Listening to the hardships of some of our pantry beneficiaries isn’t always easy. But as hard as the stories are to hear, it’s also heartwarming to know how our pantries are making a strong impact on lives all over Guilford County. Our last interview in this series is with a 46-year-old mother of six, Kimberly. To say that Kimberly has had a hard life would be quite an understatement.
Her struggles started as early as three-years-old and continued throughout her childhood. When she was 14, the state removed her from her home and placed her in foster care until she turned 18. But despite a less than ideal situation, she studied hard and made straight A’s. And did we mention she was maintaining as many as four jobs throughout high school? Hard work was just part of the hand she had been dealt. But escaping her struggles made the hard work worth it.
She ended up moving to Florida, finishing college with three children in tow and marrying a roofer. She helped her husband run his roofing business, even participating in the roofing jobs herself. They bought a house, living modestly but comfortably. Then, things got rocky again. Kimberly and her husband went their separate ways and the neighborhood she called home started going downhill. Kimberly felt like she needed to get out for the safety of her family, so she picked up her kids, six of them now, and moved in with her mom here in North Carolina.
Then she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Work at any level became difficult. Even taking care of her kids became hard. Her mom also got sick and Kimberly was trying to care for her mom and her children at the same time. Someone robbed the storage facility containing all of her possessions and what wasn’t stolen was completely damaged by wind and rain. Life had beat her down. And recovery has been no cakewalk.
“I feel like everything I worked for is gone. But I still rely on my faith in God. Life has been a hard pill to swallow but I try to put my faith in the Lord. I try to be a good person. I’ve had to learn to be a good receiver. Not just a good giver. My situation has humbled me a lot. I’m used to taking care of my kids on my own, without help.”
Now, cancer free, her oldest child at 25 and her youngest at 15, she is trying to put her life back together again. However, she is currently living off $720/month. It’s really hard to feed her three teenage boys still at home, much less pay for other living expenses on that kind of budget. When the boys started school at Grimsley, she remembers explaining to the teachers that buying school supplies would be a struggle for her. The teachers explained they could help. They asked her if she could she use other resources too…like food and clothing from their pantries. Her reaction was simply, “Wow. That would be amazing.”
Kimberly tells us that during cancer treatments, she would sometimes go for days without eating. “I wasn’t eating a lot because I was trying to get money for my kids to eat. My son was not eating a lot because of the emotional stress he was taking on from my having breast cancer. The food pantries have helped him start eating again. He loves the fruit snacks and vegetables from the pantry. He also loves tomatoes.”
Kimberly also loves the clothing pantry. They help her clothe her kids and even help her feel good about herself, with things as simple as….matching socks. Everything else is icing on the cake. “I am really good at making things stretch. Beans and organic things are amazing. It makes me feel better about what I am eating when I get things like that. Especially after having cancer. I use my money to buy meat on sale.
Kimberly left us with impactful thoughts, so they seem like the only way to conclude our interview.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of. The people who are helping? They’ll get their reward in Heaven. And they’ll even get rewards here on earth knowing that they’re helping someone feel better about their situation. It’s not only important to get these necessities, like food and clothing, to live, but it’s also so nice to know that someone cared for your kids. Someone helped your kids. Someone helped you.”
If you would like to become a BackPack Beginnings volunteer, please visit our volunteer page. Want to host a food drive or make a donation? Your donations will allow us to serve more children in need. Thank you!
Written on 10/19/16 by Courtney Murphy.