Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hunger is a secret shame that families often try to keep from others. For a family living in hunger, shame and secrecy is the bond they share. For parents who struggle daily to provide for their families, facing the reality of empty plates at their tables at every meal can be overwhelming and embarrassing. No matter how hard they may strive to provide for their families, they often feel they have failed their loved ones. They keep their hunger to themselves.

One Monday morning, I picked up the phone and a woman was calling who said she needed help. She felt she had no choice but to come for us for food for her family, but she had never asked for help before, she did not know anything about getting food from us, and she had questions. Any one of us here at Harvest Hope could have taken that call, but I was so glad that I picked it up to hear her story.

I am a single mother and I have three children. A week ago I realized I did not have enough to feed all four of us, so I stopped eating and gave all the food I could afford to my children. I was hoping that something would happen, that I would get some kind of break, but a week has gone by and I can’t go on any longer without eating. I do not get paid again until next Friday and I don’t know where to turn. I work but I just don’t make enough to meet all the expenses. Everything –gas, food, my rent and bills – it all costs so much! I can’t keep up with all the expenses.

I heard that Harvest Hope gives food to people and I want to know more about what you do and how that works. I do not want a hand out. I will work for you to get the food I need. I teach my children how important it is to pay our own way in life. I try my best to be a role model to them and not ask for hand outs, and do not spend my money frivolously.

I am at my wits end. I have to feed my children and myself and I need to get food from anyone like you who will help. But I have to be honest: I am so afraid someone will see me there and think I can’t provide for my family. I am afraid someone will take my children and I do not want to lose my children.  Can you help just for one week until I catch up? I will do whatever I can to pay you back when I get the chance.

Her call meant so much to me, but it is not unlike so many calls we get every day. This mother did not want to ask for help, not out of pride but out of fear she would lose her children. I assured her we would help, we would not judge, and she would not lose her beloved children. All that mattered is that we provide for her the food she needed for them all.

It helped when I told her that when she got on her feet she could volunteer or donate food back to us. But what was important was what happened NOW, that we help her through her immediate hunger crisis. When someone cannot provide food for themselves or their family it is a dire crisis RIGHT NOW. Hunger does not wait.

We work with individuals and families when they come to us to help them receive food through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which you may know as food stamps.  SNAP provides enough food to last most families through 10 to 14 days. We have found that if we can provide 90 to 100 pounds of food to people when they come to us, that will get them through the shortfall for the rest of the month. We have also found that for those who come to us for food, if we can provide that 90 to 100 pounds they only visit us three times. After that, they have lifted themselves out of their
immediate crisis and get back on their feet. But our ability to provide that quantity is entirely dependent on donation levels, and often we have no choice but to give less. We can only give what we’ve got – it’s pretty simple math, really.

Harvest Hope has different programs to provide food to those in need across 20 counties of South Carolina. We have programs like the Kids Cafe and BackPack programs to feed children, two Emergency Food Pantries for those in the Midlands who can come to us, senior boxes and Totes of Love to feed seniors and Mobile Food Pantries to directly deliver food to those who live in remote or rural areas isolated from many services. We work with over 475 agency partners who provide food to pockets of poverty and need throughout 20 counties.

Helping us provide these services, or to make sure we have 90 to 100 pounds of food for those who come to us, can be simple and easy. Just $30 will help us give enough food to one family, a family like the desperate mother and her three children, to get them through the month.

March and early April are very crucial and urgent times to donate to Harvest Hope thanks to a wonderful matching opportunity through the Alan Shawn Feinstein Foundation. The Feinstein Foundation has set aside $1 million to provide to hunger relief charities across the country, and will MATCH cash and food donations made to Harvest Hope before April 30. Total funds available from the Feinstein Foundation match can be $35,000! By donating now to help us feed hungry children, the generosity of the Feinstein Foundation will help your gift go even further towards their needs.

Over the last 15 years the Feinstein Foundation has raised more than $1.25 billion for over 2,000 agencies and houses of worship nationwide through this generous annual matching campaign.

If each of us, each family, will do this to help another family then think of the difference it will make to so many who need just a little help right now.

On behalf of our family at Harvest Hope to your family, will you help others today?

Our most gracious love and appreciation to you,

Denise Holland

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