Lana is a recently divorced mother who depends on The Firehouse Pantry, a GBFB member agency, to feed her young sons. This is her story.
“Both of my sons have special needs – the younger is severely autistic, non-verbal and in a wheelchair – and there’s no one else who can give them the care they need. I had a career in IT, but there’s just no way I can be there for my children and hold down full-time employment. Last summer, I lost my part-time job because I had to put my boys first. When my ex-husband got laid off a few months later, he was unable to pay child support. All of a sudden, we were in serious trouble. You never think you could be someone who can’t afford to feed their kids.
“It was just before Thanksgiving last year and I’d decided that, no matter what, we were going to have a traditional holiday meal. So, when we drove past The Firehouse Pantry and saw a sign offering ‘free’ turkey and other holiday foods, my older son – who has autism – got excited and urged me to stop. I’d never been to a food pantry, and was worried about the stigma that comes with needing that kind of help. I almost didn’t pull over, but I’m so grateful that we did.
“First of all, the people were so friendly and welcoming. They took an immediate interest in my sons and were incredibly patient and caring. They made sure my son had foods that considered his peanut allergy! I was feeling down on myself because I couldn’t afford turkey for Thanksgiving, but their warmth and support changed that.
“Now, we visit The Firehouse Pantry twice a month. And because food is so expensive, the fresh fruits and vegetables and meats we get there, not to mention healthy snacks and juices, frees up money for other essential needs, like paying bills and providing a good life for my boys.
“I tell my friends, ‘don’t feel sorry for me, because what’s happened to my family could happen to anyone.’ Some of them need help, too, and I encourage them to reach out for it. With my sons back in school this fall, I can go back to part-time work. We’ll be OK. I know things will continue to get better, and we’re not alone.” The Firehouse Pantry serves more than 1,200 other clients a month and receives about 90% of all their food from GBFB. You can help families like Lana’s at www.gbfb.org/donate.