Rose Jacob

When you think of someone in need of help to feed their family, do you think of a 32-year employee of the postal service, or of any employee with a 32-year tenure at any company? Most people don’t, but they would be wrong.

Rose Jacob isn’t one of the lucky ones. She got a tough start in life. The daughter of a hard working, but abusive father who was permanently disabled on his job as a dockworker, her family struggled with hunger and the lost opportunities common to those living in poverty. As a way out, Rose left home at 17 to marry, but ultimately found herself in a violent marriage and with two daughters to protect and support.

After one particularly violent episode, Rose left her husband, took her children from school and ran. After a difficult time spent on the run and sleeping in the car, friends provided cash so Rose could rent an apartment and buy food. But with only a GED, little work experience and few marketable skills, she struggled to find work. Finally, with only $5 in her pocket, luck found her. Rose had applied to work for the United States Postal Service and a letter appeared directing her to report to work the next day. So began her 32-year career as a letter carrier. Rose often worked overtime to pay the bills. Due to significant medical issues, she was forced to retire three years ago.

After a successful career, Rose has returned to a daily struggle. Her pension places her $22 above the threshold for food stamps and Medicaid. Her rent absorbs one-half of her income. She has outstanding medical bills, and she requires open heart surgery in the near future. The assistance provided by The River Fund New York has returned some measure of security to her life. With food assistance from The River Fund New York, it’s possible for her to stretch her dollars to pay for medicine, doctor visit co-pays and transportation to medical appointments.

The River Fund New York was launched 23 years ago as a volunteer organization aimed at “championing the worth” in those who have no voice. From day one, it served as a model for innovative direct-service approaches to combating poverty and was among the first to help people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City. It is the leading poverty frontline center in Queens, helping more than 14,000 families annually address material hardship with weekly groceries, benefits access and enrollment, and support and education pathways from cradle to college. The River Fund New York pioneered federal support for the mobile food pantry concept, which has been replicated nationwide. Post-Hurricane Sandy, it was the first group to arrive in the flood zones with emergency food, demonstrating again the value of mobile product-distribution capabilities.