Sue Greene: social distancing with a smile

Living on a fixed income requires a strict budget and a little ingenuity, a quality which Sue Greene has in spades.

She lives in a community for seniors in Napa Valley and in order to stretch her food budget, she rides her bike to all the local supermarkets, shopping the sales almost exclusively. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she even started a garden with the help of a friend with a backyard.

Since her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, her budget has been an even greater challenge. She has Medicare Part D coverage, so there is no limit to her out-of-pocket responsibility for her prescriptions.

“$10,000 [a year] easily—that’s more than I make on Social Security,” she said.

She started seeking out charitable assistance organizations to help her afford medication copays, but it was a challenge.

“I would have to get up at 5 a.m. to start searching for what was open,” she said, explaining that most funds open based on business hours on the east coast. “If I applied at 6:30 a.m., the money was already gone.”

And then she discovered FundFinder, which she calls “the most wonderful thing in the world.” It’s a free app that tracks funding availability across nine major charitable assistance organizations. The PAN Foundation launched the app in 2018 and since then, it has amassed more than 70,000 users and sent out more than 1.4 million automated texts and emails about available funding.

“A big thing is that a lot of times, at least in our culture, seniors aren’t valued,” she said. “It feels like PAN values seniors.”

After the pandemic hit, she stopped biking to her usual grocery stores because of her compromised immune system. She was able to find help from PAN once more, this time through a COVID-19 grant that she used to buy groceries, occasionally even “splurging” on apples or orange juice that weren’t on sale. She said having the financial support helped her budget, but also provided a “psychological relief” during the isolating time.

Before the pandemic, Sue was active in her community helping with food distribution for her neighbors. She explained that senior hunger is a serious issue, even more so in recent years. While she needed to be cautious because of her health, she still wanted to help her neighbors. She replaced her grocery store bike trips with rides around nearby vineyards, stopping at community gardens, and fruit trees in public spaces. She even started a garden in a friend’s yard with some of the seeds she collected. She also started bringing home all the produce she could carry on her bicycle and leaving bags for her neighbors in need.

“I can’t help as many people [as I used to], but I’ve found ways to still be helpful,” she said.