in a largely Hispanic community located in western Lake Worth Beach that is the third highest hit by COVID-19 in the county.
“Everyone in my house was sick,” said Janette. “How would we pay our bills? I thought we would have to go live under a bridge. I prayed for someone to help me.”
The outpouring of need from Palm Beach County residents like Janette is why Palm Health Foundation decided to create the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Fund and ask others to join. The foundation has committed up to $200,000 to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for every contribution made to help residents who are struggling to pay their rent, access food, receive medical treatment and other urgent needs. Partner nonprofits in the foundation’s six Healthier Together communities distribute the funds to residents. In Janette’s case, Bridges at Lake Worth West is providing the funding for her rent and Community Partners of South Florida is supporting her and her mother with services.
While Janette is negative for COVID-19 and would like to go back to work, many of her clients are hesitant to have her come to their homes to clean. McAusland has continued to be an angel to her, sometimes leaving food at her door.
“Andy told me, ‘we are going to help you,’” said Janette. “I am so grateful to the foundation. We are able to sleep in our home. Otherwise, I don’t know where we could go. I never imagined this.”