Money for local couple tighter than ever

Money for local couple tighter than ever
As the couple walked into the conference room of Martin Housing Authority, one could tell by their saunter how many miles in life they had traveled. As they spoke of their life and their struggles, it was apparent Aaron and Joyce Ward of Martin had weathered many storms together. Through all of the couple’s triumphs and their challenges, the daunting present poses an uncertainty as they look to the road ahead. To describe the Ward’s financial situation as “strapped,” would be an understatement. The couple’s Social Security income of $11,172 a year falls well below poverty level. “There is nowhere else that we could live for $275 a month in rent,” Joyce explained. The Wards have lived at Martin Housing Authority since the late 90s and they said they have no intention of ever purchasing their own home. “We just can’t afford to buy a house, especially not right now,” she added. As a retired pastor, Aaron said the couple’s few luxuries extend to their church in Union City. “We pay our tithes. That comes out before we pay anything else,” Joyce said. Even with gas verging on $4 a gallon for unleaded, the couple said most of that expense is allotted for Sunday services to and from the neighboring city. “We walk everywhere that we can. If we go to town to get things, we make sure we do it all in the same trip, so that we don’t have to go back. I’ll make a list of places we need to go and what we have to get,” Joyce described. When asked if they expected to receive an economic stimulus check issued by the IRS, they both chimed they hoped to see a check. “When we filed our income taxes we asked to have a check mailed to us because we had not seen an actual check in a long time. Our money goes straight into the bank. We now wish we hadn’t done that, because we found out it will take longer to get the money,” the wife joked. They shared some of their plans for spending the money with no mention of a big screen television, new clothes or anything other material possession that would take up space in the couple’s simplified life. “Our daughter was killed in a car wreck and we haven’t been to her graveside in two years. It’s three hours away and we thought about using the money to fill up the truck and go to the cemetery,” Aaron offered. The couple hasn’t owned a television since 1970 citing no need for it. They said they like to pass time outside, reading and writing. Joyce said she also enjoyed cooking and baking, when she had food in her cabinets. With $58 a month given to the Wards in food stamps, they said it has become more of a struggle to stretch that money for groceries. “I’m a meat eater, but we often don’t have meat to eat. We eat a lot of dry goods and vegetables,” Aaron admitted. Joyce confessed she thought their food stamps would increase when the price of food started increasing. “Our appetite hasn’t changed, but the price of food has gone up so much.” With a monthly truck payment, utility payment and rent each month, the Wards list of guilty pleasures forms two lines: a small garden for Joyce and an opportunity for Aaron to wash his truck during the summer. “We are still so blessed. We look for the good in everything and everyone,” Joyce said. With Aaron receiving Medi-care, they admit medical expenses are not something that is eating away at their family’s budget. Joyce has no health insurance, but hopes to become eligible for Medicare when she turns 65 years old in August. “We have two hospital bills that we pay $10 a month on. We’ve paid on one since 1993 and we’re about to have it paid off,” Joyce said. After all of the financial circumstances surrounding the Ward family that would seemingly weigh heavily on others, they still maintain their faith not only in the Lord, but in one another as well. Uncertainty clouds their future as they describe some of the highest prices for gasoline and food they have ever witnessed, but their “salt of the earth” characteristics afford them hope to weather another 44 years together.

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