Remake America: Getting through tough times together

Times are tough—for many of us, if not all of us. I must admit that the last couple of years have been the most economically difficult ones Jim and I have faced in our 30 years together, due to lost jobs, lost income, lost retirement funds. And we're far from being out of the woods yet.

We're definitely not alone. Yahoo's Remake America web series makes that abundantly clear—while providing hope for all of us. The Remake America weekly video series, an election year initiative that kicked off in March, follows the lives and challenges of six families as they strive to get back on track toward achieving the American dream. The tagline of the show is Real families, real challenges, your solutions as Yahoo! visitors are invited to participate and connect with the families by viewing the weekly episodes then posting comments—advice, opinions, encouragement—for the folks featured. Additionally, experts weigh in on the challenges of the chronicled families.

One great thing—at least as far as instilling hope for struggling grandparents like many of us here on Grandma's Briefs—is that one of the six stories on Remake America is that of grandparents Bill and Donna Clarke (above). The Clarkes face tough challenges similar to what other baby boomers may be currently working through.

For many years, Bill and Donna lived “the American dream.” They provided well for their three children, owned two homes, traveled the world. Then Bill suffered a stroke. He could no longer work the corporate position he'd held for years, so he and Donna decided to open their own hardware business. They used their retirement funds and now, thanks to the economy bringing their livelihood to the brink of collapse, Bill and Donna are struggling, to say the least. Difficult as it is facing home foreclosure and more, matters are made worse as their daughter Erin, a single mom of three-year-old twins who's featured along with them in "Remake America" episodes, faces losing her home as well.

The Clarkes were one of the families chosen for Remake America because their story was so impactful, says DeAndrà Harrison of DKC Public Relations, Marketing & Government Affairs, a representative for Remake America. After the tragedy of his stroke, "Bill had a second chance, instead of just saving his money and surviving, he put it all in a business that he had no idea would be successful. They have been struggling to hold on to that 'second chance' ever since."

You might think viewing Bill and Donna's struggles would be depressing, but the Clarkes express surprising hope and optimism. I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Bill, and his responses show the same positive attitude he and his family exude in the Remake America episodes, despite the challenges they face and difficult choices they must make.

Grandma’s Briefs: In what ways has it been difficult for you to share your circumstances and challenges (hardships with business, foreclosure of home, etc) with strangers online?
Bill Clarke: It has not been difficult sharing our situation with strangers. Once we first made the decision to participate, we did not look back!

GB: What have been the positive outcomes of your experience with Remake America? What are some of the negative outcomes?
BC: The overall experience has been very positive. We would definitely do it again. Thanks to RA, our business really has a chance to survive. I feel overwhelmed with the support we have gotten from so many strangers. It's just great to see Americans helping Americans.  I am surprised at the communications I get about us being an inspiration to other small business owners. The only negative part is some of the comments, but we try to not let that bother us.

GB: How has your situation affected your time as a grandparent?
BC: I just don't have the time I wish I did to spend with my grandchildren. I just missed Erin's twins' birthday party. I hate that. I felt I missed a lot with my own kids because of my job, and here I go again!

GB: What do you hope your children and grandchildren learn from you documenting your challenges?

BC: I hope my grandchildren and others watching learn to keep praying, and keep swimming. With the help of God, and lots of hard work, anything is possible.

GB: Your daughter Erin is facing financial difficulties of her own and is also featured in Remake America episodes. How does it feel to be going through the tough times at the same time as your daughter?
BC: I hate not being able to help my daughter financially. It is very difficult watching her struggle, and know I can do little to help. I just have to trust in her heavenly father.

GB: What have you learned about yourselves—personally and as a couple—from your health and financial struggles as well as by being featured on Remake America that you would not have learned otherwise?
BC: I have learned what I already knew, that my wife is terrific. She has been through so much since my stroke. It has been so wonderful to have her at my side.

You can view the most recent Remake America episode featuring Bill and Donna Clarke HERE. Be sure to view previous episodes, too, to learn their story from the beginning. And don't hesitate to leave comments for Bill and Donna. They may be the grandparents being featured, but we're all going through these economic struggles together, and a little encouragement and hope goes a long way toward recovery for us all.

Remake America is part of Destination 2012, Yahoo! News’ yearlong elections program. Find out more and catch up episodes featuring the Clarkes as well as the stories of the five other families featured by visiting Remake America on Yahoo!

Photo credit: Anna Naphtali Photography

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this post.

Today's question:

What advice has best helped you get through difficult economic times, past or present?