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. Mike

    Here is my problem. We see all of these people who want to give to this family, and I think that is great, but why can't I make my own decisions as to who and how much I help? Why does the government take my hard earned money to pay for not people like Deborah, but Shaniqua and her 3 kids with no daddy and a weed habit?

    August 25, 2011 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Objectionist

      That's a very good point, one which I have discussed with others numerous times. Prior to our government acting as a welfare state, people often would help others through organizations such as churches and aid groups. However, since that time, Uncle Sam now takes a large bite out of our paychecks. It makes it very hard to help others you know that are in need when you don't have much left to begin with.

      In short, our govt has replaced the charity organizations that once existed – not in the sense that they no longer are there, but in the sense that our govt knows better than we do on how to best help our fellow man. Its truly a shame. I feel that I should have the choice – I don't want it made for me. And yes, I still try to find ways to help either through volunteering or what little monetary donations I can afford.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • vfr800cr250

      Mike and Objectionist,

      First, maybe you are the exception, but if the government didn't do it, most people would talk a good game in public and then go home and give little or nothing. Second, the usual places that people were most exposed to charitable giving in the past, such as church, just aren't the staple of societ that they once were. Attendance isn't as common as it once was. So many wouldn't even be getting asked. Third, don't you think it would clearly result in money flowing to some things nicely, but not at all to other things that still benefit society? Some charities would make out like bandits (any that can show pictures of starving kids or cute puppies) while others would hardly see a nickel (think certain research grants or arts).

      While I get what you're saying, the assumption that people would give is silly. Also, it's worth noting that when most of us think we're really already stretched, there's probably a few more bucks we could live without. Got the NFL ticket on your satellite? How do you like the shiny new golf clubs? Don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of that too, I'm just saying few of us are stretched as far as we think.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
    • a6102658

      Objectionist: I love the use of the bumper sticker "Welfare State", right off the republican book, it reveals immediately that your objections are merely ideologist/political with no base in reality, no pragmatism, just think about this, why does the government does not let me make a decision if my tax dollars should end up in the hands of the Oil Corporations as subsidies?....this is where you should be outraged, Oil Companies are one of the mos profitable business of all time, they do not need your tax dollars, but Republicans fight for them, the same people you elected to work for you.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. RP

    "There are a lot of kind hearted and generous people on this board. And, that's a great thing as long as its not with other peoples tax dollars." Yes, it would be awful if tax dollars were used to help people like this, when they should be spent on Halliburton fattening wars that kill and maim people. I'm sure that there are a lot of heartless and brutal and sadistic people who would be willing to fund those wars, and military stuff generally. Why is our awful socialist government spending taxpayers' money on them?

    August 25, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lulu

    I read these posts and I have to wonder: Where has compassion gone?

    August 25, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Knowing now that we're living with the ME generation, no one needs to ask where all the compassion has gone. Young people of today simply have little, if any at all. In fact, that's one of the reasons that all these obscene wars are as popular as they are as people look at them as amother way to make money. Quite sickening, isn't it!

      August 25, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. George Patton

    It's too bad that Deborah Walker and people like have to suffer because of the right-wing thugs in Washington. The problem here is simply that the military and the pro-Western foreign dictators get priority over eveything and everybody! It's been that way since the 1950's during the so-called "cold war" but the Russians simply called it "biezumnost'"! Unfortunately, that won't change in the near future!!!

    August 25, 2011 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. Queen Lattice

    that boy is 245 lbs apparently they are not hurting for food

    August 25, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • CalmDog

      The boy is growing and apparently subsisting entirely on the cheapest food available. That's canned, processed or frozen crap, not health food. It's not fresh vegetables, lean meat, or sugar-free anything. Anyone with half a brain understands that.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Johnson

      Don't assume that. The poor can not afford high quality foods. They can usually only afford foods dense in calories but extremely light on real nutrition.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
    • aNN

      stop making excuses, a normanl body weigh can be maintained on cheap food. Everyone in the world does. Ever heard of Rice Beans Potatoes and chicken?

      August 25, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. a disgrace

    three years without a president and america is close to failing....

    August 25, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • cecilia

      8 years of the previous president and the the world was broken almost beyond repair – but president Obama is trying

      August 25, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. Willow

    Ms. Kavanagh,
    Please let us know how and where we can send some assistance to Ms. Walker and her family. I'd like to help.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. aNN

    if the economy is well enough to make casey anthony a millionaire then there is nothing wrong with it. Americans are FAT When we start looking like Somalian's then we'll talk.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
    • vfr800cr250

      Go push your hate to the local KKK crowd. They'll eat it up. The rest of us know better.

      August 25, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • aNN

      they look like the KKK crowd

      August 25, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ct

    David, get a bike, get a job and help out you fat hoss. You need to step up and be a man. Kids these days are too babied.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Johnson

      He's a 16 year old child with autism. He's trying to make it in school. I swear this country is sounding more and more like Nazi Germany. Hey why don't we just put them all in camps guys? Does that sound like a good idea to you heartless fake conservative, neo-con Repubs. I would actually vote for Ron Paul if you idiots would give him an ounce of media exposure. I guess he's not a true repub though. Do you guys even remember what small govt means? It means the govt. spending less money not sucking the teat of the rich with no tax breaks and crazy taxes on middle and low income families! Idiots.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • a6102658

      Ct: Get a heart !!....one day you or your siblings may find themselves in the same position for no fault of their own. this country does not need people like you, you belong in GlenBeckistan.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  10. terhina

    I will kept this family and all families like this one in my prayers......and God bless Ms. Walker who takes care of her mother and son........

    August 25, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joseph McCarthy

    Spoken like a true member of the ME generation of America today. No compassion, just more heartless warmongering!!!!!

    August 25, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. Do You Even Lift

    poor white trash...hahaha

    August 25, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • aNN

      yes they are , yes they are

      August 25, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. ed

    I understand these folks struggle. I'm pretty much in the same boat, caring for an elderly mom-in-law, and living on a fixed income. We rarely eat out and have relied on the kindness of neighbors who share their garden surplus for fresh vegetables – and I grow some of my own. I ALWAYS buy clothing at Goodwill – I haven't bought anything new at the store in several years, except when Walmart has a dollar rack. I buy clothes at yard sales and remake them. We coupon when the item makes sense to buy at all, but mostly buy generic or store brands that don't have coupons. I craft and find supplies very inexpensively at various places around town. We buy old jeans at 10 cents a pair at a thrift store and turn them into totes and purses. We make do, repurpose, recycle, reuse every manner of thing. We would prefer to have money to have our own place or travel or eat out, but this is our life for now and we find ways to enjoy ourselves. A library card is still a good resource. Our town has free live music one night a week and we go to the arts walk and enjoy free food :-). We aren't bums, my husband has a PhD, but at our ages we aren't employable and we're too young for social security. But we're grateful for having a roof over our heads, food to eat, and love in our home.

    August 25, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Do You Even Lift

      At least you have high speed internet...how would you post to facebook every day...

      August 25, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • eva68

      Ignore naysayers I know how you feel. I think a lot them forget that the only way SOME of them are doing okay is piling on debt through spending money they promise to pay. I don't have that option. I have too many medical bills and I far from well. I am not saying everybody is piling on debt, but the others that look down on you are sort of blind. There is white trash and then there are good people that are not doing well. People should learn to differentiate.
      We were doing pretty good, not great because I too had to take off a great deal of time to care for my son that has seizures. When the economy started getting tighter it just all but killed any income I had to ride the float. There are a lot of things that are expired in our household..lol. We also have a lot of bills that are behind. I am fortunate that, over the years, I have helped my landlord with computer related issues (my field) and I had some credit built up.
      OF COURSE I HAVE HIGH SPEED INTERNET TOO because I work from my computer, it would be dumb not to have it.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      OMG! Do You Even Lift! Could you possibly say anything nice to anyone or is it just against your religion! Speak not if you have nothing worthy to offer! You take a few words and turn them into idiot fodder for yourself! This person is simply doing what a lot of us former, hard working, AMERICANS are suddenly having to do! God Bless them!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • CalmDog

      Lift – I almost feel bad for you. You"re going to die alone and be eaten by your cats.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • unowhoitsme

      My husband and I are in our 50s and no one will hire us, either. We're too young for social security and too old for society.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Think

      Lift, do you think they probably used the library computer?

      August 25, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. aNN

    who are they to have their problems on display for the world to see? This is like high tech pan handler, begging for money on the internet. They will get the money and continue the BAD habits that are making them look 30 years older than their actual ages. He's 16? She's 50, looks 80

    August 25, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Sarah in Boston

    CNN, Please post where donations can be sent to help this family.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
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