It has been no less than 35 years since Nicolas Tejada left behind his house and life in Chalatenango, El Salvador, for the United States, yet he shivers even now from flashbacks of violence and war—grainy images of cruelty and loss that have come to define his home country.
When he arrived in Boston in 1988, it was much easier than it is today to find work and get established, he says. He began by packing chocolates, and subsequently took various janitorial positions. Eventually, he was working 70 hours a week for a cleaning service and property-management company. With steady and reliable work, he was building a new life.
But now, at 69 and living alone, Nicolas struggles in retirement. His sole income is the $800 he receives each month in social security, which must cover all his expenses—electricity, gas, cable TV, and more. In the face of daunting inflation, food has become a luxury.
“God put a light in the heart of whoever started this pantry. A light in the heart of anyone who even thinks of helping us in Chelsea.” – Nicolas
Fortunately, he says, his local food pantry, GBFB partner La Colaborativa, in Chelsea, has proved a blessing. He depends on them for everything from fruit and vegetables to meat and rice. Even better, he adds, the pantry offers cultural staples, such as Maseca—maize flour to make the tortillas and other foods popular with Salvadoreans.
He is so appreciative of the pantry’s work that he has become, one of its most steadfast volunteers. Waiting in line one day last year, he looked around and realized they needed help. Without asking questions, he jumped out of line and began distributing food. After everyone finished cleaning up, he asked if he could come back again. “Everybody said yes,” he said. “And that was it.”
“God put a light in the heart of whoever started this pantry,” Nicolas says, adding—“a light in the heart of anyone who even thinks of helping us in Chelsea.”
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