First Person

1 in 6 Millennials Have Crowdfunded a Funeral. I’m One of Them.

The day after my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 60, I found myself in a nearby funeral home, staring at the handwritten, folded letter I’d written for my dad as a polite funeral director discussed options with me and my wife. Did we want jewelry made with my dad’s fingerprint on it, an upgraded casket for his cremation, or a selection of candles with his face on them? I want to know how much this will cost, was the terribly practical thought I kept returning to. I hadn’t had time to process my dad’s sudden death, sixteen years after my mom died from a stroke. I’d had a single blurry day to come to terms with my dad’s death and take responsibility as his only surviving next of kin, with no parents, grandparents, or siblings to help me out.

Fortunately, I knew my dad’s wishes from dozens of conversations: Spend as little on his death as possible, have him cremated without embalming, and spread his ashes at Ossipee Lake in New Hampshire where he spent every summer as a kid. I tried not to feel guilty as I turned down the options the funeral home director explained to me, picturing my dad’s blue eyes as he told me not to spend an extra dime on his death, his insistence that he wanted to keep this simple. I knew my mom’s funeral costs had been impossible for him to handle as a cab driver, and that her brother had paid for almost everything.

After a lengthy and transparent explanation of what was available, I was handed a breakdown sheet with itemized prices. In total, my dad’s cremation costs sat at around $3,700: $2,900 for professional services and basic cremation, $260 for a container to keep his ashes in, $84 for copies of the death certificate, $31 for a cremation permit, $260 for the crematory, and $200 for the medical examiner fee (which went up by 100 percent in Massachusetts in 2019). My wife and I put the cost on a credit card and went home, exhausted.

I grew up in the projects, and lived just above or at the poverty line for the first eighteen years of my life. My parents, like 40 percent of Americans, never had $400 in the bank for an emergency. When my dad received medical bills for things that MassHealth didn’t cover, he let them go to collections because we simply couldn’t afford to pay them. Just a few years ago, my wife and I were in a similar boat. If my father had died in 2016, neither of us would have had a single credit card with a high enough limit to pay for his cremation costs.

My dad’s death was the second expensive emergency we faced in 2020, a year where nearly ten months were spent in an unprecedented global pandemic. In May, we had to pay for our cat’s life-saving cystotomy. I remember how relieved I was when we paid off the credit card we used for her surgery about a month and a half after it happened.

Death shouldn’t create an unmanageable financial burden.

About a week after my dad’s death when the shock wore off, I decided to start a fundraiser to cover the cost of my dad’s cremation. According to GoFundMe, 13 percent of its campaigns created in 2017 funded memorials, and a 2015 Funeral and Memorial Information Council study reported that 17 percent of adults between 20 and 39 solicited or donated money online for funeral-related arrangements. Sites dedicated specifically to funeral and memorial costs have launched, such as FuneralFund and Ever Loved. A 2019 survey from the National Funeral Directors Association showed that the cost of cremation had gone up 8.5 percent in the U.S. over the last five years, and the median cost of direct cremation is $2,495. The median price for a full funeral and burial in 2019 was $9,135, adding to the stress for the deceased’s next of kin. All of this is an even greater financial and emotional strain during a global pandemic, when many people have lost income and while low-income folks, people of color, and disabled people are dying at higher rates due to complications from COVID-19 compounded by racism, classism, and ableism in medical care.

Based on the 4.9 percent fee deducted from each donation at Fundly, I set my fundraiser at $5,000, hoping to raise enough to cover paying off the credit cards before any interest accrued plus a little extra to cover the cost of traveling to Ossipee for the weekend to spread my dad’s ashes once it’s safe to actually memorialize him.

As I shared my fundraiser on social media, I wondered if my dad’s wishes were simply because he didn’t believe much should be spent on death or because he understood that cremation and funeral costs can be pricey.

I thought of my dad, grieving my mom and unable to help pay for her funeral expenses, cutting back his hours at work because he had to take care of me full-time. I thought of him calling me the first time he qualified for a secured credit card after years of financial instability. I thought of my dad giving me and my wife a “mini honeymoon” weekend trip for our wedding because we couldn’t take enough time off to go on a full honeymoon right away, of him buying us dinner and champagne for our first anniversary, of the way he used to stop by and bring us desserts from an Italian bakery in Boston just because he could finally afford spontaneous gifts. My dad was financially secure for the last three years of his life, and he spent most of it in generous ways, helping residents at his sober home pay their rent and paying for aquarium memberships for the toddlers in our family.

Within two weeks, my fundraiser was fully funded, and we could pay off the credit card with zero interest. I almost cried when I saw the fundraiser total amount.

The fact that paying my dad’s cremation costs came down to luck and privilege isn’t lost on me. On average, only 22.4 percent of crowdfunding projects are successful and meet their goal, and 24 percent of Americans don’t have a credit card. There isn’t much support out there for young or low-income people shouldering the cost of a loved one’s end-of-life costs alone, aside from crowdfunding and asking for help from friends and family, if that’s even an option. Death — especially an unexpected, sudden loss — creates a seismic shift in your world, but it shouldn’t create an unmanageable financial burden.



Solar Power Cuts Energy Bills, But Few Low-Income People Have Access

It was about a decade ago that Boston resident Natalie Jones first began to dream of putting solar panels on her roof. She was amazed, she said, that there was a technology that could help people save money and improve the environment at the same time, and she wanted to be part of it.

At the time, however, home solar was something only the affluent could afford. A modest 5-kilowatt system would have topped $30,000 in 2011, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Within a few years, prices had fallen and solar companies were making aggressive sales pitches in her neighborhood. Still, the numbers didn’t work for Jones, who was a full-time student working as an educator in a women’s homeless shelter.

“I couldn’t lay down thousands of dollars for the panels,” she said. “I couldn’t get in the game with a big check.”

Then one day, at a community event, she ran into representatives from Resonant Energy, a Boston-based solar developer that focuses on projects in low-income areas. Resonant’s staff understood both Jones’ passion for solar and her financial challenges. They introduced her to the Massachusetts Solar Loan, a program that financed residential solar projects, and offered lower-income borrowers fixed, below-market rates and forgiveness of 30 percent of the loan principal.

The solar panels on Jones’ home went up in October 2017 and she hasn’t had to pay an electric bill since the following April. Though her bill was less than $100 – lower than the state average of $126 – the savings have made it easy to afford her monthly solar loan payment of $127.

“When I got my solar panels I just felt like I won the lottery,” she said. “I found it to be very empowering.”

In Massachusetts, the average household spends 3 percent of its income on energy costs, while households with income between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median — roughly between $32,000 and $64,000 for a family of three — spend 7 percent. For families living below the poverty line, this energy burden jumps to 21 percent.

Solar power could decrease those costs. For renters or homeowners who can’t install solar, community-shared solar — larger developments that sell power to multiple users — can help lower the cost of energy by a few hundred dollars each year. For homeowners who install their own systems, the savings will generally pay off the price in around five or six years. After that, all future savings are pure financial benefit.

These savings could make a meaningful difference to households that routinely have to choose between paying bills and buying medication or fresh food. Nationwide, more than 20 percent of households reported foregoing food or other necessities to pay an energy bill in 2015, the latest year for which data is available from the Energy Information Administration.

So far, however, low-income solar has gotten too little traction for the effects to be realized at any scale, supporters say. These initiatives are undermined by their failure to understand the cultural, historical, and financial realities in the communities they seek to serve, a dynamic Massachusetts is grappling with right now.

The state’s solar targets and policies are widely considered some of the most ambitious in the country. The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program, or SMART, recently expanded to provide incentives for 3,200 megawatts of solar development, a number that could power more than 300,000 average households. This expansion will more than double the state’s installed solar capacity.

The program pays the owners of solar generation units — anyone from private homeowners with a few panels on their roofs to large-sale solar farms — a set rate per kilowatt-hour of energy produced. The base rate depends on size and location, and increases slightly when the project includes features the state wishes to encourage, such as reclaiming a polluted site or serving low-income customers. The original base rates ranged from 15.6 cents to 35.8 cents, though they have, by design, dropped as more projects have signed up for the incentive.

There is also often an ingrained distrust of salespeople peddling energy deals.

Though the program includes incentives to encourage developments in low-income neighborhoods, there has been little progress toward this goal since SMART launched in November 2018: Just 4.7 percent of the capacity approved by the program as of late November 2020 has been for low-income projects. According to Ben Underwood, co-founder of Resonant Energy, that’s partially because the incentive doesn’t offer enough money to attract developers, whose main goal is to make a profit: It’s much more lucrative to build solar generation units on open land. At the federal level, a renewable energy tax credit can lower the net cost of a solar installation, but doesn’t make it easier for lower-income consumers to afford the upfront price.

However, the barriers go beyond the purely financial. “A lot of states focus on the monetary barriers,” said Nathan Phelps, regulatory director for clean energy advocacy group Vote Solar. “That doesn’t actually address all of the underlying issues.”

One major stumbling block is the current requirement that low-income solar customers buying energy from community shared systems — the main way renters or homeowners with unsuitable roofs access renewable energy — sign a contract. With a contract on their financial report, it may be more difficult for them to secure a car loan or other needed credit, Phelps said. The decision to go solar therefore becomes another hard choice, rather than an obvious financial boost.

In these communities, there is also often an ingrained distrust of salespeople peddling energy deals. For many years, competitive power suppliers preyed on low-income and minority neighborhoods in the state, promising low electricity prices and hiding expensive loopholes in the fine print. Low-income households often lost hundreds of dollars a year, to the tune of $57 million from 2015 to 2018, reports by state attorney general Maura Healey found. Today, many members of these communities are understandably wary when outsiders show up offering contracts for energy savings.

Environmental justice and clean energy activists are lobbying to change the system, allowing a simplified, no-contract form of payment that will avoid these concerns. So far, the state’s Department of Energy and the Environment, which oversees SMART, has not committed to such a change. Some in the industry, however, say there are hopeful signs that the state will soon start allowing smaller projects to go ahead without contracts.

Looking ahead, environmental justice advocates want more people from low-income and environmental justice communities actively engaged in the conversation next time the rules come up for revision.

“We need to provide benefits to people who live in environmental justice communities, then engage them to help us write the next policy,” Underwood said. “There’s something inherently democratic about solar and it is very important for us in crafting policy to make the most of that potential every step of the way.”



Derrick Fudge Died In a Mass Shooting. His Family Can’t Get Help Because of a Decade-Old Drug Charge.

In the backyard of his recently renovated home north of downtown Dayton, Dion Green is sitting on a garden sofa, rubbing his hands as he describes an unimaginably traumatic past 15 months.

On August 4, 2019, he and his father Derrick Fudge were at a bar in Dayton’s Oregon District. They were taking a break after weeks of reconstruction work on Green’s house, which had been damaged by a severe tornado two months prior. When a gunman appeared out of an alleyway and started shooting, Green and his father got as close to the ground as they could.

“I kept telling him to get up, we got to go,” he recalled. But Mr. Fudge died in his son’s arms that night, one of nine people murdered by a gunman who managed to fire off more than 40 shots in less than 30 seconds.

Green says he lost more than his father; he lost a dear friend. On top of that came the financial cost of both burying his father, which ran into thousands of dollars.

All U.S. states and territories have a crime victim compensation program that reimburses victims of crime for related costs, funded by a mix of fines, forfeited bail, and other fees. The funds help with funeral costs, counseling, loss of work earnings, and other expenses. However, each state maintains its own eligibility criteria. In Ohio, Fudge was not deemed a “qualifying victim.”

In March 2011, eight-and-a-half years before his death, Fudge pled guilty to a drug trafficking offense and was sentenced to a three-month home monitoring period and three years of probation. Ohio’s victim compensation program denies aid for individuals who’ve been involved in certain felony offenses within ten years, essentially barring people who have paid for the victim compensation program from benefitting from it.

When Green’s application for his father was denied, he was livid.

“It’s like [the shooter] is winning both ways — he’s taken our family members and then you’ve got to worry about how to pay for burying them,” he says. “My dad shouldn’t be held accountable for his own death.”

Six other states — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Rhode Island — also have laws denying compensation to victims of crimes who are involved in prior or ongoing felony offenses, or are engaged in felonious activity at the time of their victimization. An average of 36 percent of claims in those states are denied as a result, leaving victims or their surviving family members to pay out of pocket. Green says in his case some costs were partly offset by donations and his own health insurance, but much of it he paid himself.

Green isn’t the only one facing this issue.

It’s like getting kicked while you’re down.

Alayna Young was shot in her left leg in the same attack that killed Green’s father in Dayton last year. She was in the hospital when she found out her health insurance had lapsed four days before. “I immediately heard the cash registers in my head,” she said, and left the hospital the same day. After missing almost six weeks of work due to her injury, she was also denied compensation from the state. Young had been taking prescription Adderall, and her claim was refused due to a blood test showing the presence of amphetamines in her system.

More than a year later, with fragments of the bullet still in her leg, Young still owes close to $80,000 in medical fees. “I might have to file bankruptcy; that’s not something I want to do but I don’t see any other way,” she said.

“When people are victimized, we should aim to provide them with the services they need to heal and be safe, period,” said John Maki, the author of a 2019 paper detailing Illinois’ experience with crime victim compensation issues. Across the country, there are a wide variety of barriers preventing victims from receiving the support they need, ranging from denials due to drug tests to issues with the aid application process. The result is a patchwork of aid that varies by state: In Montana, nine in ten victims receive aid in an average of 60 days, but in West Virginia, only three in ten applicants get support and decisions can take as long as 210 days.

Maki said recent times have seen a push for possible change. “A growing number of states have begun to reexamine their crime victim compensation program, looking for ways to remove barriers to services. That’s not only the right thing to do for victims, but it’s also smart and cost-effective public safety policy.” Ohio is among them, and in November the state senate approved a bill reducing the disqualification period for those with a prior conviction, increasing compensation to survivors who require counseling, and no longer punishing victims in possession of drugs at the time of the crime.

But for some survivors, the exhaustion and trauma of the last year is still exacting a major toll.

“A letter came and said I could appeal (the compensation denial),” said Green, “but who’s really thinking about that? I’m still in the process of grieving. I said, ‘to hell with it.’”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Young. “There was a lot of back and forth and I already wasn’t in a great state of mind to really deal with any of this,” she said. “It’s like getting kicked while you’re down.”



An Ambitious Urban Farming Program Aims to Tackle Hunger. Residents Aren’t Sure They Buy In.

Rachael Fox moved to the McGinley Square neighborhood of Jersey City seven years ago after being priced out of New York City. She has Lyme disease, which limits her ability to work, so she is entirely reliant on SNAP (which amounts to less than $200 per month) and disability benefits for her income. Last year, she got an electric scooter, which has made food shopping easier. In the past, she had to walk a quarter of a mile to visit the grocery store, only to sift through rotting produce, or plan her budget around a once monthly trip to Shop Rite, which required the cost of a cab one or both ways.

“If you’re like me, and you’re on food stamps or you’re low income, a lot of the way that you survive is, you have to know which stores to go to and what to buy where, and that option has now been taken away in the era of COVID. Anything that could help and provide food would be a huge boon,” Fox says.

Jersey City’s poverty rate is 18 percent — that’s more than 47,000 people out of a population of around 265,549 (by comparison, the national average hovers at around 10.4 percent). About 32 percent of those living below the poverty line — around 14,751 people — are African American; another 17,000 people who identify as Hispanic live in poverty.

Google Maps’ distribution of grocery stores throughout Jersey City shows at least 160 places to buy food, many of which are concentrated around the busy, densely populated Journal Square, McGinley Square, and West Side neighborhoods. In areas like South Jersey City’s Greenville, where 53 percent of the population is African American, and Bergen-Lafayette, where that number jumps to 62 percent, the choices thin out considerably, especially if you don’t have access to a car.

That startling lack of food access was the impetus for a new initiative: In partnership with AeroFarms and the World Economic Forum, 10 vertical farms located in senior centers, schools, public housing complexes, and municipal buildings were slated to begin opening at the end of 2020. The pandemic slowed the project’s progress, but Stacey Flanagan, head of the Jersey City department of health and human services, still expects “the first two farms to be ready by the end of [March 2021].”

The farms will grow 19,000 pounds of leafy greens such as kale and arugula annually. Flanagan says the program’s initial rollout focuses on providing nutrient-dense greens to residents, with a wider variety of produce in the future.

The greens will be distributed to the public for free — all that’s required is that the participants register for the program. The three-year contract with AeroFarms will cost Jersey City $1 million — half of the money will go toward building the farms, while the other half will be dedicated to maintenance once the farms open.

On the surface, the program seems like it will be an asset to a city plagued by food inequality issues. Fox tells me that, as a high-risk person during the pandemic, she’s shopping at outdoor farmers markets much more often, despite the expense. She feels that any produce that would supplement her SNAP benefits would be a blessing — especially if the city could find a way to deliver her allotment.

Still, some Jersey City residents are skeptical.

There was immediate backlash to the implication in initial press releases announcing the initiative that participants would be required to take nutritional classes or even attend health screenings. That raised immediate concerns about participant privacy, as well as concerns that it could be condescending to users.

“If there’s a signup table with one person sitting in the corner saying, get a health screening here, that could benefit people who maybe don’t have the ability, or don’t have the time to go to a doctor, but we need to understand how the city is going to use [that data] and where that data is going to be stored and, and how it might potentially be shared,” says Leslie, a Jersey City resident of 13 years  who asked that her last name not be used.

Still, some Jersey City residents are skeptical.

Flanagan told me that residents will not be required to participate in any outside programs in exchange for their allotment of free produce. Instead, there might be what she calls a “point of education,” at the pick-up location, where participants might receive a recipe for a smoothie along with their produce, or an offer to check their cholesterol, through the city’s partnership with Quest Diagnostics. She added that every aspect of the program involving data collection will be conducted by a “city or medical professional,” and that it will be kept “completely confidential as per HIPPA laws.”

Tatiana Smith, a single mother, doula, and founder of the Westside Community Fridge, says she has to travel to other parts of the city for food but she’s still decidedly unenthusiastic about the vertical farming program. She says that the city should drop the education portion altogether, because it feels disconnected from the needs of many low-income communities.

“What would be engaging is to take a community member and have them come in and talk about a recipe from their culture and pass it on. But not to give out random recipes. People already know how to cook,” she says. In fact, nearby community gardens all over New Jersey and New York frequently host community potlucks —  some specifically aimed at the neighborhood’s international community —  in which residents are invited to share a favorite dish, meet each other, exchange recipes, seeds, and vegetables, and ultimately build bonds of closeness between neighbors.

Smith is still undecided if she’ll be signing up for the program herself. If she does, she says she’d ask city officials why they never consulted directly with community members about whether or not they even wanted a program like this.

“It’s typical of these types of initiatives that want to help but don’t bother to tap in into what the community is doing and how they live,” she says. “There is this idea that black and brown people seem to not care about their health, but black people have had a long history of food justice work, and now [the city is] saying, ‘We’re gonna introduce healthy eating to you.’ We’ve been eating like this for a long time, but because of systematic racism, low income people have had to resort to poor quality food.”



The Latest Stimulus Bill Had Tax Breaks for Race Horses, But Left Stable Workers Without Help

In addition to enhanced unemployment benefits, $600 stimulus checks, and renewing the eviction moratorium, Congress’ most recent $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill included some unrelated surprises. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose home state hosts the Kentucky Derby, added a last-minute rider called the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. The act would improve the welfare of thoroughbred horses by ending the practice of medication abuse, which often leads to horse injuries and deaths. Additionally, Congress extended tax breaks for the racehorse industry that would allow all racehorses to be claimed as depreciable property over three years, translating to tax write-offs of up to $500,000.

Yet, despite Congress’ concern about the welfare of thoroughbred horses, they have all but ignored the plight of the frontline backstretch workers who are responsible for their training and care. They have spent months facing down coronavirus with little financial or public health support. Backstretch workers are predominantly immigrant workers from Latin America and the Caribbean. Many live on-site with other workers, often crammed two to a room with the kitchen and bathrooms shared communally. Yet, many of the workers who care for these prized animals subsist on low wages despite the fact that in New York State alone, where the famous Belmont Park is located, the thoroughbred industry generates more than $2 billion in annual revenue. And when COVID-19 arrived, they weren’t ready.

Since immigrating from Chile in 2002, Caroline Klicey has spent most of her time in America working at Belmont. As a hot-walker, every morning she would take thoroughbred racehorses out for morning walks to stretch out their tense muscles before a race. The work is challenging and the pay is low but, in addition to her husband’s income, the $450 she earns a week is sufficient enough to raise her four children comfortably.

The track is also more than just a place of work; it has become her community. Most of Klicey’s friends are also backstretch workers, she met her husband at the track, and her children frequently spend time at the track after school and on weekends. Prior to the pandemic, she found it hard to imagine a life away from the backstretch.

“Everyone who works here is like a family. We treat each other well. In the morning everyone greets you with a smile. It’s a beautiful thing to work there.”

Yet, when the pandemic forced New York to temporarily shut down live racing last March, many backstretch workers like Klicey, who took great comfort in their “recession-proof” jobs, suddenly found themselves out of work and on food pantry lines.

“Early on it was really difficult for us. My husband was laid off for a few months and I had to stay home with my kids. We lived off our savings but getting food was difficult, but thank god for the food pantry, we got through it.”

As the pandemic spread like wildfire throughout the New York City metro area, Belmont’s backstretch community proved to be a ticking time bomb. About 800 people are employed at Belmont’s backstretch, with nearly 600 workers living in dormitories on the property, where the cramped quarters created the perfect environment for the virus to propagate. At the peak of the virus, between March and April, 100 backstretch workers were infected.

In response, The New York Racing Association (NYRA) suspended all racing at all New York State tracks in March until it was able to contain the virus. Joe Appelbaum, President of The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen Association (NYTHA), an organization representing horse owners and trainers, found himself with the unprecedented challenge of mitigating a possible public health catastrophe as well as maintaining animal welfare.

“We were presented with a very difficult challenge because it’s not like college dorms where they just shut the doors and send everyone home,” he said. “These are these guys’ homes or their permanent residences might be in Mexico or Guatemala. Plus you had a horse that needed to be cared for.”

At the backstretch, we always take care of our own.

Although racing was temporarily suspended, some backstretch workers continued to be employed, as care for the animals was deemed an essential service. But with no races scheduled, workers like Klicey who prepared horses for races were left without work altogether. For those who were still employed, many had subsidized their wages with second jobs at the track, such as concessions. With live racing suspended, and many unable to collect economic recovery payments due to their immigration status, those workers were forced to find other means of supporting themselves.

Karen Chavez, the General Manager of NY Race Track Chaplaincy, which provides services for the backstretch community, saw a sharp spike in need of their services. Chavez saw the toll the pandemic was taking, firsthand.

“When racing was temporarily canceled, financially it was tough for many of the families,” she said. “We saw a lot of men and women with panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Our food pantry services grew from 60 families to 360 families in just a couple of weeks.”

Since last April, NYRA has been able to rein in the virus, with no new cases currently among backstretch workers. Still, they are not taking any chances.

“NYRA is following all New York State Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance regarding social distancing,” said Patrick McKenna, Director of Communications for NYRA. “Facial coverings are mandatory for anyone on the property.”

With the virus under control for the most part, in June, racing resumed throughout New York State, albeit without crowds in the grandstands. In turn, horseracing saw a minor resurgence in popularity. As the pandemic initially brought most professional sports to a halt, with many players such as in the NBA choosing to opt-out, horseracing was able to fill the void. On the first five days racing resumed, Belmont handled $76,264,891 in online wagers, an 84 percent increase from last year. On its opening day in June, Belmont’s handle of $10,972,254 set an opening day record, topping the previous record of $10.7 million from 2010.

Still, with the money rolling in, the army of immigrant, low wage backstretch workers continued to labor behind the scenes with little public recognition. As owners enjoyed federal tax breaks and the horses benefited from increased safety regulations, workers continued to endure low wages, occupational hazards, and wage theft, without the added benefit of hazard pay. However, many are reluctant to work anywhere else. Despite its flaws, the backstretch offers an opportunity for a close-knit immigrant workforce who have few other options; like five million other essential workers, many are undocumented.

Caroline Klicey proudly describes the intimate connections workers have formed with one another in the backstretch. When one worker falls sick, others will bring them soup. When one needs to borrow money, another will be quick to help. Marriages, christenings, and Quinceañeras are performed regularly amongst the stables full of horses. With workers hailing from Central and South America, on the backstretch they form a vibrant mosaic of cultures, creating its own unique cultural identity. Admittedly, Klicey acknowledges that the pandemic has brought with it challenges she had never foreseen, but she’s adamant that because of the culture of self-reliance fostered at the backstretch, they were able to get through it.

“At the backstretch, we always take care of our own.”