Vol. 83, No. 12, December 2010
“For the Good” Spotlight: Lending a Helping Hand
The Helping Hands Fund provided Dale Brewster (center) a new car when hers “died,” helping her to get to medical appointments and her volunteer work. Fund contributors with Dale are (from left) Theo Braden, Atty. Christopher Krimmer, Uptown Motorcars representative Scott Krause, and Atty. Michael Covey.
Dale Brewster is a single mom who is raising a child in subsidized housing. She also is living with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She receives disability benefits and, as you can imagine, has limited financial means. What is remarkable about Dale are her strength and perseverance. In spite of her situation battling cancer and HIV, she still gives back to the community by regularly donating time at a local food pantry.
Dale is one of my former clients, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. She often amazes and inspires me.
(Dale gave me permission to tell her story and use her name. I warned her against disclosing the fact that she is living with HIV, but she’s been public about it for quite some time and insists she wants people to know.)
This summer I learned that Dale’s 1992 Plymouth Sundance with more than 118,000 miles was on its last legs. The mechanics said it wasn’t worth fixing; the cost of repairs would far exceed the value of the car. Buying another car wasn’t an option – she just did not have the money. She was anxious and worried about how she would get to her medical appointments and continue her daily activities.
That’s when I started looking into whether a charitable organization could provide financial assistance to Dale to purchase a car. The search was futile. Although the charities were sympathetic, they were limited in that they could only provide individuals with food, clothing, and rental assistance. All vital, but not what Dale needed right now.
I wondered what it would take to get Dale a new car.
The Helping Hands Fund
Conversations with several attorneys – every one of whom committed to making a donation – convinced me to create a fund for the purpose of providing Dale a new car. The legal community, despite our reputation in some circles, is a helping profession and so I wasn’t surprised by the wholehearted support for helping Dale. But it certainly was affirming, and it led me to bigger ideas.
What if the fund could help more than one person?
The Helping Hands fund was established as a way for the legal community, other professionals, and the public to help individuals who face significant challenges in their lives and who seek to overcome those challenges with determination, strength, and a positive attitude, people like Dale. The fund recognizes extraordinary individuals – one person at a time – by providing what the person needs to improve the quality of his or her life beyond just the basic needs.
Helping Hands does not duplicate services and assistance offered through the government or charitable organizations. It offers something different – encouragement to continue meeting life’s challenges with a positive outlook. It’s uplifting and motivating for individuals to know that an entire group of people – the funds’ contributors – support their efforts and admire their positive attitude.
A New Set of Wheels
Word spread about Helping Hands. People who learned of Dale’s story contributed to the fund, including lawyers, physicians, corporate officers, family therapists, and case managers. Uptown Motorcars of Milwaukee graciously made a significant in-kind donation of a Mercury Sable for less than half the list price, and the Madison Club generously provided dining certificates to every person who donated to Helping Hands.
Dale met friends and me for dinner on Sept. 24 at the Madison Club. During cocktails, we wandered into the lobby where I shared with Dale the admiration the legal community had for her strength and courage. Then I handed her a set of keys to the Mercury Sable parked just outside the front door. She was speechless.
At 1:40 a.m. on Sept. 25, Dale sent me an email to share with all the people who helped her: “Thank you again for what you did. You made me feel so special. Words can never express how much this means to me. I am still on cloud nine and am afraid to go to sleep because I will find it’s all been a dream. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you again.”
In making Dale feel “special,” the fund met its objective to provide encouragement and provided a life-long memory to Dale as well as to all the people who helped her.
Many people, including myself, contribute to charities and organizations that in turn help individuals. That’s wonderful and it’s important, but contributors seldom get to see the consequence of their donations. When you give direct, you realize the impact you can have and it makes you want to do more.
Christopher S. Krimmer, U.W. 1997, practices family law with Balisle & Roberson S.C., Madison. For fund information or to contribute, write to Helping Hands, P.O. Box 870, Madison, WI 53701-0870.”