Update: How you can help struggling family
Deborah Walker, center, shares a home with her son, David, 16, and mother, Katherine Woodruff, 82.
October 6th, 2011
03:34 PM ET

Update: How you can help struggling family

Editor's note: After this item first appeared in late August, many readers offered to assist the Walker family in various ways. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego is now connecting the family with sources of assistance. If you would like to contribute, please send checks, gift cards (Albertsons, Target, Walmart) or goods to: Case Management Services, Catholic Charities of San Diego, 349 Cedar St. Room 101, San Diego, CA 92101; include Deborah Walker's name in a note or on the check's memo line. Secure online donations also may be made through the Catholic Charities website. Clothing donations: David wears 38/34 pants, XL shirts and size 13 shoes.

[Original post, published August 24, 2011] Widowed mother Deborah Anne Walker was struggling financially when the economy turned sour in the fall of 2008. She is disabled and couldn't afford school clothes for her 13-year-old son, so she ended up having him wear her jeans, and other children teased him.

"You just have to keep thinking, 'OK, what is the one thing we have left that we can live without the most?' " she told CNN in September 2008. " ... I don't understand why, every time there is a crisis, it's the poor, disabled, children and seniors who end up having to pay for it."

Some kindhearted CNN.com users and members of her church came through with help for the family that fall, but the underlying economic conditions didn't improve, and Walker's situation may be even more dire now than it was then.

When CNN asked Walker, 50, of Vista, California, for an update, here's what she wrote:

There have been a number of changes since last we spoke. My elderly mother (Katherine Woodruff, 82) is living with us now. She had a fall, and a mild heart attack, and her doctor said she couldn't live upstairs anymore. So, I brought her home with me.

David has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism. He is in a day treatment facility [Discovery Hills and Valley], where they get their academic (lessons) and therapy. This change has helped him very much.

[The San Diego County school district operates Discovery Hills and Valley, where special-needs students attend classes and receive medical care and prescriptions at no cost to the family. A bus provides door-to-door service.]

We still struggle to make it through each month. We have had a couple rent increases and no cost-of-living increase. It's been hard.

I have to take my mother to all of her appointments, bathe her, feed her, administer her meds, and the list goes on. ... I had to quit my part-time job [as a home health aide] because I needed to be home more because of my mother and my son's conditions. David has grown A LOT, and doesn't have many clothes that fit him.

[David, now 16, is nearly 6 feet tall and 245 pounds, Walker said in an interview.]

I'm doing much better emotionally. I have a couple of excellent doctors, and am not as depressed as I was.

It's still a BIG struggle financially. Right now, we can't drive the car because the tags are expired, and I can't afford the registration fees. We barely make it through the month without running out of groceries. We have had to cut out anything we didn't HAVE to have, like the cell phones. I don't know how I'm going to find the money to get the tags renewed, and I am the only transportation for the three of us. Between my medical problems and David's and my mother's, we have quite a few doctor appointments every month, and no way to get there!

[Her mother put off an eye appointment this month, hoping to reschedule when the family has transportation again, Walker said. Walker uses an old baby stroller to carry groceries home from a store in her neighborhood. "People look at me funny, walking down the street with an empty stroller, but you gotta do what you gotta do," she said.]

I think it's hardest on David. He's a teenager, and needs things, like clothes that fit, to keep from getting teased at school. He's depressed lately because we can never go out to Jack in the Box, or the movies, or even just to 7-11 for a Slurpee, because there just isn't any money.

[The family subsists on Walker's Supplemental Security Income (disability) check and Woodruff's Social Security.]

So ... I am kept very busy taking care of David and my mother. I still have faith in God, and hope for things to improve, even if only slightly. Somehow, I'm holding this family together.

Thanks for taking an interest. Most of the time, it seems like nobody cares about us. I get down, but I always drag myself back up. Quitters never win, and winners never quit!

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Filed under: California • Economy • Jobs • Most Intriguing People • U.S.
soundoff (981 Responses)
  1. Marilyn

    @ evoc ~ If you were correcting Me, I thank you. It is just sooo frustrating @ how our Once Great Nation & People, on the whole, have become so greedy, Immoral, & anti-God. Horrible of me to wish/pray such things on ones which haven't a clue. Anyhow, Gods wrath is starting to come down on our country & the world as a whole. It's only beginning & getting much worse each day. I am thankful for all the hardships I have & do endure, except missing my only child grow up & having stronger influence during teenage years. "Christian"...I will Never call myself such again, though I love Jesus & thank him for bringing me to God. "Christian" has turned into a very dirty word by the majority who profess being one; such hypocrits which do not Know the original Holy Bible & have erroneously been lead astray by their parents, teachers, & elders. Once Christ comes, faithful, obedient "Jews, Christians, & Muslims" alike will be no more. I await that day & for the new name We will be called. Again, thank you for you correction & may God have Mercy upon the people of this horrible world. May everyone's eyes, ears, & hearts be opened to His truth, love, mercy, grace, & discipline.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Brad

    Sounds like the kid eats well – they could afford to cut back on the food I think.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • abart

      Fresh nutritious food is also expensive; junk is cheap and full of empty calories.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank D.

    Feel sorry for this family, but the whole country is suffering. If she's smart, when November comes around again, she will remember all of this and make it to the polls to vote out our current politicians and vore in some new ones. Start with the Presidency and work your way down. Regardless of party- they ALL must go!

    August 24, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon C

      No, they must not ALL go. But I guarantee the things that are helping this family and many others – the things that are helping them barely hang on will be on the chopping block if Republicans have their way. Be VERY VERY careful with this "throw all the bums out" talk. If we end up with a Republican House, Senate and Executive Branch there will, indeed, be rioting in the streets. Wealthy Americans will start (or more so) to live in gated, guarded enclaves for fear of being kidnapped and held for ransom as they are in Central and South America. I think a few more bucks in taxes would be a better trade off. Btw, I am one of the ones who would have to pay the higher taxes. And though I cringe when I write the huge tax checks I know it's my duty as a citizen of this country. We can't keep families pushing baby strollers of food down the street while GE pays NO taxes and we subsidize Exxon. Shameful.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Frank D.

    It's terrible that Americans have to live like this. I blame our politicians – ALL OF THEM – REGARDLESS OF PARTY AFFILIATION. If you are tired of the same rhetoric and empty promises, get out to vote in Nov 2012 and help us all clear the trash out of DC. Start with the President and work through Congress and the Senate. Don't let ANY of them get another term!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fairgame

      Question. Why is everything that has and is going on in this Country is the President fought? You really mean the Ass Hole President that left this country and the deficit in Trillions of dollars in debt and sent our men and woman to war for no reason, oh my bad looking for weapons of mass destruction. Did they ever find them and Bin Laden? Oh no President Obama did. Put the Blame where it goes.

      We was in trouble when Bush got in the White house, please call it like you see it and put the Blame where it goes. I am just saying. And as for the famlies that is out here struggling may God Bless you hold on to your faith.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cindy

    I don't have a lot of money, but they sound as if they could use a hand. How can I help?

    August 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mother of four

    It is such a relief to see that the grand majority of those making comments are supportive and concerned for this family's well-being.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexasWombat

      Thank you, mother of four. Yes, I am a concerned, compasionate citizen, and this family is indeed in a desparate situation. As you know, desparate situations call for radical logjam action. The mother actually has the legal authority to sign the papers to send ol' roly-poly into a branch of the armed services, although I would suggest waiting until he turns 17. He will be accepted in this era of military manpower shortage. They could make him a cook somewhere or keep a boat in ship shape, you know? That one less mouth to feed, and by removing the tension that kid generates in the home would make things so much easier on the mother and grandma. Junior would also get into the best shape of his whole life (and I do not mean "round" as a shape). I have lots more compassionate advice to give.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Texas: you are really mean, aren't you? You post a lot (almost as much as me!), and every one of your posts is critical of this family.

      Maybe you should concentrate on ACTUALLY helping people, rather than complaining about how other people manage their lives.

      Mother of four sounds like a decent, concerned human being. You come off quite differently than that.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • ZeeBeeDee

      You apparently don't seem to understand the concept of an ALL VOLUNTEER MILITARY, do you texaswombat?

      August 25, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kayes

    If anyone knows how to get info on how to help them...phone number, address, email, how to contact Jim Kavanagh that wrote the piece. Please post it.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tom

    How can I donate directly to this family? I am a little reluctant to send a donation to a church group.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ptr

    Mom – She wears you 9 months in her heart.
    Mom – A name that no one could replace.
    Mom – She is always there for you.
    Mom – Who gives her life for you.
    Mom – The only female person in your life whom you can trust.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BillyWa

    Kim Kardasian, just made alot of money for a stupid wedding. Think she or her sisters will help?

    August 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff G

    I too would like to send some money directly to Ms. Walker...I can't afford much, but if $50 or $100 would help, I will gladly send it. If someone at CNN could contact me to let me know how to send money directly to them, I will do so. Thank you.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • mega

      anyone notice the kid is wearing shirt with peace sign made of skulls

      August 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      If you donate money then she will have to report it and her benefit will be reduced by the amount that she receives. It would be better to donate goods and services. Or send the money to her church and let them provide what is needed. That way the family gets ahead a bit.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wee

      Me to.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. slowhand124

    Please excuse the comments from the insensitive Texas idiots, and from those using this story for political gains. I have worked all my life, 2 jobs, former migrant worker, but i can assure you any one of you ,including myself, with a simple twist of fate against you, would probably be in the position these people are in. My sympathies, and i hope a means of contacting them is forthcoming, for those that wish to donate. But for the grace of God...

    August 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lostraven

      Your right, it only takes a simple twist of fate to go from one extreme to the other. My neighbor right now, is in that kind of situation. Only in her case, her situation went from bad to worse. She's in her mid fifties, lost her job three years ago, has no health insurance and her unemployment ran out earlier this year. The only household income is her elderly mother's social security. Mom is 86 and confined to a wheelchair. Saturday she was rearended by an illegal, totaling her car and injuring her severly. The other driver had no DL, no insurance, ficticious plates and leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injuries. There is no one else to care for her mother, who has already been moved to nursing facility, but doesn't know why. . Like the family in this story, my friend's life just went from being bad, to worse and so has her mother's.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kyle Overboard

    Our lack of empathy is what will cause our society to fail. Some of you disgust me.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • MAES

      I think your assessment is quite correct,

      August 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • amber

      I know you are right, and have used empathy on this comment log too.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dorf

    I bet $100 she's a smoker.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • L

      I bet $100 that you are a Republican D Bag.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricky

      a very cruel assumption, compassion goes much further than rude remarks.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • amber

      Can't think of anything to say, just shaking my head with shame on your comment. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if she smokes, or did smoke? Do you know her, have you seen her with a smoke in hand? My grandmother is old and aged with wrinkles and she never smoked. Is it because lower class smokes? My husband works and has a very well paying job, he is also retired from the navy as an E-7, I am A republican, And I smoke, oh, also we are well above middle class. Want a picture of me, I am sure or not I look like I smoke.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • amber

      Point is don't judge until you walk a mile in her shoes.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MAES

    This is just the type of situation that makes me despise the tax cut and spending obsessed of the GOP and The Tea Potty. By nickel and dimeing the Federal Government for their own benefit they stifle all coordinated efforts to make this sort of situation nearly unheard of instead of as common as the dirt.

    Shame on this Nation when this type of mistreatment is to be preferred rather than to have a rational and compassionate social safety net.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ricky

      I couldn't agree with you more....

      August 24, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lostraven

      Isn't it funny how our gov't can pay for medical care for illegals and their brood, welfare queens who never worked a day in their lives, but these poor people are left out in the cold? Our government needs to get it's priorities straight and soon.

      August 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
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