Friday, January 18, 2019 Food Bank of the Rockies distributed food to about 200 families at mobile pantries in Denver and Lakewood.
At Dick’s Sporing Goods Park, what started out as a chilly morning quickly turned into a wet, sleeting experience as volunteers helped each visitor load produce, meat and nonperishables into their vehicles. Despite the weather, no one left the line, even if they weren’t dressed for the snow. They needed food today. For many, missed paychecks gave them the courage to stand in the cold, wet weather and seek assistance.
Tressie’s big heart and positive attitude shine through the moment you meet her. Last week she was interviewed on TV, picking up food for the first time at the sam Food Bank of the Rockies’ emergency mobile pantry. “Please put in your story that I’m NOT a single mom,” she tells us. “My husband wasn’t very happy when he saw that.” She laughs, referring to her mistaken identity in the recent TV story. Tressie, a furloughed business systems analyst, has already missed one paycheck because of the shutdown. Her husband works and they’re raising two girls, ages 2 and 7. They know they’ll probably miss another paycheck soon.
“We split our bills. I pay for groceries and daycare. Right now we’re hurting for produce,” she explains while loading a few cans of veggies and some fresh produce into her SUV. “My husband pays the mortgage. We’re good to miss one of my paychecks and we have some reserves. We’re just trying to break even.”
When asked what’s changed during the shutdown, she shares that she usually donates her daughters’ clothes as they outgrow them. Instead, she’s selling them online for a few extra dollars. She’s also doing odd jobs, reaching out on neighborhood websites to see if anyone has tasks she can do to earn a few dollars.
When asked if her daughters noticed anything different, she says, “My 7-year old always asks for things, like buying books from a school book fair. We had to tell her these are dollars we don’t have right now. She’s learning about money, work and the difference between a luxury and a necessity.”
Tressie volunteered at last week’s and today’s mobile pantries. Her church provides volunteers for the site. “I’ve always wanted to volunteer here but I couldn’t because I’ve been working. I grew up poor. Right now I have what I need and I want to give back.”
She shares that having this mobile pantry is such a blessing and encourages people who need help not to let their pride get in the way of receiving. And for those who want to give, please donate.
“Kids are the ones who really suffer. My parents had drug and alcohol issues. Growing up, often there was no food in the house. My brother and I used to walk to the local food pantry and that’s how we survived. Knowing people cared meant so much. Food helped me feel loved as a kid.”
Shy and reserved, Kim didn’t want her photo taken, but she was willing to share a little with us. She’s worked for the government for 28 years. Today was the first time she’d ever visited a pantry to get food. This is her second shutdown experience, and she says this one is much worse for her family. Her husband works and they have two children. “I’m OK,” she explains. “I have a home equity line of credit I’ve never tapped into, but it’s there if we need it. This month we paid only the minimum on bills and we were able to skip some; our church family has been gracious too.” She says there are four families in her congregation dealing with being furloughed. They’re all worried what will happen if it continues much longer.
Trudy waits in line with her elderly mom. After her father passed, Trudy, her husband and their two-year-old moved in to help and take care of her mom’s mortgage payments. She’s worked for the government for six years. They have enough saved for a couple months. Her husband is working, but they’re worried the shutdown will outlast their savings. This is her first visit to a food pantry too.
The weather gets worse and everyone still standing in line is cold and getting wetter. Sarah is near the end of the line. This is her first visit to a food pantry too. She’s dressed only in a blue sweatshirt and lightweight pants and carries a white plastic laundry basket to collect her food. Despite the cold, she stays positive as she share her story. Her husband works for the IRS. He was home last week, but this week, he’s required to go back to work – without pay. They have a five-year-old son. She works part-time at night and stays home with their son during the day.
“It’s stressful and scary,” she shares. “I’ve heard it could go on for months. I hear people ask why we all haven’t saved more. We’ve always tried to keep emergency funds on hand. Last month we had to spend $1,000 on emergency dental care for our son, then our breaker box went out and that cost another $2,000 to repair, plus the breaks on our car needed to be replaced. We spent some money at Christmas as we normally do. We did save. But our savings are gone and now we’re dealing with this shutdown.”
She explains how her husband has to pay for gas and parking as he goes to work without a paycheck. “Since the boom, parking in Denver is really expensive,” she tells us. Her husband tries to find the least expensive lots. “He parks in places that are less safe and walks a long way to the office. It’s still $6 a day,” she shares, shaking her head. “How are we going to pay those expenses when he isn’t getting paid?”
Like the others, Sarah thinks her family will be OK for another month. Her extended family has offered to help, but she hopes it doesn’t come to that. Sarah starts to choke up as she tells us about a Facebook friend she’s only met once. The friend reached out with a sincere offer to help Sarah’s family. “It’s nice to see Americans take care of each other when our government won’t,” she says.
Drenched from the freezing sleet, Sarah still manages to smile and say thank-you as the volunteer helps her load her vehicle with purple cabbage, romaine lettuce, sweet potatoes, oranges, pork chops and several nonperishable items.
Food Bank of the Rockies is here to help families in crisis.
This is what we do all year long. When there’s no shutdown, 1 in 10 Coloradans and 1 in 6 Colorado kids struggles with hunger. Today those numbers are higher. And now we’re stepping it up a notch to help those affected by the shutdown. We depend on generous support from our community, especially when need is greater than expected. If you’re affected by the shutdown, please seek assistance. No one should go hungry. Locate nearby pantries here. If you can volunteer, visit our website to sign up. If you can give funds, share online, write a check or donate by rounding up your change on a debit or credit card through our free Food4Change app.
Everything helps. Thank you!