Betsy Biesenbach Special to The Roanoke Times
Angela Kidd loves her job. She works for a home health company, assisting her patients with daily personal tasks.
“I get along with the elderly because I’m a nosy person,” she said. Everyone has a story to tell, and “they’ve been through a lot of things. They give such great advice. I especially like working with people with dementia. I’m a patient person. Everything is such a rush in life. I take my time with them.”
Kidd, 36, described her work as “a passion,” and added: “You don’t do it for the money.”
Between the relatively low pay and unpredictable work hours as her patients transition to nursing homes or pass away, “It’s not enough,” Kidd said. “Everything is so expensive,” including the gas she needs to drive to and from work.
Kidd is originally from Martinsville. She left in 2011 to try living a little farther away from her large extended family — but not too far, she said, in case they needed her.
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“I wanted to be more self-sufficient,” she explained.
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Although her oldest offspring decided to return to Martinsville, she now lives with four of her seven children, whose ages range from 5 to 15.
“There seemed to be more opportunities in Roanoke,” she said. It’s different from her native rural area, and hard not being near her family. “But I ended up staying.”
Kidd usually works with one or two patients, and she likes the hours, she said, though her days may begin at 5:30 am and intermittently end at about 11 pm This gives her the time during the middle of the day to be with her family and to pursue an education.
Finding childcare, however, has been a struggle since the beginning of the pandemic, she said. “There’s a waiting list for everything.”
Her older children help out with their younger siblings. Still, Kidd worries because they missed parts of their middle and high school years during the COVID lockdown.
“I want them to enjoy their high school life,” she said.
The family was getting along well enough until Kidd’s grandmother fell ill. Her mother took care of her grandmother at first, but became ill herself when the stress became too much.
Kidd quit her job and traveled back and forth to her hometown until her grandmother passed away late last year. During that time, she paid the bills with COVID-related extended unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. She returned to work but could never get her finances back on track.
“I don’t really know what happened,” she said. “I guess it was just life.”
Kidd thinks she just got too busy to pay attention to her budget, which inflation has affected. “It just got hard for me,” she said. “So much was going on.”
Her children’s father has been ordered to make child support payments, Kidd said, but doesn’t do so.
To make more money to pay her bills, she has turned to selling her blood plasma — not just for the check, she said, but also because one of her children suffered burns in an accident several years ago, and was treated with plasma. She sees it as a chance to give back to the community.
In October, Kidd received a cutoff notice for her residential electrical service. The power company’s website was “mostly informational,” she said, and when she began looking at various charities, she was surprised when she realized just how much money it would take to stay financially solvent.
Shortly after Kidd moved to Roanoke, she came to Roanoke Area Ministries for help, and said she hadn’t been back to the agency until recently. Both times, she was given a grant from the Emergency Financial Assistance Program, which is supported by The Roanoke Times’ Good Neighbors Fund.
“I felt ashamed to come to RAM,” she said. “I had to pray about it.”
Now, with the electric bill taken care of for now, her goal is to find another place to live. But the rent is so reasonable, “I can’t afford to move,” she said.
Additionally, she likes where she’s living. It’s quiet and the neighbors are mostly older and look out for her and her kids. Three of her children share two rooms, and one sleeps with her, but he’s getting too old for that, she said.
If she can’t find another place, Kidd said, she’ll convert part of the living room into a sleeping space for herself. But what she really wants, she said, is to buy a home of her own. “I want my children to have their own backyard.”
While she was busy taking care of her grandmother, Kidd said, she kept up with her studies, and when she finally checked how she was progressing closer toward earning an associate degree as a medical assistant.
She now dreams of completing a bachelor degree and becoming a registered nurse. She’d like to work with psychiatric patients. People just naturally seem to come to her with their troubles, she said. “I love to talk to people. I can fix everyone else’s problems, but not my own.”
When Kidd needs personal space away from her work and crowded household, she parks her car in a lot at a nearby store. She said that’s what she was doing on the day she learned that she’d received the recent grant from RAM.
Not only was she filled with relief because the bill would be paid, but when an unfamiliar woman approached her and began to talk, Kidd saw it as an opportunity.
“God sent that lady to me so I can ask myself how I can help her,” Kidd said. She discovered the woman was homeless, and the conversation distracted her from her own problems, she said.
Despite everything, “I still had a roof over my head,” Kidd said.
Later she learned that she was getting more hours at work. On that day, she said, “Doors just started opening up.”
Next summer, when the kids are out of school, she plans to take them with her to do volunteer work, to make up for what RAM did for her.
“You never know when you are going to be in this situation,” she said. “They really helped me.”
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