Cindy Speaker:  Good afternoon and welcome to our broadcast today. My name is Cindy Speaker. I have with me today Noell Black, a non-attorney representative with Gardberg and Kemmerly. Noell, I’m so happy to have you. How you doing?

Noell Black:  Good. Thank you, Cindy. I’m happy to be here. How are you?

Cindy Speaker: I’m good. Well, before we get into our topic, I want to talk with you about Making Strides. I want you to tell us a little bit about that campaign, because when I talked with you last in the fall, it was actually before the race took place.

Noell Black: Right.

Cindy Speaker:  … or the run. So, tell us a little bit about that.

Noell Black: It went very well. It was one of the most successful walks I’ve participated in. We had about 25000 walkers that came out.

Cindy Speaker: Wow.

Noell Black: Yes, and it was a great turnout. It was cold, great weather, and we raised almost $275000 for breast cancer.

Cindy Speaker: That is fantastic.

Noell Black: Yes, and Gardberg and Kemmerly alone contributed over $30000 to that.

Cindy Speaker: Wow.

Noell Black: So we raised a lot of money with our Cure for Christine team. It was very successful, and we had over 100 walkers just on our team alone and showed Christine that we were really out there to support her, but the walk in and of itself was a great fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and for the fight against breast cancer.

Cindy Speaker: That’s awesome, and just tell us briefly, because you and I know who Christine is, but tell us a little bit about our Christine.

Noell Black: Well, Christine is our office manager here at Gardberg and Kemmerly. She has been here for over 30 years, and she is currently fighting breast cancer. She’s at MD Anderson today. She’s been going back and forth for treatments, and we love and miss her dearly, and she is in the fight of her life, but she is definitely winning this thing.

Cindy Speaker:  Great. Well, Noell, let’s switch over to our topic now. Thank you for that update. I’m so glad that went so well.

Noell Black: No problem. My pleasure. It was an exciting event and I was honored to be a part of it.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. Well, you were the chair.

Noell Black:  Yes, I was. I was the chair

Cindy Speaker:  You were definitely part of it.

Noell Black: Yes.

Cindy Speaker: In a big way.

Noell Black: And it … a lot more than I thought, but it was a learning experience.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. Well, today we’re gonna talk about the holidays. What we’re gonna talk about specifically is some of the challenges that arise for the disabled. I want to start off by saying that at Gardberg and Kemmerly, you help disabled people, you help them with filing for disability claims, things like that. Do you see them having some additional challenges during the holiday season?

Noell Black:  So, they are in a position, most of our clients are, where it is a struggle every day just to pay their medical bills, to get medications, and to pay their finances in their home because they’re without income, at least not a wage-earning income. So, now, if they have children or family members with children, especially kids, they expect presents this time of year, and that’s a real struggle. They aren’t able to provide that in many cases.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. And how do you offer support during this time?

Noell Black: Well, unfortunately, you’re dealing with so many people in the same situation. We can’t offer financial support or do anything like that, but I think over the years I’ve learned that the best answer is just to offer an empathetic ear and be willing to listen. Sometimes they just don’t have anybody that understands their situation, and we can sometimes help pay for copays to doctor’s offices in certain claims if they don’t have insurance and it’s to some of the health departments and clinics, but I think the biggest help that we can provide here at Gardberg and Kemmerly is that we can tell them that we are working harder than anybody else on their case and that though they may not see the result right here at the holidays, that we are taking care of their case and that we’re working as hard as we can to make the outcome to their benefit. And that can be a relief and a stress off of them that maybe they can worry about something else and we can take care of that.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. And what is the average wait time for disability claims?

Noell Black: Well, the social security hearing office just released their fiscal year 2018 numbers, and just to make sure I get those right, I’m gonna look over at my notes here, but we mainly deal with the Mobile hearing office, the Hattiesburg hearing office, and Montgomery Alabama hearing office.

For Mobile, they’re averaging about 626 days from the time that the file gets there to the time that the decision is made. Then, the Hattiesburg hearing office is around 580, and the Montgomery is about the same. They’re about 560 days. So, that’s a long time that people are waiting.

Cindy Speaker: It sure is. Yeah, yeah. Well, what are some of the resources that you’re aware of during the holidays that may be helpful?

Noell Black: Well, we try to keep a list. All our clients come in, they get a blue folder. It has some resources and Catholic Social Services and some other things that help with bills and stuff all during the year, but during the holidays for specific holiday help, I think the Salvation Army is one of the greatest resources that we have here on the Gulf Coast. They do year round provide things like rental assistance, utility assistance, clothing, closets, food pantries, but during the holidays, they serve a big Thanksgiving meal that they did recently for Thanksgiving. They will have a big Christmas meal. Seniors and shut-ins can have those meals delivered to their home, and they also do a really big thing here on the Gulf Coast, which is the Angel Tree. That is for those children who want to get gifts and their parents just can’t afford it. So, they can contact the Salvation Army and get those children put on the Angel Tree list and hopefully be able to have a little something under the tree for them on Christmas Day.

Cindy Speaker: That’s awesome. The Angel Tree program. Explain that. Is that affiliated with the Salvation Army?

Noell Black: Yes, it is a program of the Salvation Army, and they do toy drives all over. I know one of our local radio stations is doing a toy drive right now and all of that goes to the Salvation Army for the Angel Tree, and sometimes we spend so much on our kids, but just a $5 car can be really exciting to someone who that’s all that they’re getting. You can contact the Salvation Army. I have a couple numbers here.

Cindy Speaker: Oh good, yeah.

Noell Black: Mobile is 438-1625, and then the Pensacola Salvation Army is 850-432-1501, and then the Mississippi Gulf Coast Salvation Army is 228-207-1218.

Cindy Speaker: Oh, that’s very helpful.

Noell Black: I think if you contact those numbers, tell them you’re wanting to get your children on the Angel Tree or you need assistance with utilities, finances, they even help with rent or eviction notices in certain cases. You have to qualify financially and they can help you out during this time of the year.

Cindy Speaker: Excellent. Well, for those of us that are blessed, feeling blessed during this holiday season, what recommendations do you have for us that we might be helpful?

Noell Black: I have some things. A lot of times I hear just all during the year when people hear what I do, sometimes they have a stigma about people being on disability or filing for disability claims. I think that that is really … They think that their money or lack thereof has to do with their moral values, that maybe they did something wrong, and a lot of times we are dealing with everyday people like you and me that had good jobs, we paid our bills, we have families to support, and whether it be mental illness or physical illness, accidents, things happen, and they are stuck in a situation where they’re filing for social security disability. This is what we pay into in our tax dollars and even if it is an SSI claim, we still support those with our tax dollars every year and that those people are not in a situation that they want to be in. Most of those people are actually fighting. They would rather work if they could.

So, I think that people feeling that the poor are undeserving for some reason really drives policies that hurt our children and hurt our clients. I hear it from judges, politicians, and doctors, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of making comments myself sometimes. I just think that during this time of the year, if we can be a little bit more understanding, a little bit kinder, and just keep our eyes out for those that may need help. Some people don’t tell others that they need the help. And so if we can just be more aware and be a little bit kinder during this year, it goes a long way.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. Noell, that’s great. I can tell that’s right from your heart.

Noell Black:  It is.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. It’s obvious. Well, let me say this. If someone wants to reach out to your office, whether it’s related to a disability claim or questions, how can they do that?

Noell Black:  They can go straight to our website and contact us there at www.gardberglaw.com. They can call our office at 251-343-1111, and we will be happy to get them set up and come in and see if we can help them and be happy to work on their claim just like we do for all our other clients.

Cindy Speaker: Very good. Well, to you and to those that are watching, whether live or by replay, we say happy holidays and wishing you all the best. Noell, thanks for being with us today.

Noell Black:  Thank you, and yes, happy holidays to everyone out there.

Cindy Speaker:   Thanks everybody. Bye.

Noell Black:  Bye.