Faces of Hunger: The Working Poor
Oklahoma families are struggling on a daily basis to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Parents are working multiple jobs and skipping meals just so they can make sure their children are fed. The average family size we serve is three with at least one person working one or more jobs to make ends meet. The average annual income is $12,130 – well below the poverty line. They have tough decisions to make every day: whether to fill up the car or put food on the table; whether to pay the utilities or put food on the table; whether to pay the rent or put food on the table. All it takes is one illness, one dead car battery or one rent hike and they can no longer take care of their family without help.
And for those without family or friends nearby, the Regional Food Bank and its partner agencies become their support system. Sometimes it's for a few months, sometimes it's longer. The Regional Food Bank is there to provide hope, in the form of food, to the hungry throughout our state – regardless of the circumstances. When families are living in poverty, they have to do without a lot of things – food should not be one of them.
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Your Gifts in Action: Revisiting a Special Family
We first met Savannah, Victoria, Cheyenne and Chance and their mom and dad, Shawn and Kris, in the winter of 2006 at the Salvation Army of Oklahoma City. If you were touched by their incredible story then, you'll want to read about how your gifts continue to impact the lives of this extraordinary family today.
Seven-year-old Savannah and her 6-year-old sister Victoria are different from most kids their age – they actually love going to school. Their family's kitchen wall is adorned with academic awards the two girls have received in the past year and a half. They were even sad to say goodbye to their teachers and friends for a week during Spring Break.
But it hasn't always been so easy for Savannah and Victoria to do well in school. Two years ago, their family was driving across the country from their dad Shawn's Army base in Washington to their home state of South Carolina when their car broke down in Oklahoma City. Unable to afford to fix the car, the family wasn't sure where to turn. Fortunately, they found food and shelter at the Salvation Army of Oklahoma City, a partner agency of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The support of friends like you helped them get back on their feet.
"It's going to make me cry thinking about where we were then," says their mom, Kris.
After leaving the Salvation Army, the family moved into a motel. Kris has been working full-time ever since they came to Oklahoma, but her income was barely enough to pay for their housing costs. Shawn worked odd jobs at the motel for extra income and took care of Savannah, Victoria and their younger siblings, Cheyenne, now age 5 and Chance, now 2&fac12;.
While the family was living at the motel, they developed a relationship with Traveler's Aid, a Food Bank partner agency that provides transitional housing to individuals and families in need like theirs. Now they live in a house provided by Traveler's Aid and receive food assistance almost weekly. They're so grateful to know that friends like you have given to help sustain them as they continue to work hard to achieve their goals.
"You are still my heroes, because you take care of us," says Shawn, with tears in his eyes. "It's been the only way we've been able to survive."
The family is saving up for a house of their own and hopes to be able to give back themselves some day since friends like you have given so generously to help them. Savannah, Victoria, Cheyenne, Chance, Kris and Shawn are all so grateful for your compassion.
"Because we were able to feed our kids, we were able to keep our family together," says Shawn.
"Serving in the military doesn't make someone a hero – I got paid for doing that. But no one pays people to be generous and donate. I think those people are heroes."
-Shawn, Winter 2006
You Bring Hope to Families in Need
Turquoise is a hard-working single mother. She has a full-time job as a nurse's aid, working evenings while her mother watches her 7-month-old son Monty. She wants to go back to school to become a nurse, so she's thankful for the relevant experience she receives through her job. But her income just isn't enough to pay for rent, utilities and food each month.
She receives $40 a month in food stamps, but they rarely stretch through to the end of the month. Because Monty is lactose intolerant, Turquoise has to feed him special baby formula, which is very expensive. She says she has to buy at least one large can of formula each week.
Since most of her money goes toward bills and food for Monty, Turquoise rarely gets enough to eat. She says she often skips meals and will force herself to go to bed when she's really hungry. Sometimes she's able to eat meals in the cafeteria at work, but that's often the only meal she'll eat all day.
Turquoise knows she needs to eat enough in order to stay healthy and take care of Monty, but these days she just needs a little extra help.
"Right now my icebox is totally empty," she says.
Fortunately, friends like you are helping families like Turquoise's this holiday season. Thanks to your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, she can come to Mission Norman, Inc., a Food Bank partner agency, for help with food. This food pantry provides nutritious groceries to about 120 families in need each month.
Turquoise is so grateful that friends like you have given to help those in need like her.
"I really appreciate the things that have been done for me and my family!" she says.
You Help Young Families Get Back on Their Feet
Like most mothers, Melanie would do anything for her children. So when she recently needed help to feed her family for the first time in her life, she did what she knew was necessary.
Melanie and her husband, John, have an 8-year-old son, Chris, and a 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. John works full-time, but with the rising cost of groceries, gas and other bills, his income just isn't enough to make ends meet. Melanie has been working part-time, but she rarely gets the hours she needs each week.
Chris and Elizabeth used to be on the school meal program, which helped with the family's food budget. But because the requirements changed at the beginning of the school year, the family no longer qualifies for the program. Melanie says it's been very stressful to find healthy foods to pack in the kids' lunches because groceries are so expensive.
Fortunately, she knows there's a place she can go when she needs help with food. Thanks to your gifts to the Regional Food Bank, she can take home nutritious groceries from the food pantry at The Father's Business in Moore, a Food Bank partner agency. Families in need can take home fresh fruits, vegetables and other important staples, as well as clothes from the clothing closet.
Jimmy Milligan, pastor of Living Faith Church and director of the food pantry, says they serve up to 500 families per month, just like Melanie's.
Melanie is so grateful for the food she receives – and she knows it's all possible because of your compassion.
"Thank you for being a source of hope for a lot of people," she says. "It means a lot to know there's somewhere we can go to get help!"
You're Giving Hope to Families in Need
As a mother of six, there's no worse feeling for Stacy than not being able to provide for her children.
Last year there was a time when she and her husband couldn't even afford the 30¢ per meal their children needed for their reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches – it was an extra $18 a week that they just didn't have. She said the cafeteria staff would give the kids cold peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches when they couldn't pay – a stigma since all the other children were buying hot meals. Stacy says her kids were so ashamed that they chose not to eat at all rather than have the other kids watch them wait for their free sandwiches.
"There are days I have no money," she says, tears pooling in her eyes at the memory of her kids being too embarrassed to eat.
Life wasn't always this way for Stacy and her family. She and her husband both had full-time jobs and could afford to pay their bills and the mortgage on their home – they didn't worry about making ends meet. But the economic recession hit them hard, and in ways they never expected.
Stacy lost her job last year and hasn't been able to find steady work since. Her husband still works full-time, but his job is hourly and he doesn't make quite enough to cover all the family's expenses. Without a steady source of income, their home is now in foreclosure and their water and electricity have been shut off.
Stacy says they've been staying with relatives and friends while they work to pay off their overdue bills – but they're worried their savings aren't going to hold out much longer. They're in the process of applying for food stamps, but until then, Stacy has to stretch what little monthly income they have to buy groceries for eight people. Knowing that summer was close and the kids wouldn't have reduced-price school meals anymore, she just wasn't sure how she was going to feed everyone.
But thanks to your gifts to the Regional Food Bank, food is one thing Stacy doesn't have to worry about anymore. She can come to the food pantry at Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany, a Food Bank partner agency, for nutritious groceries when she really needs them. She's so thankful for the food she receives – and for the help of friends like you.
"I am so grateful for your help!" she says, with tears of gratitude. "I could never give you enough thanks to tell you how much you've done for my family. We would not be able to make it if not for the Food Bank."
You Help Young Families Get Back on Their Feet
For many families, summer means a time for vacations, camps and fun in the sun. But for families like Tanika's, it can be the most challenging time of the year.
Tanika is a single mother working hard to raise her two children, Devin, 10 months, and Mimi, 7. She loves her children and would do anything for them, but it's hard to provide the best when she's constantly worrying about whether to pay bills or buy groceries.
Tanika recently lost her full-time job, so she's depending on a part-time job to support her family while she looks for more permanent employment. Living on a reduced income has been almost more than she can handle. She says all of her money goes toward utility bills, rent and transportation, so she rarely has enough left over to buy food. She also has an outstanding medical bill looming over her head, but until she's back on solid ground, she won't be able to pay it off.
"Everything is so expensive," she says.
Now that Mimi is out of school for the summer, Tanika knows she'll need extra help to feed her children.
Fortunately, she's found the help she needs at the BritVil Food Pantry in Oklahoma City. This partner agency of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma provides groceries to more than 500 families like Tanika's every month. And it wouldn't be possible without you!
Tanika says it's a huge relief to know she can count on the BritVil Food Pantry for the food she needs this summer – and year-round.
"This keeps me from running out of food for my children!" she says gratefully.
Thanks to you, Tanika's young family will have enough to eat during the hungry summer months. What an irreplaceable sense of relief you've given Tanika – and so many other parents just like her – by choosing to share your resources with those who have less.
"Thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart!" she says. "I really appreciate it."
They're Giving Thanks Because of Your Gifts!
Loretta is new at being a single mom after going through a painful divorce last year. She's doing her best to support her four children on her own, but times are tough.
Loretta says entering the workforce again to support her family has been a huge challenge – especially because she has two children under the age of two. She had to take time off from her job as a waitress when her youngest, Cheyanne, was born. She says she's still trying to catch up on bills.
But rent and utilities aren't the only expenses Loretta has to worry about. Diapers and baby formula for Cheyanne are very expensive, and with three other growing children, it's almost impossible to come up with enough money to buy groceries for everyone. Now that the holidays are here, Loretta wants more than anything for her kids to have a special meal – but she just needs a little help to make it happen.
"Right now I don't have the money to buy all this stuff," she says.
Fortunately, friends like you are helping families like Loretta's every day. Thanks to your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Loretta can come to Infant Crisis Services, Inc. when she needs help stretching her budget. This Food Bank partner agency provides formula, diapers, baby clothes and other baby necessities for new moms, as well as food exclusively for toddlers.
Loretta is especially grateful for the food she receives for her youngest children – and she knows it's because of the generosity of friends like you.
"Thank you!" she says. "Everything you donate helps. Everything you do, I really appreciate. God bless you!"
You're making life brighter for so many families and children in need this holiday season. Thank you for your compassion.
Alecia is six months pregnant and recently moved to Seminole, Oklahoma to live with her dad and aunt. Though she says it's been comforting to live with family during her pregnancy, it's been difficult for them to make ends meet. Both her dad and her aunt have jobs, but their combined incomes just aren't enough to pay for rent, utility bills and food for everyone. And Alecia is so close to her due date that she won't be able to start a new job until after the baby comes.
Fortunately, friends like you are helping Oklahomans in need like Alecia every day. Thanks to your gifts to the Regional Food Bank, she can take home nutritious groceries from Interfaith Social Ministries, a Food Bank partner agency. She's so grateful for the food she receives. Thanks to you, she and her baby are receiving the nutrition they need to stay strong and healthy.
Antonette's 9-year-old daughter loves to play basketball. She plays on a local team with other girls her age and practices with her 8-year-old brother every chance she gets. She almost didn't get to play in her first game this season – but it wasn't because of an injury or illness. It was because Antonette and her husband simply couldn't afford the $12 team uniform her daughter needed.
The couple has been struggling to make ends meet ever since her husband, a security guard, was shot by an intruder at work three years ago. Despite several surgeries, he remains unable to return to his job. Shortly after her husband's injury, Antonette lost her management job. With a mortgage, bills and groceries for four people – including two growing kids – their resources are being stretched thin quickly.
Fortunately, your gifts to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma make it possible for Antonette to take home free, nutritious groceries from the food pantry at St. John United Methodist Church. This is the first time she has ever come to a food pantry for help – and she's so grateful for your generosity and compassion.