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James and Maureen

“Every street in Georgetown has my hoof print,” Maureen said with a nostalgic sparkle in her eye.  As a teenager, she rode her horse all over town, including what is now Dos Salsas. That location was once the local Dairy Queen. She’d ride up on her horse and get a coke, ice cream, or hamburger, depending on how much money was in her pocket. Riding around the town was how Maureen met her husband, James. James lived on a farm in Granger.  His family was Czechoslovakian.  James’ mom said to him, “Have you seen that girl that rides all the time in the park?” James said his mom then said, “Stay away from her, please.” James and Maureen giggled at this little fib, and he said, “No, no, I’m kidding.”  But that is how these sweet, in-love teenagers met; James finally decided to talk to that girl on her horse. The day I interviewed James and Maureen marked their 51st wedding anniversary. 

James and Maureen had a loving family life in Georgetown. After James left the military, he was a teacher in Austin for a while, and the couple had two boys. James shared that Maureen stayed home to take care of the boys, but his intelligent, independent wife quickly reminded him that she owned the Greyhouse Bus Company and Western Union off 7th street for 20 years.  Once again, these two were laughing that James didn’t mention the big job Maureen had. James chuckled and said, “Oh no, I remembered. I thought we just hadn’t gotten to that part of our life yet.”

Maureen retired in 2006 because of Chronic Pain Syndrome in her feet.  She experienced so much trauma to her feet from broken bones that, as she says, “the nerves just go haywire.” Maureen is expecting a pain pump soon to ease the pain.  Maureen and James lived a quiet life in Georgetown until January 2021. James drove a bus for Hutto ISD and ran a small landscaping company with no plans to retire, but work halted when James caught COVID.  He was taken to the hospital and put on a ventilator in February.  James stayed in the hospital for a month, where he had a stroke in the optic nerves of his eye. He is now legally blind. 

After this big blow, Maureen and James decided they needed some help and came to The Caring Place. When I asked Maureen what The Caring Place has done for them, Maureen raised her hands and asked, “What have they not done for us?” Maureen rattled off some of the assistance that changed their lives, “They helped us get through our finances, helped James get hearing aids, helped James get glasses. I got special shoes for my feet. We just didn’t know where to turn.  We had never needed help before.” It was their Case Manager, Xinia, who knew how they should navigate resources. Things were not always easy, but Xinia opened doors to resources they didn’t know existed. Maureen shared, “We just didn’t know what we needed. It’s many little things we needed.  We went from having $4-5,000 a month or more to just $1,700.” James said that Xinia especially helped them with budgeting. “We never budgeted before because we didn’t have to.”  Maureen added, “Think about your future. Think about retirement.  We never thought about it.  We just expected to work until we die. We learned it just doesn’t work that way.” The Caring Place also helped with Maureen and James’ electric bills for a couple of months so that they could reach stability and now provides monthly food through the Food Pantry. “Without that, I don’t know what we’d do.” Additionally, Xinia connected the couple with Texas’ Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program which provides utility assistance for qualified individuals. That resource is continuing to provide some relief through utility assistance. Maureen shared, “I am thankful we had enough sense to buy and to pay off our house, so we don’t have to worry about that.”

Xinia said that Maureen is a master organizer.  She has a file, takes notes, and communicates well with email, so her role in Case Management services was very much a partner with Xinia. They all worked together to reach goals that would help James and Maureen in the long term.

When asked if she was nervous to reach out to The Caring Place Maureen said, “I was not uncomfortable to reach out because it’s overwhelming.  When your husband loses his sight and he comes home from the hospital and barely can get to the door. He’s never been the same. COVID brought him down. Xinia knew I was overwhelmed. She’s like a sister.” Maureen continued with tears filling her eyes, “When a person comes in and you are at your lowest point in your life, never asked for help in your life and she was there and she was caring.” James interjects, that “she never made us feel low.”  Maureen said people in our community should not worry about being embarrassed if they need help. “The doors are open here to me like they are in a church, you are always welcome.  They are all working together to help here. From Xinia helping with some of our finances to the volunteer helping us shop for our food.”

James and Maureen have graduated from the Case Management program. Xinia proudly shared, “They have graduated with honors!” Maureen said, “We are surviving month to month, but we are making it. It’s awesome that there are people out there you can turn to when you need this kind of help.” She continued, “James and I, we worked hard all of our lives. But we got in a position in our life where we didn’t know which way to go. The Caring Place here in Georgetown got us through it, plain and simple.”

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