May 2020

Gesture of gratitude: Man receiving rent help surprises clerk with emotional thank-you

Watch Via WBNS-10 TV

With historic numbers of people out of work due to COVID-19, local families who are struggling just to provide the basics, are getting a financial lifeline.

And Friday, that led to an extraordinary gesture of gratitude.

The line formed early Friday morning outside of the Columbus Urban League.

People in need, looking for help to stay in their homes. Among them — Ryan Griffin.

“I have a 12-year-old son, and I needed help. And by the grace of God, these people were here to help me,” he said.

The pandemic cost him his hotel job in March.

His savings are gone. His rent is due. He admits it was hard to ask for help.

“I have been independent for so long, it was. It came to the last of my savings for me to able to reach out to someone,” he said.

He says his daily fear is not being able to provide for his son.

“It’s scary. And it’s hurtful. When I look at him, and think I might not be able to feed you or keep a roof over your head, you know? It makes me — it makes me really sad,” he said.

So Friday, he came, like dozens of others for help to bridge that gap. But he didn’t show up empty-handed.

He brought a card for Cynthia Smith, the woman who processed his application.

“Ms. Smith, thank you for working vigorously to make sure that my son and I received the help we requested,” he wrote. “And for that, God bless you.”

Smith says this is a first, and it brought her to tears.

“It just means that I’m really making a difference in someone’s life,” she cried. “I’m making a difference in someone’s life, and they really appreciate what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s a struggle to do this. But when you get this, it’s all worth it. It’s all worth it.”

“I didn’t have much money, but I had enough to give them a card from Family Dollar for a dollar fifty, just to show them, just to let them know how much I appreciate them,” Griffin said through tears.

Friday, the Urban League distributed more than 100 checks, ranging from $500 to $1,000. But that just scratches the surface. They say they have more than 600 applications waiting to be processed.

“Oh my God the need is great,” said Rhonda Gaines, who oversees the housing stabilization program. “We’ve received over 5,000 phone calls since we started our program in March. Over 5,000. We get maybe 200 calls a day for rental assistance coming from people who’ve never applied for assistance. They’ve never applied for unemployment, they’ve never applied for anything. And they just need help.”

Griffin says for that help, a small show of gratitude is the least he can do.

“To do a kind gesture for just one — just one person — you don’t have to try to do it for the world — but just one person to do something kind for, will brighten their day, and make you feel better.”

The housing stabilization program includes help for mortgages, rent and utilities.

The funding comes from Franklin County, with support from Nationwide, Battelle and AEP.

If you live in Franklin County, and your income has been impacted by the pandemic, you could qualify.

The hotline number is 614-484-9111:

Reporter: Glenn McEntyre

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