Providing Food and Friendship for a Hard-Working Grandmother

Aug 12, 2021

To hear Joanna talk about Linda Kaste, you’d think the two were lifelong friends. The women trade stories and pray for each other often. “She’s my girl,” Joanna said of Linda. She’s also the food pantry coordinator at The Salvation Army Hammond-Munster Corps Community Center, the place Joanna credits with keeping her fed.

Before her retirement, Joanna worked in steel mills for decades, never missing a day and taking on additional shifts whenever they were available. She was raised by a single mother and though there was much they couldn’t afford, they never went on public assistance. The main thing Joanna remembers is “all the love given and shown.”

These days Joanna lives on her modest pension and social security payments. She struggled to make ends meet, and eventually moved into what she calls a “senior citizen complex.” Affording groceries was also a challenge. A woman of faith, Joanna said, “When you call on the Lord, He will provide.” She was incredibly grateful when He provided the Salvation Army food pantry – and Linda.

If you ask Joanna about her favorite foods from the pantry, you’ll get a full list. She loves the fruits and vegetables, adding that she’ll make a pie whenever they have fresh apples. She also mentions the chicken, potatoes, canned goods, rice, noodles, juices. “I improvise with that I get. I can make any of it into a meal,” she said.

“But first and foremost, I appreciate the customer service,” Joanna said. “They’re like family.” The feeling is mutual. “She is a bigger blessing to me than I feel I am to her!” said Linda.   

Not having to worry about the necessities has freed Joanna up for her favorite pastime, helping to care for her granddaughter, who is now 9. She helped her navigate virtual schooling this past year, no doubt teaching her by example about resilience in the face of hardship. And gratitude.

“I am so appreciative and grateful for the help I receive,” Joanna said of The Salvation Army. “When you’re lost and don’t know where to go, knock on their door. From the bottom of my heart and the depth of my soul, I know you’ll find help there.”

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