Dear Friends of Friendly Center,
Nothing can make a mother feel more helpless than having to send her child to bed hungry. And nothing can make a mother feel more secure than knowing her child is protected and well fed. My son and I have food on the table today because of people like you.
Living under the circumstances I face now was never a choice. I was born and raised in Orange, CA, got married and had a son. I went to school and became a nurse. But when my son was 5 years old my husband abandoned us and moved out of the country. We haven't seen him since.
For the last 9 years I raised my son on my own, teaching him the value of an education and the importance of helping others. Life was stable for us. We were involved in our community and gave regularly to local charities. My son excelled in school—I call him “the brainiac”.
Earlier this year, due to cutbacks in the hospital, I was laid-off from work. Many other places were doing the same and I couldn't find another job. My sister and brother's families were facing similar hardships so they were unable to help. With nowhere else to turn, I exhausted my savings and I cashed out my retirement. Once those were depleted things got worse.
At this point we were surviving on what I received from unemployment checks. I began recycling cans and bottles to buy gas. My son had to eat cereal with water for breakfast and we had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner. My son carried a lot of emotional burden because of our situation. I felt inadequate as a mother. I tried receiving help from a few different places, but their resources were limited and not long-lasting. I needed a help up, not a hand out.
I stayed informed on the state of the economy and often checked the unemployment websites for updates. One day I saw a posting with a phone number to call for assistance referrals. When I called the operator told me that Friendly Center was in my area. I had remembered Friendly Center when I was a little girl, but didn't know they still existed nor did I know exactly what they did. I called them and things changed.
I met with one of their Family Advocates, who asked about my needs. She told me about the programs at Friendly Center and she explored every aspect for me. I left that day with a box of food, some bread, a food card for future visits, and an approval for rental assistance. She was my guardian angel.
When I got home, my son couldn't believe the food I had. He said in disbelief, “Where did you get this bread? You mean you didn't have to pay for this? They gave it to you?”
Now a month later, my son and I are doing better. I go to Friendly Center weekly to get the food we need. My Family Advocate follows up with me and my pursuit of a new job.
And though I may not have a job yet, I do have help now. I still have other bills to pay and a car registration to take care of. But the money I save now from food and a couple months of rental assistance will help me catch up. I feel supported now. My son's anxiety has gone down. My anxiety has gone down. I have reassurance that things will get better. I no longer feel alone.
My son is somewhat embarrassed that I receive services and he wanted to stop his community volunteering activities. I told him he can't stop helping others. He can't stop helping others, because now more than ever he knows what it means to receive. Everyone needs food, a place to stay, and clothes to wear. He wants to go to law school, become a lawyer, and one day be a senator. I believe he will be. One thing I've said to him is “When you grow up and if you're ever in a position to give, give.” I always gave, but I could've given more.
I'm 50 years old now and I never thought that I would have to get help like this. You never know when you yourself might be that person. What do you do when your family can't help or you have no family to turn to? You go to Friendly Center. It's a safety net and they will help you get back on your feet.
So from a parent who thought she'd never need assistance; who saw her child go without food; who fell behind on rent; who once gave and now receives; I ask you to look in your heart and consider a gift.
If you are blessed, then give. If you already give, give more.
Give, because it works.
A Grateful Mother