Tough Choices… Food on the Table or Rent

In mid March Karen quietly explained her situation to a Salvation Army staff memeber. It had been over two and a half years since Karen sought help. Over that period cobbling two part-time jobs to equal one full-time on she worked 35 to 50 hours a week. For the single mother of two, two jobs barely provided for her family. Though she barely covered her monthly bills most months, she was pleased her family no longer needed any outside help, that is until recent circumstances overwhelmed her and what little she managed to save evaporated.

The distraught mother explained her sales clerk hours were cut by a quarter during the slow winter months and so too were her hours at the fast food restaurant that employed her. More hours would be coming, but the increase in hours was still three or four more weeks away. When her son became ill in late January, her portion of her son’s recent prescriptions and missing two days of work to care for hime put a strain on her budget. She knew the budget would be tight but keeping faith with her landlord and paid her rent on time. While winter heating bills further impacted here budget and having to replace her car’s battery and two windshield wipers ultimately left her family short of food. With payday still four days she explained that for the last two days they had mainly eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The Salvation Army was pleased to help Karen and her children. Karen’s family received two bags of non-perishable groceries as well as a whole chicken. Fresh vegetables, bread and pastries which arrived hours before were also placed into a third bag. For Karen, the groceries were a godsend and more than enough to get her through to her paycheck later that week.

Thanks to generous donors The Salvation Army’s Food Pantry exists to serve Harrisonburg and Rockingham County low-income families. Many families like Karen’s who occasionally encounter issues due to an unexpected emergency. Monthly the pantry serves between 280 and 320 families with two to three days worth of food. It costs The Salvation Army $39 to provide a family of four with food, bread and other perishables. Over the course of a year, the food pantry provides over 132,000 meals to Harrisonburg and Rockingham families.