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Editor's View: Struggling Folsom mom's plight hits nerve

By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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FOLSOM, CA - I consider myself someone who chronicles life in a small town. From my early days at the Merced-Sun Star until now, my focus hasn’t changed. During this time of year, newspapers and TV news guys across the country cover food banks and coat drives. It comes with the territory. A few years ago, our photographer and I headed over to the Twin Lakes Food Bank to do a piece on the volunteers and what they do to help. While waiting for Kathy Boone, the director of the facility at the time, a young woman came in. I overheard her telling Kathy that she was freezing and couldn’t afford to pay to heat her home. Kathy went on a scavenger hunt to try to find a space heater for the woman. “Go pick out some warm clothes and get some food,” Kathy told her. “I’ll find you something in this office. We must have a space heater somewhere.” The photographer and I finally managed to get Kathy to take us through the building and the food distribution area. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the young woman picking through the clothing. Her eyes were brimming with tears. She obviously felt out of place, scared and nervous. What was her story? Why was she here? Kathy introduced us to some of the volunteers and then left us so she could continue her heater search. I interviewed some volunteers, watched them work, and walked out of the shed. The young woman was standing near the distribution area, looking nervously around. She wiped tears from her eyes, her sleeve visibly damp now. I took a deep breath and approached her, notepad in hand. Her name is Kerry, and I promised I wouldn’t reveal her last name. She fought back tears as she told me that she and her three children huddled under blankets together the previous night. A cold snap covered Folsom with frost and that’s what finally drove her to the food bank. She was a single mom and forced to leave work because she needed surgery. Her disability checks were less than she made before and the checks had stopped. She would be able to return to work in two more weeks, she said, but until then, she had no income. When I asked her about her children and Christmas, she flung her hands over her eyes, crying. “I just wish they would have told me (I needed surgery) after Christmas,” she said. The photographer and I left the food bank, discussing the woman’s plight on the drive back to the office. My conversation with Kerry had left me shaken. Imagining this mother with her three children under a few blankets in freezing temperatures really hit me hard. It was difficult to have her stand in front of me, crying, knowing there was really nothing I could do. Muttering “I’m sorry” to her as she answered my questions didn’t make me or her feel any better. Sitting in the warm newspaper office, I just couldn’t shake the image of this woman from my mind. Removing my glasses, I took a few moments for myself, and then put fingers to keyboard. It’s what I do. I chronicle life in a small town. Don Chaddock is the editor of the Telegraph. His column publishes weekly. He may be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com. * * * Editor’s Note: In December 2008, this ran as a “staff blog” at FolsomTelegraph.com. Given the season and the needs of the region’s food banks, it’s time this piece was printed. To read the full blog in its entirety, keyword search 101781 or “some stories stay with you” at folsomtelegraph.com.