By Selene Raj
What started as one good deed for a family in need multiplied exponentially.
Claudia Edwards, a Tamarac resident and insurance agent found herself feeling fearful in March as awareness of the Covid-19 pandemic set in.
She had just made a leap of faith—leaving the corporate world as a healthcare manager to start her own business as an insurance agent.
“When COVID started to affect us in March, and I could not go out to promote my newly opened business, I panicked over two things: fear of getting sick and fear of not being able to pay my bills,” Edwards said.
To manage the anxiety and distract herself, she set her sights on a new mission—focusing on helping others by checking in on her neighbors, friends, and family.
By the end of May, she received an email that would set in motion a chain of paying it forward.
A city official, who had sent the email, said he had replaced some of his furniture and checked in with friends to see if anyone could use it, meeting a family in need as a result.
The official, who she met at a business networking event years ago, said that when he went to drop furniture off for the family in need, broke down, realizing that they had only a mattress on the floor of an otherwise empty house.
He wrote to his network, including Edwards, hoping they could help the family out.
“After reading his email, tears were rolling down my face, and I knew immediately, I want to help,” she said.
She wrote back to find out what he needed, and soon after reached out to her network of neighbors and friends.
Edwards contacted the family in need, a great-grandmother, and her husband, who had a disability, and their 10-year-old great-granddaughter. She found out they had experienced some tragic events.
Before coming to Florida, they took what little money they had and gave a down payment to a woman from a church. In turn, she promised to help them with furniture and housing when they arrived; however, the woman backed out and refused to return their down payment.
Regardless of what put them in that situation, Edwards knew she had to help, and knew they didn’t deserve to be there because no one does.
Within a few hours of texting her friends, she was able to secure a futon, a sleeper couch, and two bedside lamps for the family—in addition to what the city official had previously provided.
But, without a truck, she had no way of getting it to them.
“I posted a ‘Need help’ on Nextdoor Woodmont, and to my surprise, I had volunteers to help with the moving and one guy with a truck,” said Edwards.
Within hours more donations started coming in. Neighbors pitched in a leather swivel chair, a huge TV, six dining room chairs, a king bed frame, a complete twin bed, towels, cleaning supplies, and food.
Just a week later, with the help of volunteers, including Elvin Villalobos, a local realtor, and business owner, as well as a couple of kind neighbors, Bissan Abuadieh and Sammy Abuadieh, and her husband Brian, Edwards made several stops to pick up all the furniture and deliver it to the family.
“The family was so grateful; the grandma was tearing up,” she said.
In the weeks that followed, she reached out to more people, and they reached out to more people until they were able to supply even more furniture, cleaning supplies, masks, and even a musical instrument and books from a music teacher.
On top of dealing with a pandemic and disability, poverty had continued to hit this family hard—and despite their dire situation, bills and rent were still due and overdue.
While they received help from neighbors, the systems in place had not adequately cared for them or provided relief—as is the case of many American families.
So, Edwards hoped to do more.
She set up a GoFundMe to help pay their outstanding bills, which has raised $1,150 so far.
Feeling strongly about this, she reiterates that we should extend a helping hand instead of criticism.
“With poverty, we don’t always know what happened in someone’s life, and even if we did, who are we to judge?” she said.
Edwards herself was once in a similar position—leaving her country and a difficult family situation to come to America.
“I was given a huge break and a new lease on life many years ago by total strangers and people from a different religion and beliefs,” she said.
Because of that, she tries to show some kindness to others.
“I want to pay it forward whenever I can,” she said.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.