By Joanna Gardner
Meet 22-year-old Devin Schneider. She’s a full-time college student, works full time, and, together with her brother, pays the bills and buys the groceries for the apartment the two siblings share with their mother.
And she does it all while making time to help others. During the winters, Devin has spent the night at local temporary homeless shelters when the weather gets below freezing.
“I don’t have the means to help all the time,” Devin said. “I give my time because that’s all I have to give.”
Two years ago, Devin was 20 and a few years out of trade school, going to college and working as a hairdresser. Her 21-year-old brother Donovan had also graduated from the Burlington County Institute of Technology and was working in air conditioning and heating repair. Their mother Roberta worked as a dog groomer.
Suddenly everything changed.
Roberta was in a debilitating accident when she was rear-ended while stopped at a red light by a car going 50 miles per hour. She had to be removed from her car on a stretcher, unable to move.
Her injuries required multiple surgeries to her lower back, shoulder, neck, even feet over the course of the next two years. Her doctors told her she could no longer work and she began to fall behind on her bills. Roberta applied for benefits multiple times but was denied because her children were grown.
“We’ve always had our struggles but this is the biggest bump we hit. It’s the first time we had to reach out for help,” Roberta said. “I pulled every resource, but Catholic Charities was the only one to open their heart up to us.”
The family’s eviction date was set for July 2013, less than a year after the accident. They were able to find a new apartment and Catholic Charities paid the first month’s rent. That year Catholic Charities helped over 2,000 people like the Schneiders with housing assistance.
For Devin and Donovan, the move was more than just a switch to a new home; it was an adjustment all at once to both living independently and supporting their mother. They now had to pay in full for their own cell phone plans and car payments in addition to the rent for the new apartment.
Catholic Charities provided the siblings with information on how to balance their finances and helped with groceries during the adjustment.
Now, whenever Roberta has an extra can of food, it gets donated to Catholic Charities. When a friend wants to donate clothes, they direct them to Catholic Charities.
“Whether it’s from us or we refer other people, we always try to give back, because we wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for Catholic Charities,” Roberta said. “They were a big help in getting us back up on our feet.”
Devin continues as a psychology student at Camden County College. She hopes to one day see the world by serving others. Joining the Peace Corps would be a dream come true, she said.
“Right now I have to be here to pay the bills. There’s no way around that. But one day I want to go out into the world,” she said. “I’m very passionate about helping people. Once you’ve been at the bottom you want to help people know they’re not alone.”
As for Roberta, she says she “just wants to get fixed and get back to work.” And when it comes to her kids, she’s “a very proud mom.”