Sanders hears from struggling middle class (NBC Albany)

BENNINGTON, Vt. - As gas prices and the cost of food batter the middle class many are speaking out and sharing stories about their difficult times.

In Vermont they're hoping their U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., can make their voices heard in Washington.

When Sanders asked people to write about their woes he expected a couple dozen e-mails -- maybe. Instead he received about 700 discouraged responses from middle class folks who were doing okay not long ago. And the letters are still coming in.

Roger Sherman lives on a small, peaceful plot of land overlooking the Green Mountains in Bennington. The 55-year-old hoped he and his wife would be able to relax and enjoy the property by now. Instead he's overcome with worry.

"I might have to sell the house. I hate to see that," he said.

Sherman wants to fix up his front porch that's falling apart, but no chance. That will surely put his family over the edge. He's on Social Security and his wife works full time, but it's just not enough. The bills keep stacking up while the pay stays the same.

"I'm just disgusted with the whole thing. It's real hard for me to talk about. I get upset. Because it's going to be hard to heat this winter, that's all," he said.

Sherman is one of about 700 people who wrote to Sanders pleading for help. The senator wanted to hear just how difficult times were for Vermonters.

"They're just economically over the edge and they're moving toward desperation. It was very sad to read," Sanders said.

So he put together a booklet with some of the extremely grim stories of anxiety and sleepless nights.

One of the biggest hardships is the rising cost of groceries. Many wrote letters about having to make difficult, often heartbreaking decisions -- like having to choose between buying food, paying a bill or filling up the tank to go to work.

One woman wrote about being forced to choose between baby food and heating oil.

Among the most troubling was a woman who had to burn her mother's dining room furniture just to stay warm.

Sherman says he's encouraged that Sanders cares, but doesn't know what good it will do.

"I don't think the rest are listening," Sherman said.

When asked if there's a timetable for some relief, Sanders answered, "Yeah, yesterday," meaning lawmakers know they have to do something now.