LET'S TALK ABOUT MARY
She’s a young woman that I’ve known for some time.
She reached out to me recently to make a donation to our little cause. I was truly touched by her gesture knowing that she wanted to donate to us. Especially since I knew she had enough struggles of her own to overcome. She insisted on sending a check so we exchanged information and that was that.
I was particularly intrigued by her desire to help because both her and her husband were battling serious health issues at the time. We’ve gotten a lot of support from a variety of friends and family members over the years, many with similar life situations so this wasn’t completely unusual.
However, when her check came, I was genuinely touched and surprised by her donation. I thought to myself, with all of their current issues and she’s sending a check like this. Little did I know of her whole story until she shared it with me after a second donation.
Mary wasn’t always in a position to help a nonprofit. In fact, she’s thankful that we’re here so she can give back. Give back to the type of organization she needed at a point in her life. You see, Mary’s story, is both tragic and redemptive at the same time.
When Mary was young her parents were divorced. She was left to live with her abusive father when her mother left. Her childhood was anything but pleasant.
It was so bad that she dreamed of her 18th birthday so she could escape. She often thought about running away but figured she would end up worse off on the streets. So, when she turned 18, she left and never looked back. She moved and landed in Perris, California not far from here.
It was there that met a man and fell in love and thought this was it, a better life. But,
sometimes it’s really hard to escape your past. As she put it, she had no idea what a loving relationship looked like and she fell for what she thought was love and married young. All she ever wanted was to be a wife and mother and NEVER be divorced. They had quickly had children together and she thought her dreams had come true. By the time she realized what was happening it was too late.
Like her father, her husband was very abusive to her. She kept convincing herself that his he would change and things would get better. They did not! With his addiction problems things were hard for the family and she struggled to survive and provide for her kids. Putting a tasty and nutritious meal on the table was impossible
It was then that she learned the ways of the fast-food joints. While she was able to
get some support from local food pantries, it was the fast-food chains that she turned to the most. She was fearful to leave her kids alone with him, but she needed to feed them. As a result, she waited until the kids were asleep, thinking they would be safe, and then and go out to stalk the local fast-food places. She knew their routine and the fact that all their leftovers went in the dumpster at closing time. It became a regular routine. Sneak out several nights of the week after the kids went to bed and raid the dumpsters for food.
And just when she thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. When her abusive husband eventually left her things got really desperate. She became homeless.
She and her 3 kids were forced to live in their car for a long period of time. No longer able to sneak out at night to collect food, any sense of pride and self-respect was gone. She was desperate. The food boxes from the food bank didn’t help without a stove to cook on or a home to cook it in. All she had was the fast-food places. KFC became the most regular one because at least there she could find coleslaw, something that was remotely healthy.
She was wracked with fear of getting caught and arrested for trespassing and embarrassed that her secret was out as her kids now saw where the food came from. Can you imagine the fear of getting arrested for breaking into a dumpster to feed your kids? But, with hungry, chicken in boxes, and mashed potatoes and coleslaw in their containers she would wait until the last employee left and then climb the locked gate to the dumpster area to collect her kids food.
Seriously though, take a moment to think about that emotional roller coaster. She was so afraid of getting caught and arrested but her kids were hungry. No parent should have to struggle with that indignity, not while we're wasting up to 40% of the food supply. And certainly not in this great country of ours.
And yet, as bad as it was for Mary, it got worse.
At Mary’s lowest point her children were removed from her care. She worried about this often and tried to make a plan. She was blessed to have a pastor in her local church come to their aid. Her kids were placed in a loving home so that Mary could do the hard work of getting back on her feet. Through counseling and a lot of hard work she turned her life around.
Eight months later she was reunited with her kids and on her way to a better life. She got a job, an apartment, and her life was moving in the right direction for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever. While she still needed support from the local food pantry for a period of time, her dumpster diving days were over.
Today her life even includes donating to Bracken’s Kitchen. She is so thankful for organizations like ours that go beyond a dry food box and deliver freshly made meals that only need a microwave or could even be eaten cold if needed. She often wonders what it would have been like if there was a Bracken’s Kitchen close to her to meet her needs.
For all the Mary’s in the world, we will continue to work hard and do all we can for them. With your support we can work to ensure no mother or father would be forced to look to a dumpster just to feed their children.