Irina Gorelik, who immigrated from Ukraine as a young woman, is a single mother raising three young boys on her earnings as an in-home caregiver. She needed our help to purchase a car to drive her sons to different schools and get herself to her two caregiving jobs. A friend offered to sell his vehicle to her secondhand, and our loan made that possible.  

But that’s only a small part of Irina’s story, and it doesn’t capture the trauma she had to overcome to get to this point. Irina had been afraid to drive for years, ever since she witnessed a car careen out of control, jump the curb, and kill the woman standing right next to her at a bus stop. Now, Irina not only had to get a car, she also had to learn to drive and get her driver’s license. The friend who had been driving her sons to school was moving out of state, and there was no one else who could help.  

When Irina talked with our loan officer about why she needed our assistance, she was clearly terrified at the prospect of driving, scared that it was more than she could handle. She still remembered the flowers and candles at the site of the tragedy, which she passed every day on her way to work.  

Then she took a deep breath and said, “I have no choice. I am a mom, so I need to be strong and do this for my kids. If not me, who will? Nobody.” 

We at Hebrew Free Loan couldn’t learn to drive for Irina, and we couldn’t magically wave away her fears. But we could assure her that we would provide support throughout the process. We offered her an interest-free General Needs loan to pay for the car and driving lessons, and we worked out an affordable repayment plan. Just as importantly, we gave her the comfort of knowing she’s not alone and the community is standing behind her. 

“The loan I received makes everything easier: getting my boys to school, getting to work, grocery-shopping … life! Everyone at Hebrew Free Loan was so reassuring and treated me like a friend. I’m very grateful.” 

 Money is still tight for Irina, especially after the difficult pandemic times when her entire family got Covid and Irina lost one of her two caregiving jobs. One of her sons is in elementary school, one is in middle school, and one is now in high school. They’re always outgrowing their clothes, needing new school supplies, or hungry for something more to eat. 

But a year after getting our loan, the family is thriving. Although it took five months of lessons and practice, Irina passed her driving test on the first try. Her sons still tease her for driving too slowly, and she says that other cars are always beeping at her to go faster. But everyone is safe, everyone gets to where they need to be, and she no longer has to ask her friends to parallel park for her! 

We have no doubt that Irina will continue to face any challenges that come her way with the same courage and love she brought to the task of learning to drive for the sake of her family. May her determination to do whatever it takes to provide for her sons be an inspiration to all of us.

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