Food Pantries – Who Do You Know That Needs Them??

10 May

Until March 16th when I lost my job, I was employed full-time since I was 15 years old. I started out on a work-study program in high school and have never collected unemployment. Since 1997 I’ve worked as a virtual admin under the name, The Write Hand, as a side business for fun-money, but today it’s for survival. With so many life changes over the past 8 to 10 years, it’s nerve wracking to know that there is no cushion in the bank and my 401k has been depleted. I stopped counting how many resumes I submitted when the email folder reached 153 confirmation messages. I deleted that folder, I looked around my apartment and realized, “All this could be gone in an instant.” I had a good cry, I jumped on my Harley and rode all alone for nearly 250 miles. (She is the last thing I will sell if it comes down to it). It was a rough time, but I woke up on April 1st and told myself, “April Fool you are NOT.” I thought that was a good day to make a change in attitude, a change in focus, and a change in my life for the better (so I’m hoping).

This struggle has undoubtedly been the worse I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m not a lazy person, I’ve worked hard at one, two, and three jobs since I was 15. I’ve paid my taxes as I should, I’ve supported more charitable causes than I could even count if I tried, I’ve made food, passed out food, and donated food to those in need. I’ve been the mouth and promoter for so many worthy causes that I’ve been dubbed, the pusher. I was once given a t-shirt by a dear friend that said, “Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again.”  Now I have never been what you might call wealthy, but I have never been in dire need either. I have always considered myself blessed and I try religiously to not ever take anything or anybody for granted.

Circumstances in the past two months have brought me to a place where my appreciation for the good life and my appreciation for my friends has grown exponentially. It’s said that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, great googally moogally ~ that’s the dern truth. I’ve always been frugal, use coupons, catch sales, shop at thrift stores, and never really went hog-wild on spending (ok, my 1902 Hoosier cabinet was a hefty $2,500 investment and for several years I was a scrapbook nut buying all the gadgets and gizmos to preserve my memories). Even my Harley was a mere $4,000 not tens of thousands like so many spend.

My 401k runneth out… With May rent, utilities, insurance and the like there of, the funds have nearly evaporated. I have found myself in the past several weeks selling things on eBay and collecting stuff for a yard sale, while also researching opportunities where I can receive assistance from various organizations.

ComEd & Nicor (utility providers in IL) gave me a connection to CEDA, where I applied for the LIHEAP utility grant. Both of those utility grants were approved and credits were made to my utility bills. Oddly though, as I’ve always been on the budget billing program, the grants basically cleared up the remain balances from the budget carry-over and in June I’ll have to pay my utilities as usual. So it’s still a win, even if it’s not going to help me month-to-month.

Something I never imagined needing… food stamps, or as it’s called here in Illinois, the LINK card. I stood in the DHS office for nearly four hours but was approved for the card. What a humbling experience to say the very least. I maintain the gruff attitude that I’ve paid my taxes over the years and why shouldn’t I get help from the state… Maybe that’s just my way of coping.

And my ultimate point for today’s blog post… I registered yesterday for our local food pantries in Lemont, Illinois. Humbling – HA! If it weren’t for people like Terri O’Neil Borders of Hope and Friendship Ministries (she also works for the Village of Lemont), the process of asking for help could be rather degrading or at least ooze of defeat. But NOT SO. I’ve known Terri from town, events, and mutual friends for nearly two years at this point, but to go into her office to register for food pantry help, believe me – was not easy. She is one of the messengers that God has given this messed up world to show us all that there is still HOPE. In partnership with Bethany Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church, and Chipain’s Fresh Market, the food pantry services in our town has not only stocked my cabinets, but has made me proud of all the work I did for others in the past, because you just never know who may need your help. And be assured that when my circumstances improve, I’ll be right back at it in full force.

I still have moments of doubt and feelings of anxiety, but I wake up everyday between 6:30 and 7:30 to get moving on my virtual admin business and to promote The Write Hand. I have one steady client for whom I do Quickbooks, web edits with Power DNN and much more. I have one regular yet random client for whom I do transcription of entertainment interviews. I clean house for my neighbor sporadically and one other house recently. I do make some money, but at present it is not enough to maintain my fairly simple life. YET I WILL NOT GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!!!

My call to action for everybody that reads this post: Buy a few extra things when you’re at the grocer and donate them to your local food pantry. A great many grocers have a donation box right in their store. Or take a quick moment now to find the closest food pantry to your home and drop a few items once or twice a month. With economics as they’ve been in recent past, many food pantries are suffering because donations have dwindled while the need is growing higher. You may not consider some standard items as luxuries, but for some a simple stick of deodorant ($1.99- $3.49 average) takes a back seat to a can of veggies and a can of tuna. Do I want to eat or smell good? Hmmm….. some people have to think this way. Be blessed that you don’t.

Maybe you don’t have a pet or a young child, nor are you a senior, so perhaps you may not consider some of these things when you shop and perhaps never even go down these aisles at your grocer. I offer you some FOOD for THOUGHT when shopping to donate.

  • Toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrushes, denture adhesive, denture cleaner, deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion…
  • Household: glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, dish soap, dish rags, sponges…
  • Child care: formula, baby food, diapers, rash cream, lotions, soaps…
  • Paper products: feminine products, adult under protection, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, cups, bowls, flatware, (most state programs like LINK do not allow paper product purchases or they are limited, same with cleaning supplies)
  • Other: pet food, spices, mayo, mustard, ketchup, package mixes, gravies, broths, tea bags, juices..

When buying non-perishable foods anything is appreciated, however I encourage you to consider the options that may lean more on the healthy side. Remember the U.S.A. is the most obese country in the world. And consider this when you see folks that are using a LINK card, food stamps, or other subsidized means – typically speaking the cheapest food items are not usually the healthiest. You may think somebody with meager means to eat should be super skinny, that is NOT the way it works out. A mother can stretch a box of Tuna Helper to feed herself and perhaps 1 or 2 kids (measly portions I assure you). It does not contain all that much nutrition and is high in artificial junk. For the same cost of that can of tuna and Tuna Helper box that a kind person bought and donated, a purchase could be made of two cans of tuna, plus two or three cans of veggies.

I am not exactly proud to say I am collecting the goods and services that I’ve mentioned, but I am proud of who I am, all that I’ve ever done for others, and all that I am trying to do to improve my situation. After a stressful and heartbreaking week of swallowing my pride, I had to take stock in the people that have helped me and to remember the people I have helped in my day (even if I never knew them).

I would certainly be remiss if I failed to mention that I have a great many friends in my life that support me and understand my struggle. They check on me constantly, they put gas in my Harley so I can still have a life, they have bought me meals, they hug me when I am down, they promote my business for me, they offer words of encouragement, and above all else, THEY LOVE ME for who they know I am regardless of my temporary status of need. I am not perfect, but I am perfectly blessed.


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20 responses to “Food Pantries – Who Do You Know That Needs Them??

  1. steve

    May 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    theres nothing you cant do. head up

  2. Debbi

    May 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Hi “U”:…wow, great blog. I know the pain and struggles you are feeling. I also know the joy and security of having good friends who have been by my side since the beginning. I hope security is around the corner and everything you have given to others comes to you threefold. You deserve it. Xo

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you so much Debbi. I appreciate that.

  3. Gregg gallinger

    May 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Very tuff thing to have to go through. Every night at the dinner table we say something we are grateful for,tonight I know what that will be.Thank you for writing about this as we sometimes forget about the simple things that others have to do without. Promise we will make more of an effort to help where we can.Remember someone with friends is never alone. Hope to ride with you soon. Thanks Ursula.

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Thank you so much Gregg. There is a lot to be thankful for, even in my situation I have a LOT to be thankful for. I never forget it and I try to keep a most positive attitude as much as I can. I appreciate your kind words. Hugs, U

  4. Cheryl Robish

    May 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    What a great story Ursula !!! You are truly a talented writer. I’m sorry for your struggles, if there is anything I can do let me know. In the meantime, keep spreading the “good words” !!! Xoxo

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you Cheryl. I know how to find you… So far I’m still above water so if I can just float a while as I gain more business hopefully I’ll being swimming along soon. Hugs My Dear Sweet Friend.

  5. darlene tucker

    May 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    What a sad but great letter, Ursula. When I talked to you the other night, I had no idea what you’ve been going through. That’s another point to make … you never really know what someone else is going through in their life. It took a lot of courage to write your letter and try to make other people think about how much better off they are than a lot of other people. If you have food, shelter and, above all, good friends, you are truly blessed. Situations like this are, unfortunately, becoming more commonplace each day. People need to share their abundance with those who, even though they’re trying their best, are less fortunate. God bless you for all you have done and are doing to help others. What goes around really does come around, Ursula. You’re in my prayers. You can bet that the next time I’m at Chipains I will drop something in that food pantry collection box. Sometimes we forget … so thanks for the reminder.

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Thank you so much Darlene. Yes indeed, drop some stuff at Chipain’s. And you are right about friends… If not for friends getting me out, you would not have seen me the other night. Hugs Girlie.

  6. Lori Liberatore

    May 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    What an amazing blog, Ursula! I have been out of loop, but have been very touched by this. I love your attitude and your posts. Keep it up, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train!!! Take care.

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you Lori. Sometimes it’s hard, but I have to keep a good attitude – otherwise defeat is inevitable. I appreciate you reading the blog and commenting. Hugs Girlie.

  7. Becky McManus

    May 12, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Sometimes what makes a hard thing easier is knowing you are not alone! I was there!!! I was right where you speak of and doing just what you had to do two years ago…..the mind numbing reality of stepping into the line you had previously worked so diligently to help is HARD beyond belief! YOU HAVE EVERY BIT OF THAT AND MORE COMING TO YOU!!! Who would you like to receive help when you offer service to others??? Someone who uses the system and doesnt care?? NO…someone who does unto others as they would like done unto them!! Now dear it is your turn Hold your head up and know amazing things are in your future because I most assuredly think they are!! Be well and keep riding!!

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It is truly appreciated. Peace and Hugs Becky.

  8. Neal Von Ohlen

    May 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Keep your head up. It is always darkest before the dawn. BTW, you write very well. If you email a copy of your resume to me, I’ll try to help you out.

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Thank you very much Neal. I have a lot to be thankful. If not for some great friends putting gas in the bike, there are some days I’d never go out. I am blessed.

  9. Michael Berger

    May 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I never realized this and I already knew you are a dynamite person even though met just a few times. Great things happen to great people. You are a quality person, I know that.

    • imurwritehand

      May 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks Mike. I don’t try to wallow in self pity and I can’t stand to be defeated, so I try my best to keep my chin up and to enjoy my friends whenever I get the chance. Goodness knows there are a few of them that have gone above and beyond to help me lately. Meals, gas in the bike, hugs and shoulders to cry on. Yep, I am blessed.

  10. hope and friendship ministries

    May 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I am just getting to read this, I have not had luck with computers or phones and as of yesterday am connected once again and before I lose them again I wanted to read what I had missed reading. You are a strong and beautiful person inside and out. Walking through the toughest of times I have to be thankful for the challenges. I don’t want the challenges but I know that I am being made stronger and understanding things that others do not- as are you. Know that I and many are ready to listen, hug and help support in any way knowing that you have and will reciprocate now and always! Wishing you peace, love and strength my friend. May God Bless you fully!
    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

    • imurwritehand

      May 23, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you very much Terri. Your kind and uplifting words mean a great deal. I appreciate your help personally and I appreciate what you do for our community. Nobody is guaranteed an easy road to travel, but how you handle the bumps determines if you make it to the end in one piece. Peace and Hugs Sweetie.


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