Surviving government shutdown

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Two days after FBI agent John Rothleutner and his wife welcomed their third child, the federal government shut down due to dissension over the budget. 

Jackalyn Richmond picks up supplies from Catholic Charities and the Junior League in a distribution the organizations held as a “thank you” to federal employees for the services they provide as they struggle to financially recover from the federal government shutdown. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator

 

Working without pay during the shutdown put stressors on Rothleutner’s family. 

“That’s frustrating for us,” said Rothleutner, who has worked more than five years for the FBI. “We had a rainy day fund, but when you add another child, our savings didn’t last as long as you would expect. 

“It’s a sobering experience that tests our faith, but it also gave us another perspective of what ‘a rainy day’ is.” 

Among the moments of grace that Rothleutner has experienced is the support from their friends, family, church and agencies such as Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the Junior League of Baton Rouge. 

On Jan. 27, as a “thank you” to federal employees, CCDBR and the Junior League distributed diapers and gas cards to federal workers, who are back at work, if temporarily, and are still struggling to recover financially from the shutdown.

“The stories we’ve heard about families not able to afford basic necessities are heartbreaking,” said Danielle Satawa, Diaper Bank chair for the Junior League of Baton Rouge. “Even though the furloughs have ended, we felt this was an opportunity to thank them for their service to our country and help them recover.” 

“Families with young children are always hit hardest when a disaster like this happens,” said David Aguillard, Executive Director of Catholic Charities. “We’re thankful to have a partner like the Junior League to help fill gaps like this in service.” 

Such support has helped people see a “brighter side” during tough circumstances, according to Rothleutner. 

He noted that his oldest child recently celebrated her 16th birthday. As a father, he regretted he could not provide her more in terms of presents. But he said his daughter understood and for her birthday the family focused on the gifts of being together and the joy of celebrating her life. 

“It turned out to be the best birthday,” said Rothleutner. 

He has also seen a new glimpse of humanity, as people gave and did not want anything back when he offered. 

“Blessings come from various people at various level,” said Rothleutner, and added, “Catholic Charities and the Junior League could not have been there at a better time.” 

Looking at the likelihood that there will be another government shutdown, Rothleutner said his family was going to be “more aggressive” and save and sacrifice when budgeting and focus on the essentials. 

“I think it takes grace, prayers, strategizing and discipline,” said Rothleutner.

One thing the family has “in the bank” and cannot be taken away is the many blessings that it has experienced in its trials. 

“Looking forward we will continue to express love, because that is what we have experienced,” said Rothleutner. “Love is the most valuable thing that one shares with another. That’s what the good Lord teaches us at the end of the day.” 

Jackalyn Richmond, whose husband is an employee of the Department of Justice and worked without pay through the shutdown, also expressed gratefulness for the blessings, such as the supplies provided by Catholic Charities and the Junior League, that helped her family stretch things in their financial struggles. 

“I want to thank everyone who has helped people who have been furloughed and others who have been affected by the shutdown,” said Richmond.

“I know everyone goes through difficult times and it’s encouraging to know that there are people to give you hope that things will get better.”