When the offers of help began rolling in, Betsy Winkler was incredulous.
Why, the Kuna 60-year-old wondered, would perfect strangers care about her and her husband, David?
Her spouse, an Air Force veteran, has Alzheimer’s disease, and his assisted-living costs are so expensive that Winkler finds food in dumpsters so she can pay for his care.
People across the country reached out to Winkler after reading about her struggles Sunday in an Idaho Statesman story. The story was picked up by other news outlets owned by McClatchy, the Statesman’s owner.
Winkler’s first response was gracious but reflected her grit and independence. “Hi. This is Betsy Winkler,” she emailed one woman. “Thank you so much for your kind support. If you could make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association or your local food bank, it would be wonderful. Hopefully thru all this, maybe we can make a difference.”
The offers did not stop. After the Miami Herald printed her story, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who sought the Democratic nomination for president last year, took up her cause on his Facebook page. Bill Moyers included Winkler’s story in his Daily Reads.
After a day or so, she began to soften. Maybe it would be OK, she thought, if she let someone buy her some wood so she could power her wood stove this winter. Her son-in-law usually chops it for her, but he’s in the Air Guard Reserve and is out of town on temporary duty.
It took Andrei Pricope, a music teacher from suburban Chicago, to finally persuade Winkler to let him start a GoFundMe.com drive to help her pay for her husband’s assisted listing, which costs $4,000 a month, a financial burden that leaves her with little to pay bills and buy food. The Winklers collect $51,600 a year in retirement and other income, and the care fees take $48,000.
“I am so overwhelmed at the outpouring from people who want to help,” she wrote to Pricope on Wednesday.“I had no idea anyone outside of Boise, Idaho, would even read this. I have talked with my family, and if this will help to make sure my David is taken care of, then okay. Thank you.”
As one generous soul wrote to Winkler, “You and David’s love is really beautiful, as is your devotion to him and his care. Thanks for being willing to share your story, it’s so important and so impactful.”
To donate, go to: https://www.gofundme.com/Betsy-and-David-winkler.