A 70-year-old woman’s life drastically changed after thoughtful strangers noticed she was living in her car with her two dogs.
And without knowing much about her past, a Pennsylvania community rallied around the woman and helped her get back on her feet.
When she was younger, Lynn Schutzman was determined to overcome a difficult childhood.
“One of the things I wanted to make sure from a very early age was that one day, I would be able to take care of myself no matter what.”
So she worked hard in school, where she liked math and science, and eventually became a pharmacist.
Through that profession, she not only secured the self-sufficient lifestyle she had always wanted, but she also met her beloved husband, Norman, who was also a pharmacist.
According to WBUR, the couple had a happy marriage and traveled together quite often.
After more than two decades together, however, Norman tragically died of a heart condition.
Norman was only 47 years old at the time.
While she was grieving her husband’s passing, Lynn Schutzman suffered from her own health issues, including a series of strokes and a bacterial infection.
She wasn’t able to work for two years.
About 10 years later, she faced even more medical issues when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, kidney failure and thyroid issues.
This time, her mobility was compromised, which meant she couldn’t return to work.
With a mountain of medical bills and her disability hindering her from going back to work, she struggled to make ends meet, and was forced to drain her savings account.
“It was just stress, stress, stress — until there was just nothing left,” she recalled.
Schutzman said her Social Security checks (which were often used to pay medical expenses not covered by Medicare) made her ineligible for affordable housing assistance, and her dogs weren’t allowed in homeless shelters.
As a result, she resorted to living in her SUV.
She tried to stay out of sight, however, in fear that one of her old co-workers or customers may see her.
“I didn’t want to have to explain to people that I don’t have a home,” she told WBUR. “You feel like somewhere you had to have failed. You accomplished all this but now here you are in the gutter and you don’t want people to know. You don’t want to ask for help.”
She lived in her car for two years, going to fast food restaurants in the morning to freshen up and saving money for the occasional motel stay.
But the former pharmacist said God saw her and knew that she needed help.
Melissa Akacha and Jennifer Husband-Elsier first noticed Schutzman living in her vehicle beneath a King of Prussia-area Target parking lot in April.
The two best friends decided to reach out to the community on NextDoor, a social media site, to see if anyone knew anything about her.
“I spoke to the police and they said she’s been living like this for over 2 years in different areas of [King of Prussia].”
Many were surprised and asked how they could help.
When Husband-Elsier and Akacha first approached Schutzman, they simply asked if she was OK.
But their relationship quickly developed into a sweet friendship.
They learned Schutzman’s story, felt compelled to help in any way they could and invited the community to do the same.
Soon, people were visiting her SUV, bringing food for both her and her dogs, water and blankets.
“They were bringing me food and water and I just couldn’t believe it,” Schutzman told WBUR.
“I just cried thinking, this is divine intervention. God knew I was at my lowest point and he brought this wonderful community around to help me.”
Husband-Elsier and Akacha knew they could do even more, so they set up a GoFundMe to raise money to help Schutzman get into an apartment.
Within ten days, enough money was raised to rent out a studio apartment for Schutzman, ABC reported.
As of Friday, the crowdfunding campaign has raised over $30,000, enough to pay rent for two years.
According to WBUR, Schutzman moved into her new home in May.
The moment when she was surprised with the apartment was captured in an emotional video.
“I had no idea,” Schutzman said in the video.
“It was unbelievable the way our community came together,” Husband-Elsier told ABC.
“We just asked [Schutzman] if she was OK. Really, it’s the community who made the big impact.”
Members of the community are still supporting Schutzman by visiting her, working on her car and walking her dogs to this day.
She even has Thanksgiving plans for the first time in years — with Husband-Elsier and her family.
“It wouldn’t have happened without these angels,” Schutzman told ABC of Husband-Elsier and Akacha. “I just want people to realize that this can happen to anybody.”
“I have a good job. I had good retirement but I got sick and health insurance only covers so much,” she continued. “I have no children, I have no family. … I had nowhere to turn.
“Sometimes, you know, just the kindness of strangers just makes all the difference in someone’s life.”
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