SARASOTA, FL – For many in their sunset years, there is the promise of relaxation, the enjoyment of cultural amenities, and comfort. But for too many seniors – particularly veterans – aging can be fraught with anxiety as they try to live on fixed incomes in a world where the cost of living only goes up.
Sarasota resident, 93-year-old World War II-era veteran Tom Halliwell, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. with three brothers. He earned his undergraduate and then Master’s degree in chemistry. He did some teaching and then went into the Army in 1946. When one of his brothers, who served in the 84th Infantry Division, was killed by German artillery, Halliwell was sent back close to home in New Jersey and completed his service in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
He moved down to Florida in 2001. Halliwell’s recent years were fairly comfortable, living in a relative’s home on Siesta Key, close to the beach. But when that relative passed away, the children decided to sell the house and Halliwell had to move.
Distressed, Halliwell stopped in at the Goodwill Manasota Veterans Services Program office and met with program manager Todd Hughes. He explained that his only income was a small pension of about $1,200 per month and that he was currently residing in an inexpensive hotel but that he had little money left over for food or other bills.
Hughes provided Halliwell with some pre-made meals from Meals on Wheels Sarasota, then connected him with a case manager at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. When Hughes learned that JFCS had secured approval to assist Halliwell with housing but could not contact him – he could not afford a phone – Hughes arranged for the purchase of a Trac phone and a prepaid phone card from Goodwill’s SERV (Special Emergency Resources for Veterans) Fund.
Hughes remembers how grateful Halliwell was for the phone. “His reaction was heartwarming – he smiled and asked excitedly, ‘You got me a phone?’” he said. “Tom was so excited to be able to communicate with everyone again. He lit up like a little kid on Christmas!”
Halliwell was placed into Harvest House for a handful of months and then, after the Veterans Administration got involved, he received a HUD voucher to cover his rent in a duplex in the Fruitville Road area.
Others got involved, too: Mattress Firm sold a mattress for Halliwell at cost, Goodwill provided furnishings from its Bargain Barn and Streets of Paradise contributed as well. Veterans living at Harvest House helped him to move in.
When this veteran needed help, the community was there for him. Halliwell will now be able to live out the rest of his retirement years with no more worries as to how he is going to house or feed himself.
“It is our duty to serve those who first served us,” said Hughes. “In the Veterans Services Program, we are dedicated to providing whatever a veteran might need, whether it’s career services, opportunities to network with others who understand their challenges, housing, food or emergency financial assistance. I am so happy that we were able to find multiple solutions for Tom so that he can feel secure and enjoy his life.”
Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program works to help eliminate barriers to employment, provide opportunities for higher-paying positions for veterans and their families, and connect veterans with needed social services. For more information, go to experiencegoodwill.org/impact/veterans-program.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.