Helping federal workers

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The partial government shutdown continues as politicians play political chicken.

We reported earlier on some of the furloughed government employees who are finding assistance from food banks and other agencies. Today, WORLD Radio’s Myrna Brown brings you the story of federal workers who are relying on each other!

AUDIO:  Just one order, just one order, how many people…four.

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: The line is long.

AUDIO: Pull up. She said it’s two separate families for this car.

Volunteers work quickly to keep cars moving as they pull into the winding driveway in front of a large red brick warehouse.

TYSON: Excuse me, can I follow you around just as you’re working a little bit? Sure!

That’s Janine Tyson. She has short, curly hair poking out from her grey hooded coat. She’s one of the volunteers at Hosea Helps, a nonprofit human service organization that’s helped more than 458 government workers and their families so far during the shutdown.

TYSON: Need two more waters please.

Today they’re loading water and canned goods into the trunks and back seats of vehicles belonging to furloughed federal workers.  

TYSON: I’m just greeting them, helping them to feel comfortable because they’re having a lot of directions yelled at them at the same time. So, it could be a little intimidating, right. Just helping them feel a little comfortable while it’s so much chaos.

Tyson is joined by her husband and four children. They traveled nearly 50 miles and braved frigid weather to help out complete strangers here on the southwest side of Atlanta. They came, knowing it could be them:

TYSON: I’m a federal employee. Thankfully, I have not been furloughed yet. And that’s a big yet.

Tyson has worked as a contracting officer for 15 years. So far, the partial government shutdown has not impacted her division. But she’s planning ahead, just in case.

TYSON: I had a big trip planned for spring break that I just postponed for 2020 because it’s important for me to save every penny that I can, you know, just in case the worst happens.

AUDIO: Thank you ma’am.

A few cars down, two women with nearly 50 years of government service between them just received their free bags of groceries. Seated in a black pickup truck, neither one wants to give me their names, but both are ready to express their gratitude.

WOMAN A: This is helpful.

BROWN: What did you get?

WOMAN A: I got some towels, and I got a space heater.

WOMAN B: The assistance that we’ve gotten here today, like the little household items, is a help because that’s what we’re running out of most, those household items. If I can get those and not have to pay for the, it’s a big help, a big help.

On the other side of the parking lot, Valerie Williams is just arriving with a bright smile.

AUDIO: Did you register online? Yes. Do you have your ID? Yes.

She’s been a government employee for nearly a decade.

WILLIAMS: We’ve already missed one paycheck and, hopefully, it will get resolved before this period is over, because we are due another paycheck this weekend.

Williams is married with two kids in college.

WILLIAMS: One is at Morehouse and one is at Howard. They need something every day. I keep saying momma’s furloughed. Let’s wait on that. Let’s wait on this. So, they understand.       

While she’s eligible for free assistance, that’s not why she showed up today.

AUDIO: I’m here to help. Where do I go from here? You can help fold us these clothes on the table.

Whether it’s sorting clothes, packing groceries or preparing chips with chili dogs on a cold day, Williams says she hopes serving, rather than sulking will help create a new narrative during this difficult period:

WILLIAMS: I just feel like all my needs are met and that my money and my resources don’t come from the government. It comes from God. I just want to tell people not to worry and just find something positive to do with your time and keep your mind focused on positive things and that it’s gonna end. Everything changes and be ready for it.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown reporting from Atlanta, Georgia.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke) A Philabundance volunteer distributes food to furloughed federal workers and their families who are affected by the partial government shutdown, under Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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