Reporting aside: She found a home for her children in Etna, but the struggle lingers and winter awaits her

Kathy Cooper appeared earlier this month outside her St Albans home with her children, from left, Zacharias, 2, Melkai, 14, and Eva, 4, who also has a 12-year-old son, Gabriel. The family was evicted from the house by the landlord who was looking to sell it to a family member. Cooper has found another home in Etna but the rent is double the rent and he needs a job. Amy Calder/The Morning Guard Profile

Kathy Cooper still has hope.

She hopes the house she found to rent to her family will be fixed as the landlord said, with leaks in the roof fixed and belongings removed as promised.

She also hopes the pellet stove will work.

“I don’t know if it plugged in properly so I haven’t used it yet,” she said.

The log house you’re moving into in Abbott Lane in Etna is cute enough; It still needs a lot of cleaning, and Cooper and her mother clean it inside for a week. There was no kerosene in the tank for the oven and no propane for the stove top so she had to order some. Everything costs a lot of money.

Moreover, there is no refrigerator in the kitchen. This is the first time you have rented a place that does not have a refrigerator. Her best hope is that someone will have someone they don’t need and are willing to donate. It also doesn’t have a kitchen table big enough to seat her and her four kids, ages 2 to 14, or any living room furniture.

The new place isn’t perfect but she’s trying to fix it, and she’s been moving things little by little with her car. It’s the only rent she can barely afford, at $1,500 a month. Heat and electricity not included.

She wrote about Cooper and her plight in a column published on September 3. She was evicted from the St. Albans home she had rented for $875 a month for the past four years because the landlord’s son wanted to buy it. I struggled to find somewhere else that could afford it, but the prices were higher than anything I’ve ever paid.

Cooper, a single parent, works 40 hours a week at the Sebasticock Valley Credit Union in Newport, earns $2,500 a month, gross, and is always afraid of being homeless. She got MaineCare, lots of food stamps and rental assistant from the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, but still had a hard time making ends meet.

To make matters worse, she and her two oldest children, 12 and 14, recently tested positive for COVID-19 and will be missing two weeks of work by the time she returns, hopefully on Monday. Some of her fellow employees at the credit union were helping her move mattresses and some bigger things this weekend, but that probably won’t happen now because of a COVID diagnosis.

“It’s just a complete mess of me trying to see the positive, trying to stay positive, but it’s been a bigger challenge every day,” she said.

I spoke with Cooper on the phone on Tuesday and I could detect in her voice a sense of fatigue in her usually stoic demeanor.

During difficult times, there was some light. After publishing her column, an old man with white hair and a full white beard came to her house and gave her fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, and corn.

“Vegetables and a big sack of corn,” Cooper recalls. “They were good bad guys. My kids were so excited when they got that. We had hamburgers and corn on the cob that night. Mama, you looked like Santa,” 4-year-old Eva said.

A week later, a basket of vegetables was left at the end of the driveway and then a handful of pumpkins.

“Eva constantly wants to sculpt them,” she said.

A woman sent her a message telling her she was there for her if she needed to talk.

The people were kind which helped them through a difficult time. I asked Cooper how she stayed on course.

“Believe me,” she said, “there are so many times I lie in bed after all the kids are in, and I collapse and tell myself I can’t do this anymore.” “But at the end of the day, I have kids and I have to get up and take care of them because if I don’t, my kids won’t have anyone. I have to keep pushing, no matter how hard it is.”

She takes it day after day.

“My main priority is getting through the winter,” she said.

Amy Calder has been the Morning Sentinel reporter for 34 years. Its columns are shown here on Saturdays. May be accessed at [email protected]. For previous reporting columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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