Showing Compassion

Waco Tribune HeraldLetter to the Editor of the Waco Tribune Herald.  February 18, 2009

I was horrified to learn the case of 93-year-old Marvin Schur in Bay City, Mich., who froze to death in his home after the local power company restricted his electricity. I was reminded of a similar situation two years ago when our local gas company cut off my 89-year-old bed-bound mother’s gas the day before a major cold front came through Waco.

I was out of town at a conference when my mother’s caregiver called to say a man from the gas company was cutting the power. I asked that he delay until I could return and find the problem but he refused. I hurried home when I couldn’t get anyone at the gas company office to help, and I located electric blankets and room heaters to keep mom safe and comfortable.

The problem stemmed from a payment that never made it to the gas company because the post office inadvertently destroyed the envelope and returned the check to me with an explanation. I forwarded all this to the gas company. Checks for two later months were received and credited timely, yet the company insisted on turning off the power.

My folks lived in the same home for more than 50 years, had never failed to pay their bill, and there was absolutely no indication the bill wouldn’t be paid. It was just one of those “corporate policy” situations that could have been handled much better.

We should all be sure our seniors are looked after, which is why organizations such as Friends for Life are so important. And utility companies should have special departments that can be aware of customers who are elderly and vulnerable so that no power is cut off without contact and effort to resolve the issue.

Company letter notices may not be delivered or seen and are insufficient in these circumstances. Hopefully, the tragedy of Marvin Schur won’t be repeated.

Harry Harelik

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