“I was shy and sensitive when I was young. If I saw someone being picked on, it broke my heart, but I wasn’t brave enough to say something. I am 72 years old, and it’s easier now to speak up and be the voice for others.
I grew up in Mobile. When I was a child, it wasn’t safe to have Black friends or be around them. But my dad was an insurance salesman and went into homes in Black neighborhoods. He took me with him, and I played with the children. My dad loved these families; if he saw a child with few clothes or without shoes, he took them what they needed. I didn’t realize at the time how unusual this was or what a scary time it must have been for him, but I learned to love from him.
I got married when I was 16. I became a nurse and raised my children and later my grandson. After he was grown and I retired, I was restless to help others. I have been a member of Central Presbyterian Church for more than 30 years and took over their small food pantry.
We grew the pantry program from a small closet to helping about 100 families a week and getting to know each of them. We were one of the only food pantries that remained open during the pandemic and shifted from the shopping method inside the church to a drive-through in the parking lot. There were growing pains, but we learned we can feed a lot more people than we thought. We helped 850 families a week during COVID with the assistance of many volunteers. Feeding the Gulf Coast became a great partner.
We now take 450 appointments for our weekly Tuesday distribution. We also have a walk-up line for those without transportation and partner with the United Way to provide delivery by DoorDash for about 160 folks who can’t get here. Most DoorDash drivers don’t know what they are pulling up for and go above and beyond. The Junior League also donates diapers and Depends for us to give out.
This pantry is about food, but it’s more about connections with families and taking a moment to listen to them. They are hungry and need food, but they also need to know that we care.
When I was young, my family took food to a mother and her children. They looked embarrassed for needing something, and that made an impression on me. Many of our clients are single parents and grandmothers raising children. I have been there, too.
Some people are living in difficult conditions in Mobile, and delivering food to homes gives a glimpse of how people survive. We delivered a turkey to a woman who had no stove. She cut the turkey into pieces and cooked it in her toaster oven. Somehow she made 250 pies for her neighborhood in that small oven. Others don’t have refrigerators which limits what they eat.
Needs don’t end at food, and we connect our families to other resources. It energizes me to think of new ways to bring people together to help others. I would love to have a warehouse space where community partners and nonprofits work in our unique ways under one roof. How can we do this better, together?
My job is to love people and if someone is hungry, let’s feed them. I’m going to keep going until people are no longer hungry or lonesome and don’t need this care.
We say somebody should do something. That somebody is each of us.”