As if 2020 hasn’t come with enough stress, pain, and uncertainty, imagine being awakened in the middle of the night by billowing smoke and uprooted from your home for months during a global pandemic. Denice Bartley, who provides supports and health services for individuals with disabilities at Life Unlimited, knows this feeling all too well. Her townhouse was damaged in July when a large fire broke out in the adjoining home.
““It’s surreal to watch your home burn,” Denice said. “I’m a tough old bird, but dang, this is just so hard. There was a knot in my gut for at least three days after the fire.”
Fortunately, Denice, her boyfriend Bob, teenage daughter Maddie, two dogs, and a cat all made it out of the home safely, but many of their possessions did not. She says they lost family keepsakes and basically anything made of material to fire, smoke, or water damage.
“We had no bedding, no pillows, and no clothes we could take,” Denice said. It’s the little incidentals that you really don’t think about. You need everything.”
Facing thousands of dollars in damages and being displaced anywhere from three to six months until the townhouse can be gutted and refinished, Denice wasn’t sure where to turn.
Then she recalled receiving an email from Life Unlimited about its new Employee Assistance Fund, which was implemented earlier this year in response to COVID-19. The program is funded by generous donors and is designed to help staff during unforeseen times of need. Following a simple application submission, Denice’s request was quickly approved to help her get back on her feet.
“I can’t imagine going through what Denice and her family are this year, or any year for that matter,” Chief External Relations Officer Mark Bertrand said. “Her story hit home for all of us, and we wanted to be sure she received the help she needed immediately.”
Denice also received beds and bedding items as part of a community support donation from IKEA secured by Life Unlimited’s development team. She says she is humbled and appreciative of Life Unlimited for creating this fund and for supporting her family when they needed it most.
“Every time I have needed Life Unlimited, they have been there for me,” Denice said. “I am really proud to be an employee, and I’m really proud of them for what they do.”
“This assistance fund was created to offer support in moments like this—when life throws a real curve ball,” Mark said. “We are honored to know Denice and to help her and others who have had unexpected financial needs. Our staff makes everything we do possible, and this is one meaningful way we can show them we will always have their backs.”
Denice, who is anxiously hoping to be back in her home in time to celebrate Thanksgiving, is grateful for the donors, community members, and administrators who made this fund possible, and she encourages fellow staff members to ask for help when they need it.
“I would encourage anybody having a huge, life-altering issue—COVID-19, fire, whatever it may be—to apply for this,” Denice said. “It truly is a kindness and shows how much this agency appreciates us. This emergency fund just saved us; it really did.”
Life Unlimited is continuously accepting donations for the Employee Assistance Fund. Your gift can make a life-changing difference for other frontline workers like Denice. Give now at lifeunlimitedinc.org/DSPsupport.