Tears of change

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We’ve said it before that one of the first times people come to our program is one of the hardest. Not only are they answering personal questions to complete strangers in front of many other people waiting for a food hamper; but they’re also coming to terms with the fact that despite every effort to support themselves they need food assistance. You may remember our intake process video from Matt’s post, but here’s the other side to the intake story. Let me introduce Ashley, a single mom of five children.

I never imagined coming to a food bank – especially with all my children with me. I try to work as many hours as possible while they’re in school but it doesn’t always work. If one of my kids gets sick, I have to call in to work because I don’t have anyone that can baby-sit, and I can’t afford to hire anyone. That’s part of what set me back actually: one kid got sick after another. My boss has been really understanding which helps. She’s a single mom too…The people who helped me register for a food hamper were really nice. I didn’t want to be too greedy taking everything from the checklist, because I knew I’d get paid in about a week and could then go buy these things. My kids are great in understanding that sometimes I can’t provide them with everything. But it really helped that the people at the counter tried to put me at ease and encourage me to take more food items if we didn’t have them at home, even if I could afford to buy them in a few days …I had no idea how much food that would mean though. I broke down in tears after the volunteer finished packing my hamper. Someone who has never met me before just changed my life more than I could ever imagine.

If you’re already a single parent you may understand how Ashley is feeling through all this chaos. But if you’re not a single parent, try to envision yourself in this situation. So if you’re a parent with a partner, imagine that your other half isn’t there to provide another income or to help you watch the kids. And if you’re not a parent, imagine that you have to take care of yourself and also a few children.

At one point you had a partner to help you handle everything that happened with all the kids – but now it’s just you. It’s pretty overwhelming right? Luckily your children understand the situation, but that doesn’t make life any easier. You try to sacrifice things for yourself and budget the best you can, but sometimes it means that you just don’t have it all together. Sometimes you won’t be able to buy their most desired toy to put a smile on their face on their birthday; or have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving.

When you have a limited income, sometimes it means missing out on celebrating holidays. You might be able to make up for it a few days later but it doesn’t make it easier as a parent that you have to make your children wait until you get paid before they can get a birthday present. You know they’re not making a fuss because they don’t want you to feel bad, but they don’t realize that you already do.

Now you’re coming here for a food hamper, after trying to explain to your children that you’re struggling – without worrying them. You started by not checking off much, because you think there are people who need this service more. But then you’re touched when the staff try to encourage you to take more because programs like us are around to help people when they fall in these struggling circumstances.

You’re trying to stay strong because you hate when your kids see you cry. Also it would be weird to cry in front of a room full of strangers. However you can’t hold back when the volunteer finishes packing your hamper. Before coming here you had next to no food in your cupboards and fridge, but now you’re confronted with a bunch of possible meals. There’s a selection of anything from yogurt, to school snacks, to vegetables, to meat, and a wide variety of other products.

As you can see it’s pretty evident that we’ve touched Ashley’s life in a significant way. However what she doesn’t realize is how she’s touched the lives of the people who work at our program. Her tears of joy show the volunteers that though each task is small, it has an irreplaceable impact on a person’s life. This single mom has come to us with no idea what to expect, and leaves us without enough words to thank us for all we’ve done.

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