June 3, 2010

Good things come in small packages, via twitter

Rudy is 65, retired, and undergoing regular treatments for cancer.

But thanks to Bread for the City, our incredible community, and (wait for it...) Twitter, Rudy is once again able to work on something he has loved all his life: Rudy is building a boat.

Born in Oxenhill, Maryland, Rudy started working at the age of 7. He would do odd jobs around the house of a neighboring family, helping to support his own family. Rudy started constructing models to pass the spare time between work and school. Model airplanes, cars, and best of all: boats. "I had a little carving set I used to use to build dollhouses out of balsa wood; I even made doll house furniture."

When he was 11, Rudy's father died and he and his mother moved to Washington, DC in search of work. Ever since then, Rudy has worked hard to learn any skill he needed to--carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, landscaping, painting and more--Rudy has truly become a jack of all trades. Over the years, this love for all things crafty and small has deepened.

Rudy recently came to Bread for the City in the face of declining health: "it has been such a blessing. I have gotten more assistance [at Bread for the City] that I have from any government agency."

Rudy is now a regular client at BFC and he says his time here has been instrumental to "getting my feet back under me." He receives full retirement benefits, but that's just enough to pay rent with very little left over. (His only other income is $16 in food stamps a month.) So we are helping him get on a number of waitlists for affordable housing. But that could take years.

While he waits, Rudy expressed to us a desire for a hobby. he hardly has income to spend on materials. When Rudy wondered whether he could find a model sailboat kit, we wondered whether we could try to help ourselves.

So we tweeted about it! And thanks to the modern wonders of a networked community, Elizabeth Lyttleton--who lives not far from our Northwest Center--answered our call. Elizabeth and her daughter Fletcher dropped by last week to donate a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Wooden Ship Model Kit.

Rudy is thrilled.

"I live alone, I like to be alone, but this [sail boat] will be my wife!" jokes Rudy, who has been married three times but now tells us he's more than happy with hobbies.

For someone facing unemployment and struggling with cancer, taking pride in craft can be truly emboldening. "Some day I hope to build one of the big ones, one of the ones with 500,000 or 600,000 pieces. That would take me two, maybe three years...they are beautiful." (That sounds like an awfully big project to us... and we're not sure we'd be able to find such a kit via Twitter!)

Meanwhile, Rudy is getting right to work.

"Working with my hands is beautiful. Having to deal with all the stuff I did when I was a child, well God has enabled me to still really live by working with my hands."

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