A Community Giving Back
Recently, Barry and Theresa Buker, Founders of Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs have been sharing more and more of their own personal struggles. For the past 18 years, they have been helping out countless thousands of families throughout their home region of Muskoka/Parry Sound.
Helping families in need with an almost endless supply of household items. Items large and small that the 2 of them quite often have gone and collected from other generous hearted members of the community. Barry and Theresa then sort, clean, test, and put these items on display within various areas of their own personal home.
Then, 6 days a week, by private appointment, anyone in need can arrange to come and pick up what they need for – FREE. If the items are available in their inventory, it is freely given to those in need.
Whether it be:
- a bed,
- tea towels,
- or even a pair of shoes.
If it is available, it is freely given.
Their home has been a place of safe refuge and assistance for 18 years to literally thousands of financially struggling families. There are no “means testing”, or judgments. All you simply have to do is ask for help. Oh, and give your first name so they don’t have to call—HEY YOU!
However, They Are Struggling Too
Throughout these 18 years though, life hasn’t been easy for Barry, Theresa, and their own family. Perhaps it is these very struggles that have given them the big compassionate hearts that have them giving so much to their community.
Recently, other members of their local community have become aware of the “behind the scenes” 18 years struggle for Barry and Theresa. It has been discovered that they:
- currently live on $9,000 a year (income from a small rental property)
- raised 3 children
- fully financed Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs for the first 10 years personally
- even when self employed, lived on less than minimum wage
- have been dealing with Barry’s sudden onset of adult epilepsy for 18 years
- need repairs to their home, including roof shingling on sections, the workshop needs complete reshingling, eavestrough replacement, 4 windows needed, wooden siding on one exterior wall needs replacing, garage doors replaced (one is broken), entire exterior walls need priming and painting, windows need to be puttied, back deck needs repair, emergency exterior flood lights are needed at both the front and back entrance of their home
- current fundraising for Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs raises only $15,000/year for operating costs. There are no funds available to pay wages, not even to Barry and Theresa.
And the list goes on. As Barry and Theresa have been bearing the costs and work by themselves, it is at a financially crucial time in their lives. The personal debt that they have incurred in their efforts to help those in the community, that they perceive to be in a worse situation, after 18 years is quickly catching up.
A Near Death Incident
A recent seizure that Barry had grabbed the attention of several members of the local community. Even Theresa was not prepared for this particular seizure. Theresa had been able to tend to Barry in private over the past 18 years. In fact, very few people knew that Barry was having these seizures on a very regular basis of every 1 or 2 months.
- Barry and Theresa are inseparable, one is never far from the other
- Theresa does all the driving
- She handles the scheduling, and rescheduling, of appointments as needed around Barry’s health
- Theresa works 16 hours a day, frantically trying to find ways to increase their finances, from writing and trying to sell her books, cookbooks. Operate a blog, and several ongoing fundraising efforts year round. Fundscrip, Ebates, Vendor Craft Markets, and door to door chocolates.
- Barry when able works on scrap metal sales, yard sales, and sale of antiques.
- All while they offer the one-on-one services to those in need, 6 days a week.
However, on September 20th, 2017, Barry fell in such a way that he stopped breathing for several minutes. Theresa had to call the paramedics to assist her. She managed to get Barry moved enough to restore his breathing before their arrival. But she needed assistance to move Barry to a safer location in their home. The paramedics were great at helping to move Barry back to the safety of his bed. They were also able to stay with Barry and Theresa for almost 2 hours until Barry regained consciousness.
A “Means Test” By The Community
Within days, Theresa started to share on social media about this harrowing experience. Theresa was starting to experience an emotional/mental breakdown.
Suddenly several community members, both previous clients, and donors started paying attention. Very detailed questions were asked as a result. As proud and private as Barry and Theresa have been, they are opening up and answering these deeply personal questions.
Theresa admits that these questions have been very difficult to deal with though. She describes it as being put under very close scrutiny and magnifying glass by the entire region. Theresa feels like they are being being screened by a “means test” as determined by the community.
This “means test” has been very difficult for Barry and Theresa as they don’t even “test” Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs clients. Barry and Theresa know and understand that anybody and everybody has needs—no matter their apparent visible situation.
As for themselves, they had hoped that their selfless life actions over the past 18 years would be enough.
So, in the midst of the extreme financial distress and the emotional mood swings associated with a near death scare, Barry and Theresa are on fragile ground indeed.
In fact, the stress has been so bad, that Barry has had another seizure only 2 ½ weeks since the bad one.
Theresa is feeling very vulnerable and knows that if she is not careful, she is setting herself up for a break down too. She is admitting that lately it is very difficult getting through many days. And at a time when the demand and need for their services is increasing. The stress is overwhelming.
A Community Giving Back
As a result, one young lady, Amy Tomassetti, has undertaken the project of raising funds for Barry and Theresa. To date, she has personally started 2 separate fundraising campaigns.
Amy has set up both a:
- GoFundMe campaign called: Help Give Back To The Bukers
- and an online auction with over 50 items at last count which is running until October 31, 2017.
Amy would like to raise more than $20,000 for Barry and Theresa. Having learned in more detail about many of the financial issues faced by Barry and Theresa Buker, has Amy very determined.
“It is about time the community come and help to support you guys”
“How do people expect you to survive without them helping you too?”
Amy, has spoken to countless individuals and business owners in her efforts to have people support the Bukers. Whether they can donate an item to the On Line Auction, or donate cash to the GoFundMe, Amy is being very proactive. She is a one woman campaign trying to both raise awareness and support for Barry and Theresa Buker.
Trying To Find Additional Help Beyond Financial
On Thanksgiving, Theresa Buker, had to get up on her roof to do some repairs and maintenance. Barry held the ladder as his health situation doesn’t make it wise for him to do these activities.
Horrified, another woman in the community witnessed Theresa hanging almost upside down on the edge of the 2 storey high roof, cleaning out the gutters. She called Amy and spoke with her about her worry of Theresa having to take on the brunt of the home repairs.
This lady is now on a separate campaign of her own. She is trying to find shingles and a roofing crew to repair that section of the roof. And if possible, more than just for that one section. Other community members have even started to donate left over bundles of shingles from their own previous roofing projects.
In a neigboring town, a young man has offered his muscle assistance to Barry and Theresa when they need to pick up donations in his community. Which they did call on him for that very thing, just yesterday. Having that extra set of hands and muscles did help tremendously. Thank you, Shaun.
A Community Pulling Together
Slowly but surely, funds are being donated to the GoFundMe campaign. Although still far from the ambitious goal that Amy has set, Barry and Theresa are grateful for any assistance.
The On Line Auction will be wrapping up on October 31st and there are over 50 items to bid on. Make sure you check out the wide array of items that have been donated by local businesses. The local community is pulling together in their efforts to help this generous compassionate couple. Which is a challenge in itself.
You see, the community where the Bukers reside is deeply poverty stricken. Whether young or old, there is more than 60% of the residents who live below the provincial poverty line. Yes, the majority of residents are poor and struggling also.
Another reason why it has been so difficult for Barry and Theresa to share their own struggles. They know so many others are hurting too.
So, even through all of this, Barry and Theresa still get up and help as many people every day in their region as possible.
How Can You Help?
There are many ways that you can help.
- Prayer for strength and health for both Barry and Theresa
- donate to the GoFundMe campaign
- bid on items on the On Line Auction
- help volunteer for the big events such as the upcoming Christmas Giveaway
- assist with heavy lifting
- offer to do home repairs, either with hands on work or supply of materials
- consider becoming a monthly donor. If 200 people donated even $5/month, the financial burden on the Bukers would start to lift. Theresa is looking at setting up a recurring donation system for 2018. Consider whether you would become one of those faith partners.
There are many ways that you can help keep Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs in a position of being a positive impact on the community. Start by considering the sacrifices of the Founders, Barry and Theresa Buker, and see if you can catch even a small glimpse of their dream, compassion, and love for their community.
How can you come alongside them and help them to keep EMPOWERING people towards a HOPE and a FUTURE?
Changing the world starts with a single step of faith.
Thank you Amy Tomassetti for taking such a step of faith in helping a community giving back to the Bukers.