Houston Food Bank stories and videos
Annette Ford, 53, moved back to Houston from Missouri. She and her husband are both disabled and receive food stamps to help tide them over to the time when their social security checks become a stable source of income. Since rent costs nearly $1200, medication for her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, ranges from $75-$100 monthly, and they only receive $125 worth of food stamps each month, Annette doesn’t know what she would do without Bethel’s Heavenly Hands and the Houston Food Bank.
“It would be an awful struggle,” said Annette. “The food bank has really helped a lot. You don’t realize how much it’s needed.”
Annette is used to putting others before herself, acting as the caretaker of her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and sister, who is living with cancer. Both a client and a volunteer, Annette comes to the pantry not only to receive help, but to give it as well.
“Charity comes from the heart…. Everyone should donate. Even someone who is in my shape can donate… they can donate their time, just as I am,” Annette said. “It makes me feel very thankful for what I have… I will help until the day I die.”
Nellie Browning, 41, is a single parent. After her devastating car accident in 2001, leaving her bound to a motorized wheelchair, life has been hard for her and her two boys, ages 11 and 17.
Her rent alone makes up nearly 75% of her disability check, which can be daunting before considering the costs of utilities and food for her family. She is very grateful to Christian Community Service Center and the Houston Food Bank for helping her make ends meet.
“It’s really helpful… when not everybody can afford a certain amount of food every month,” Browning said. “It really helps people out…to help us make it to the next month.”
A former hairstylist and singer, she still keeps her spirits up through song, and it shows in her powerful voice. “I don’t go hungry, with their help. We’re alright, we’re happy—you don’t have to have a lot just to live.”
Stephanie Green, 25, first came to the pantry in need of food and clothing assistance. She receives food stamps and Medicaid while working part-time at Target. Although she sounds like she ought to be financially stable, her paycheck is only $300 every two weeks.
Stephanie takes care of her two children in addition to being the guardian of her brother’s 16-year-old. She’s very grateful for the help and food she’s receiving from the Food Bank, as she is the only adult in her home.
On March 22, 2008, Tatiana had an opportunity to visit and tour the Houston Food Bank. During her visit she packed rice. She was so inspired by what the Food Bank and staff does, and how many people receive help that she wanted to do something too.
After watching an episode of Oprah (Paying It Forward) during the Thanksgiving Holidays Tatiana told her mother, "Mommy, can I use $100 of my birthday money to purchase $50 worth of groceries to donate to the Houston Food Bank and $50 worth of toys to donate to a Toy Drive." This moved her mother and with tears in her eyes, she replied, “Yes!”
In the cold weather on December 5, 2008, Tatiana dropped off four bags of groceries at the ABC 13 Share Your Holiday Food Drive. It is all Tatiana could talk about on her way to school.
Thank you Tatiana for sharing your holiday…and birthday.
Shelby is applying to college this year and got the idea to boost her resume with community service. Because of Hurricane Ike, she decided the most useful service would be to hold a food drive and bring the donations to the Houston Food Bank. She made fliers and put them up all over her neighborhood. The fliers informed her neighbors what she was doing and gave them two weeks to gather food. After the two-week period Shelby went back to everyone’s homes and picked up the donations. She also spoke with her preacher, who made an announcement at church to donate either food or money. From this, she raised many food items and $1,000.
Shelby is also very involved with the A Capella Choir at her highs school, and each year the choir holds a food drive then donates directly to a local church or pantry. When Shelby told them what she was doing, by a 2/3 vote they agreed to give their donations to her so she could grow her donation to HFB.
She had help from her entire family in this project. Her families drove to Houston in a rented U-Haul on Friday night, November 15, were at the Food Bank first thing Saturday morning, and returned to Garland, Texas as soon as they left the Food Bank.
The food drive consisted of 3,000 non-perishable items and took up two full pallets. Shelby was really excited to do this for the Houston Food Bank and our community. She wants to make sure Hurricane Ike victims have a good and healthy Thanksgiving.
Sue was in Indiana visiting her parents when Ike hit the Texas Gulf Coast. She has to make the trip back and forth to Indiana often to care for her parents. She knew while watching the media coverage of Hurricane Ike’s destruction that she’d come home to help. As soon as she made it back to Galveston Island, Sue starting making phone calls to find where she could volunteer. She is currently volunteering at the Islamic Circle of North America, and will continue as a regular volunteer at Gleanings from the Harvest once things get somewhat back to normal.
“I’ve lived in Galveston for six years; it’s the first place I’ve lived that really felt like home. The water and the sunsets are relaxing. It’s home.”
Sue lives on disability, affording her only $644 a month. “When an emergency comes I have to make choices. Sometimes the apartment has to go. I have cancer and haven’t been able to work for four years. Texas has better healthcare and cancer treatments.” Sue has lived on the streets and in her car from time to time. After the hurricane Sue didn’t have a place to live when she returned from Indiana. While volunteering Sue ran into a citizen picking up ice who is allowing her to stay in his rental property.
Helping others has always been in Sue’s heart and it she plans to continue that way of life – in sickness and devastation.
Chassity, Destini and Jenay
Chassity was at Second Mile with her daughter Destini, 4 years old and her niece Jenay, 10. She attends school at Prairie View A&M, but came home because she knew she needed to be with her family during this difficult time. She’s currently staying with her fiancé’s mother and helping take care of everyone. Six people live in that house.
It has been difficult since the hurricane. “Our food supply is low and everything we had is spoiled.”
Chassity’s home has some property damage they are trying to deal with it.
Chassity and her family have been surviving on snacks and non-perishables, but it’s difficult. “I just want my family to have a hot meal.”
“When I saw all the volunteers and all the people coming to help, I just teared up. People really come together in times like this.
“Thank you , thank you, thank you!”
“It’s tough when you haven’t been through this before.”
Kenneth and Opal
After Kenneth tells me his first and last name and Opal only gives her first, I ask if her last name is the same: “for 63 years,” Kenneth says with a grin.
The couple lives in Alvin in a mobile home. Unfortunately, they sustained a lot of damage. Their roof is damaged and their porch is gone. They had to throw out a lot of food because it has gone bad.
This is their first time to come to the disaster relief site and they confess that they have nothing to eat at home and that this will be a big help.
Kenneth and Opal just moved here three years ago from Phoenix and this is their first hurricane. They laugh nervously as they recall how scary the storm was. They didn’t know if their house would still be standing.
To donors: “It’s really good of you. It’s really, really nice,” says Kenneth. “These people are really, really nice.”
Mayor Martin of Manvel, Texas
Manvel and the surrounding areas were quite devastated by Hurricane Ike and she says that without the Houston Food Bank they wouldn’t have survived.
“This was a difference of life and death for us. We had nothing,” she says as she indicates to the pallets of food, water and ice provided by the Food Bank.
“Without the Food Bank, we would not have survived.”
“We greatly appreciate this.”
The San Antonio Food Bank also did a food drive and delivered 22 pallets of food, which have also been nearly all used up now. The Mayor can’t say thank you enough for the efforts of Texas food banks.
People from all over the area have been coming to Grace to get help, not just Manvel residents. She estimates that 15,000 people have been helped here, and there are only 8,000 residents in Manvel.
Manvel EMS and police went out delivering food, water and ice to people who couldn’t get to the church to pick it up.
The Mayor says her community is fairly poor and a disaster like this is a huge blow for many families. To give an idea of the income-level of her community members, she says that 60% of kids here are on the school lunch program.
One of the biggest challenges for Manvel since the storm is that their well system is run by electricity and with no power, there’s no water.
“It’s been pretty rough,” says Tammy of the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Tammy and her family stayed home and rode out the storm. She watched as Ike tore down her fences, took away her electricity and damaged her home.
What’s more is that her in-laws, all of whom live in trailers in Liberty, found refuge in her house. This meant she had 10 people and 12 dogs in her home. This also means she has 10 people and 12 dogs to feed. They’ve been doing okay because they had stocked up cans and Wal-Mart opened yesterday so she could buy some more food. They also have had access to a generator, so they have had electricity as well. She came to Bayshore to get ice and food to send back with her in-laws when they return home.
“They have nothing,” she explains.
In addition to the Hurricane, she told me that her husband’s truck was stolen from the airport in Denver, Colorado. He works in Wyoming and came home to Houston to be with his family during the storm. When he finally made it out of Houston, he found his car was gone. The police finally found it, but it was in bad shape and many parts had been taken and resold.
“It’s been a rough week, but it’s going to get better.”
“Thank you so much for being here. It is overwhelming to see so many people who care” she says of all the volunteers at Bayshore and Food Bank supporters.
“I don’t think Houston was ready for this.”
Jason is a volunteer and a client at St. John Neumann. He works for a fiberglass company, but won’t be able to work for the rest of the week. Since he’s not making any money, he’s hoping that FEMA will help with his bills.
Jason and his family (wife and two kids, age 3 and 2) are staying in his dad’s house right now. There are 10 people living there at this time. His house does not have power because his neighbor’s tree fell on the powerlines. “It’s hard to eat and cook without the power.”
Jason lives nearby St. John Neumann and used to go to church there and has enjoyed volunteering It’s really important to help people out in their time of need.
This food really helps out a lot. He says that without this place to get food, he and a lot of other people would have to go to somewhere for shelter.
“This food is feeding a lot of hungry people.”
Thank you so much!
Felipe and Samantha
“It’s been horrible!”
Felipe was at Grace United Methodist Church in Manvel, Texas to receive groceries, water and ice for his family. He and his wife have three kids. His 10 year old daughter, Samantha, was with him.
The family evacuated to Mission, Texas and stayed with some family for a few days after Ike hit. They just came back to town and found their house had been damaged by the storm. Unfortunately, they spent all their money on evacuating. They don’t have money for repairs or food. On top of that, there is no food available anywhere. They are so thankful they can come to Grace United Methodist Church for help.
“It’s hard to get anything. There’s no food in the grocery store.”
Felipe works as a cook, but hasn’t been able to work for the past week. It doesn’t look like he’ll go back to work this week either. This is really hitting them hard financially. The food they are getting at Grace really is helping them out a lot.
“Thank you so much. I have no words! Thank you so much!”