There are people and families who fall between the cracks when it comes to financial assistance. Amy Wink counts herself among them.
In the spring of 2013, Wink, who lives in Albany, lost her high-paying sales position in Guilderland. She had just gone through a divorce and made the decision to send her son away to school at the Anderson Center for Autism.
“I was not doing my job at the best of my ability and was having a bit of an emotional crisis,” said Wink, who had, at the time, just finished purchasing the house she had shared with her ex husband.
Wink had recently refinanced her mortgage to a shorter payment term and needed the higher salary to help her stay afloat. Knowing she needed to tighten her budget, she opted to stop giving to some of the charities she had donated to on a monthly basis.
Many of the charities sent her letters asking her to reconsider, but the executive director of one of the organizations called her back personally.
Wink had been donating to Modest Needs from its inception after reading a story about the organization in Reader’s Digest. The national nonprofit provides short-term financial assistance to individuals and families in temporary crisis.
“He immediately knew something was wrong if I was ending my donations,” said Wink of Keith Taylor, president and executive director of Modest Needs. “He asked if there was anything he could do, and I said ‘Give me a job.’”
So Taylor did. He had been looking for a new communications and marketing specialist, and he offered Wink the job. She would be able to work from home and help spread the word about the organization throughout the Capital District.
Wink said she is in a much better position now financially, but sometimes still struggles. She will most likely have to refinance her mortgage once again to help make the payments.
“That’s not to say Modest Needs isn’t paying me well, but it’s still hard,” said Wink. “I feel lucky, and now I get to do something that truly makes me feels good when I lay my head down at night.”
Wink said what first attracted her to donate to Modest Needs was their mission to help those who don’t qualify for conventional assistance. There aren’t many charities for those who make decent money, but are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
“Anything from a broken down car or unexpected medical bill could put them behind,” said Wink.
Those who apply for help through Modest Needs are heavily vetted. Individuals and families then write a brief description of themselves and their situation to be put online. Those who wish to give to specific cases can then browse online and donate much like they would to a Kickstarter campaign, or by giving to Modest Needs directly.
Once the goal for each case is reached, an update is provided from the family.
“The great thing is about 67 percent of our recipients go on to become donors themselves,” said Wink.
During the months of November and December, Modest Needs provides Holiday Gift Grants. Those eligible are able to receive up to $75 in age appropriate gifts per child. Recipient parents are able to shop online for the gifts, which are then purchased by Modest Needs and shipped to their house in time for the holidays.
“This is designed for parents who would normally be able to afford presents, but for some reason this year can’t,” said Wink. “It’s so people don’t have to choose between which bill to pay and buying presents for their children.”
The hope is through the work of Modest Needs, the cycle of poverty will not continue for families put in these types of situations.
This year, the organization is also working to spread the word about “Giving Tuesday.” Modeled after the themed days Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is when people are asked to give to their favorite charities. It’s a movement many charities are hoping will catch on to help further the joy of the holiday season.
The organization is looking for both donors and those in need who would like to apply for assistance. Wink said she knows many are not comfortable asking for help, but personal information is kept confidential. There may also be less of a stigma since the organization is national and based in New York City, so those needing help don’t have to seek it out from other community members.
“I’m sure there are people out there who have found themselves in both situations, either needing help or able to give,” said Wink. ”There’s no government program for people living on the edge of poverty. It’s incredible we can help them a dollar at a time.”
For more information, visit www.modestneeds.org.