Ola remembers the first time she met Robert Maxwell.
“He didn’t like me very much at first,” she laughs.
Robert doesn’t remember it quite as well. An alcoholic for 35 years, he was mandated by a judge to have his finances managed by a payee, someone legally responsible for the proper management of his Social Security income. His mother managed his finances as his payee until she died in 2015, when the judge sent him to Lutheran Social Services’ representative payee program, Money Minders. His case was assigned to Ola.
Sitting next to her in the LSS conference room on a recent morning, he shakes his head as he tries to remember.
“It’s a blur,” he says.
He may not remember meeting Ola, but he does remember that, for months afterward, every time he came to LSS to pick up a check—clients receive a small spending stipend out of their SSI/SSD benefits each week—he headed straight out to buy beer with it. His mother’s death left him feeling hopeless, and he no longer cared what happened to him.
Things changed on August 1, 2016. Something he can only describe as the voice of God encouraged him to seek help. He found it at Gateway Community Services, where he entered a detoxification program and moved into transitional housing at their Alumni House.
As he detoxed at Gateway, he became more responsible with his spending stipends. Instead of buying beer, he saved his money. He started to build trust with the staff at LSS and says that Ola went to bat for him, working with Social Security to allow him to access more of his money than usual so he could buy a scooter.
Now 35 months sober, Robert has a valid driver’s license, and the scooter. His Hepatitis C has been cured. He’s continuing to save money, and he is giving back to the community by helping others. He admits that without LSS and Money Minders, he very well might not be where he is today.
“I could not have done it on my own. It worked out way better than it would if I’d done it myself.” He adds, “I challenge adversity now because I’m not afraid of it. I overcome it.”
Robert no longer relies on a payee to manage his money. Social Security has cleared him to be his own payee, and he’s planning to move down south to be with family. He says he will miss the team at LSS, especially Ola.
“But she still intimidates me a little,” he says with a chuckle.