Tom and Anna Johnson were happily married, raising four beautiful children, living the life they always dreamed they would. Then, just like that, life as they knew it, would never be the same. In 2003, Tom was diagnosed with stage 4 congestive heart failure.
Aside from his job as a loving husband and father, Tom’s new job was to fight for his life. With Anna working as an RN at a local hospital, the family was able to stay in their current renter’s home in McKinney, and put food on the table. That is until, Anna fell and hurt her ankle and knee. With limited mobility, she had to take medical leave from her job. Now, the only source of income coming in was Tom’s disability check. This was not enough money to support a family of six. They needed help.
The Johnson family, suffering from a crisis they never thought they would face, reached out to Frisco Family Services for help. In meeting with a case manager, they received the support, encouragement, and community resources they desperately needed. Visits to the Frisco’s only Community Food Pantry put food on the table. Gas cards allowed Anna to drive her kids to school, and take her husband to doctor’s appointments. Emergency Financial Assistance helped pay their electric, gas and water bills. Through Seasonal Programs, like the Thanksgiving Meal Program, they were able to sit down as a family over a meal.
“With the help of Frisco Family Services, we realized we were more than just our situation,” said Anna. “We are a family, members of a strong community, and together we can do anything.”
The Rinaldi family never thought they would have to relive the hardest time of their lives. In 2012, Linda, a wife and mother of two, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. To begin chemo therapy treatments, Linda was forced to leave her job. One year later, the family was elated to learn that Linda had gone into remission. She was able to work again part-time, and support her family. They thought their struggles were finally coming to an end.
This year, Linda’s breast cancer returned. It returned more aggressive than ever, and was diagnosed as a stage 4. The family was not ready to face another crisis. They were once again, a one-income household. Her husband’s income was not enough to support them. Medical bills began piling up, and even putting food on the table was a struggle.
The Rinaldi family turned to Frisco Family Services for assistance. In meeting with a case manager, support, encouragement, and community resources were provided. Frisco Family Services assisted with food, gas cards, rent, and seasonal programs. They were able to pay for Linda’s medical bills, and have healthy food to eat for every meal.
“I thought my battle with cancer was finally over, but when it returned so aggressively, I started to lose hope,” said Linda. “There was no way my husband and I could support two kids on just his income alone. Frisco Family Services gave us that hope back.”
One morning a family came in inquiring about food and what all they needed to do to sign up for assistance. The director and volunteer worked with them and got them signed up to receive food on a monthly basis. As the family turned to go sit down while their food was being prepared their son asked, “Mommy, are we really going to get to eat tonight?” It was sad to hear the child ask that question. In today’s environment its hard to believe families go without food but we see it quite often. The funding we receive helps to eliminate hunger in our community and provide families in need with food so that children do not have to worry about when they will get to eat again.
One morning a family we had been providing food to came in needing mortgage assistance. Both the husband and wife were disabled and as their medical conditions deteriorated and their medical costs increased they became unable to pay their mortgage. They asked if there was any way we could help them with their current situation. We were able to pay their mortgage and relieve the stress they were facing. They were so appreciative and as they left you could tell their stress level had really decreased.
Renee has been homeless for most of her life. In the last few years, however, she has been living in her own apartment, recovering from her addictions, and pursuing a growing relationship with Christ. OurCalling has been privileged to walk with Renee through these phases of change. Though transformation has not been easy, and Renee still wrestles with hang-ups and hurts from her past, OurCalling continues to be her place of safety and encouragement. Renee meets with mentor women from OurCalling on a regular basis who function as her “big sisters,” providing her with a model for healthy relationships. We love that Renee freely chooses to embrace these friends, and that she remains open to ongoing growth.
Phidias is a middle-aged man whose life has been marked by addiction, prison, and shattered family relationships. He walked into OurCalling this summer and quickly joined our Discipleship Service Team. While working alongside the rest of the team and serving his fellow peers, Phidias has found at time of sobriety from his addiction and a sense of belonging that he has never known before. Phidias’ confidence and joy have been evident to everyone on the OC team. He recently broke down in tears and proclaimed in a team meeting: “At OurCalling, I have found a family.”
Elena sat in the intake room answering survey questions. When asked if any of her children had to reduce the amount of food they ate or skip a meal because there wasn’t enough food at home in the last thirty days, she answered “yes.” Further questions revealed that her family often misses multiple meals each week. Although her husband works, he just doesn’t earn enough to provide for food, rent, and other necessary expenses for the couple and their two young children. These parents are forced to choose between paying their bills or skipping meals while encouraging their kids to be sure to eat breakfast and lunch at school. By coming to Crossroads, Elena can choose wholesome foods to feed her children and still pay bills.
Danny presented his rent receipt as proof of residence and commented that it was so nice to be paying rent again. This was his first visit to Crossroads for food, and he shared with great joy that he was finally living in an apartment, after being on the street for six years. But his check was not enough to pay the rent, utility bills, and buy food for the month. Rather than choose between buying food and keeping his home, Danny chose to visit Crossroads where he not only received groceries but also had an opportunity to pick out free gently used clothing to begin building a wardrobe and filling the closet in his new apartment.
Tommie has faithfully volunteered at one of Crossroads’ Community Distribution Partner sites for years. She coordinates food delivery to 17 low-income households headed by senior citizens, many of whom care for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Without the food from Crossroads, delivered to their home by Tommie and her team, some days, these seniors with limited mobility would have to choose between eating less or nothing at all, or navigating public transportation, sometimes with kids in tow, to a local pantry, only to receive the small amount she or he is able to carry home.
Read multiple client testimonies and stories of hope, thanks to Cedar Hill Shares.
“I came to the Food Pantry because I did not know how or what I was going to feed my babies that night. Thanks to the pantry my three babies went to bed full and happy.”
“I want you to know I really appreciate everything the Pantry does for me, and may I say, “God Bless You”.
“I am a 76 year old grandmother raising my grandchildren. I couldn’t make ends meet and could not provide food for my grandchildren even though I received food stamps. I heard about the Food Pantry, applied and I am so thankful to Ms. Gene and all of them – I could not have fed my grandchildren had it not been for the Cedar Hill Shares.”
“I am so grateful for the Food Pantry. I am a senior citizen, a disabled widower living alone on a fixed income. The Pantry provides me with fresh fruit and produce to help me live a productive life style.”
“First, I want to say thank you Cedar Hill Shares for all the help and support they have given us. My husband has been battling epilepsy for the past several years – there are times when he is unable to work – leaving us with no income. We prayed and asked the Lord to provide a way. He did just that – we discovered the Food Pantry.”
“I am a single senior citizen living on a small Social Security income. A lot of days I would have nothing to eat after I paid bills. If it had not been for Cedar Hill Shares Food Pantry I couldn’t make it. The kind of food I receive is nourishing and good. Everyone is so friendly and kind.”
“I would like to thank the Food Pantry for the kind of service they have rendered myself and my family in our times of need. God bless all those who volunteer there.”
“In 2003 I was involved in an accident which limited my ability to work. I was hit from behind and subsequently had a brain stroke. I don’t know what I would do without the Pantry, but I do know that I can see God’s hand in the experiences I now have at the Cedar Hill Shares Food Pantry.”
“Today I received a 100% blessing – Cedar Hill SharesFood Pantry paid my TXY bill – a greater blessing is I learned about the services at the Pantry and I am now applying to become a client for regular food” – truly a blessing.”
Willie has a history of commitment to people, to work, and to his country. When he left the Army in 1987, he had served for 12 years. He married and had five children, four of whom eventually joined the military. He also had struggles. By the time had was 35, he’d had 3 strokes and a heart attack, all related, he says, to his addiction to crack cocaine. He divorced. He had problems with work related to his addiction. He says he finally hit bottom, which was what he needed to make the changes necessary to get sober. Although he has been clean of drugs for 5 years now, he ended up homeless after the combination of some poor financial decisions and the end of a relationship. Willie obtained a job soon after arriving at Austin Street Center and has been working 5-6 days a week at a car wash, saving his money and working towards getting a place of his own again. That day is happening soon! He praises his Austin Street Center Case Manager who has helped with connections, resources, paperwork, locating support groups available outside of his work hours, and transportation, and he adds, “Case Managers here really are concerned about people.”
“There is a rainbow, a beautiful ray of sunshine, at the end of this.” These are words spoken by Austin Street Resident Lenora as she talks about life as a woman experiencing homelessness. Married for seventeen years, and currently separated from her husband, she recalls, “I had a job. I paid the bills. I was the one who took care of everything.” She has hobbies that she greatly misses. “I love to refurbish furniture. I love to plant. I love Home Depot.”
On a bus recently, Lenora heard several other passengers make remarks as the bus passed people who appeared to be homeless. Lenora asked them, “What does homelessness look like?” After a bit of discussion with her fellow passengers, she told them that she is homeless—and they were stunned.
Lenora says, “I’ve fallen, but I’m not going to lay there. I just need a hand up. Do I cry about it? Yes. Do I talk with a counselor about it? Yes.” She meets with her case manager regularly, has updated her resume, and meets with Texas Workforce Commission while she looks for work. She finds comfort in writing, and in offering encouragement to other residents of Austin Street.
Lenora finds it difficult to talk about her loved ones. She mentions that is was tough growing up with a mom diagnosed with schizophrenia. She has a daughter who lives in a suburb of Dallas, but neither has transportation to visit the other. With tears in her eyes, Lenora says that she has grandchildren she hasn’t seen in more than a year.
Austin Street Center exists so that Lenora and others like her can live in safety and receive the help they need to move toward the “beautiful ray of sunshine” at the end of their homeless experience.
For Jerry, the road of mental illness and homelessness has been a long-traveled one. When discharged from the Army in 1975, he was already showing symptoms of what was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. Jerry returned to Oklahoma, where he has family, but wasn’t able to keep a job. Hoping to find better employment opportunities than those in the small town he was leaving, Jerry came to Texas. The problems continued however. Each time he got work, he lost it. He has never been able to have his own place, and has spent his adult years off and on in shelters, staying with friends, or on the streets. Now 60 years old, Jerry just moved into his own apartment – his first one ever! His frequent smile widens even more when talking about having a place of his own, thinking about watching football on TV, and having his own kitchen table for the first time. He knows he needs continuing support with his illness, but is thankful that he will finally have privacy, dignity, and some simple things that others take for granted.