The Power of Having Someone in Your Corner
Buying groceries from a gas station isn’t ideal, but Jennifer didn’t see any other option. She was new to town and didn’t have a car. She could make it to the local Stop and Shop on foot to buy food for her and her teenaged daughter, Omi. The problem was that the food wasn’t healthy – or cheap.
So when she discovered that the food pantry at The Salvation Army DeKalb Corps Community Center was just a five-minute walk away, it was like an oasis appearing.
“The gentleman working there was so great,” Jennifer said. He would help her fill her backpack and rolling cart with fresh produce, cereal, pasta, and other items that allowed her to cook a decent meal. When he learned that one of Omi’s favorite treats is M&M cookies, he would save some for her whenever they got them at the pantry.
“That made her feel special,” Jennifer said. “Someone had paid attention and actually cared. So much love was passed on to us there.” Jennifer and Omi needed that love after all they’d been through.
Jennifer has suffered from multiple health issues her whole life – including asthma, severe allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, and thyroid and neurological issues. Just before the pandemic started, she had a tumor removed from her breast. (Thankfully, it was benign.)
Family drama and unhealthy living situations led Jennifer and Omi to bounce around from place to place for several months as Jennifer tried to recover – all in the middle of the pandemic. When an opportunity to move in with a childhood friend in DeKalb opened, it felt like a fresh start.
Unfortunately, the friend started spouting racist slurs and using crystal meth, and Jennifer was once again looking for a safe place to land. Knowing of the help she’d received from The Salvation Army, she called to see if any other services were available there.
Before she knew it, Erin, a caseworker at the corps, was arranging for her to move into a hotel for a couple weeks so she could rest and fully recover while looking for long-term housing. “She was so wonderful,” Jennifer said. “It was overwhelmingly beautiful the help they gave us.”
Above All, Love
Erin talked with Jennifer daily and visited regularly to deliver toiletries and food. She helped Jennifer secure low-income housing she qualified for because of her disabilities. The Army paid the deposit and first month’s rent. Erin also got Jennifer enrolled in a utilities benefit program and another program that provides transportation to and from Jennifer’s many medical appointments.
“She was our angel,” Jennifer said. “She walked me through the whole process of getting the aid I qualify for. I didn’t know what to ask for. I’d never been homeless before.” Though life has often been a struggle, Jennifer said she’d never been in a situation that severe before.
Perhaps most transformative, Erin suggested Jennifer join the Army’s Pathway of Hope program, which offers individual case management to help struggling families become self-sufficient. Through this program, Jennifer identified goals to set her up for long-term success, including getting her health in order, securing a part-time job so she can afford a car, and going to school so she can secure a better-paying job.
Jennifer feels empowered for the journey ahead thanks to the help she’s received from Erin and The Salvation Army. “Erin checks up on me and has become like a mom-figure. She’s amazing. It gives me a lot of security knowing we aren’t alone. It changed the dynamic of the situation to have someone like Erin in my corner,” Jennifer said, tearing up.
“The Salvation Army is a lifesaver – literally. It meant community, support, love. Above all, love,” Jennifer said. “What family should be is what The Salvation Army means to me. We have family here.”