By LOREN THOMAS
Last year, Anthony Larson returned to the Akron area to take care of his ill mother.
Now, she is in a nursing home. He got injured and lost his job. And the bills keep coming.
“I am a college graduate with two degrees,” said the 44-year-old Lawson. “I have a bachelor’s in administrative services and an associate’s in culinary arts.”
He moved to Akron from Dallas, where he was a restaurant manager, making $40,000 a year. He and his wife had a combined annual income of $80,000.
“We used to have three vehicles,” Lawson said, his knees bouncing nervously. “Now we are down to one and my wife drives that one.”
His wife works in Cincinnati because she couldn’t find a job in Akron.
Larson, however, did find work.
“I was working as a chef at a restaurant in Akron,” said Lawson. “But I tore my rotator cuff in April.”
Losing that job was hard, but losing the health benefits was even harder.
“I have diabetes and I needed medicine.”
He eventually found himself at Open M Ministries, a clinic in Akron, where he receives medical treatment.
“Open M helped me with my medical supplies and blood pressure medicine.”
Kristina Holwerda, the clinic manager, described Lawson as appreciative and friendly.
“He is not that talkative, but he is approachable. Everyone who works with him loves him.”
Lawson was surprised to learn there were others like him reaching out for help.
“When I first went to Job and Family Services for assistance, I thought that I would see more single moms. Now there are husbands and wives, who have bachelor’s and master’s degrees, whose companies have just let them go.”
He isn’t the only person to notice the change in clientele.
“There has been a big shift in terms of people who have never been in this situation before,” Holwerda said. “This is their first time trying to find insurance and they are naive about how to use the services.”
While Lawson gets help with medical supplies, he still has $1,800 worth of other bills every month. There are utility bills, two child support payments, his mother’s taxes and insurance, and his car loans.
One of his children is a junior in at Kent State University. The other two, an 18-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, live with his wife in Cincinnati.
What he misses most about having a job, was being able to give things to his children.
“It’s more of a mental grind to not have what you used to have,” said Lawson. “No weekend getaways or going out to dinner – things like that don’t come around a lot.”
Holwerda explained that the “new poor” have trouble asking for help.
“I constantly have to tell the new patients that it is OK to ask for help,” said Holwerda. “To them it feels wrong, they feel like they are taking help (away) from people who should be getting it.”
Lawson agreed it is hard to ask for help, but he is confident he will be able to get back on his feet.
“I used to let the pride get to me, but I got over that really quickly,” said Lawson. “It’s tough, but I still have a roof over my head and I’m still eating.”
TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaboration between the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).