Down But Not Out, Couple Fights The Odds With Some Help

Joel and Ann Elveson, outside their home. (Source: Michelle V. Agins via New York Times)

Joel Elveson, a currently unemployed Bensonhurst resident with debilitating health problems, fondly recalls 2008, when he enjoyed good health, and the success that came with having reached the apex of his executive recruiting career.

The New York Times recently featured Mr. Elveson and his wife Joan, who have been hit with a double whammy of unemployment coupled with, and made more complicated by, poor health.

Like so many millions of others across the country, things have changed drastically for the Elvesons in just a few short years.

From the Times:

“I was the No. 1 producer at my executive recruiting agency,” Mr. Elveson, 55, said recently. “We lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Oceanside, Long Island, with central air-conditioning, a new dishwasher, a washer and dryer. There was even a chandelier over the dining room table.”
But when the recession hit, even job recruiters lost their jobs.
Then, late-onset diabetes took a toll on Mr. Elveson’s health. His eyesight suddenly deteriorated, leaving him blind in his right eye. He began having seizures, which doctors believe may be linked to his diabetes, he said.
During one episode, he collapsed on the sidewalk and suffered a compression fracture in his spine. His ensuing hospital stay cost him his unemployment benefits by default; when his former employer contested them, Mr. Elveson said, he was unable to attend the hearing.

When tough times hit in 2009, they moved to a “noisy and cockroach ridden” apartment for $900 a month. They have since relocated to a less expensive – and hopefully more comfortable – dwelling.

The Elvesons, who currently receive $1,348 a month in Social Security disability payments and $240 in food stamps, still sometimes had trouble deciding between buying food and paying the following month’s rent.

Prior to moving, the couple had inquired about help at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, which receives funds from the UJA-Federation of New York, one of seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. In 2010, Marks JCH provided them with $123 for utilities and $250 toward their back rent. That amount has been increased to an additional $780 paid over five months.

Despite his new disability, Joel still hopes to find work with the help of an employment counselor at a vocational and training agency for the blind. The confidence he has in his own skills should help.

“You know how Tommy Lasorda said he bleeds Dodger blue?” Mr. Elveson said, citing the retired baseball manager. “Well, I bleed staffing and recruiting. I was good, and I’m not ashamed to say it.”

He passed his work ethic onto his 25-year-old son Lee, who after joining the U.S. Army Rangers, is training in Missouri in preparation for a possible tour of duty in Afghanistan next year.

Mr. Elveson is on his own kind of mission – refusing to let up until he has found a job.

“I miss my career,” he said. “It would mean the world to me to get back to helping other people.”

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