Standing at the doors of the Wellstone Center food market with her twin boys, one child strapped to her front in a carrier and the other on her back, Emily was anxious about visiting for the first time. She wondered to herself: What will people think of me? Will the process be easy? Will I be judged for not being able to provide for my children? These are common questions that many visitors have on their first trip to a food shelf.
Emily took a few deep breaths and walked in to the food market. Right away she was noticed and greeted by a Neighborhood House food intake worker.
“The staff stepped up right away and helped me carry the kids and helped me shop, putting everything in my cart for me. I felt like a princess,” Emily said.
At the time of her first visit to the food market Emily, a single mom, said she was unemployed and not receiving county assistance or any kind of food support. She says she and her two young children were living on tortillas, rice and beans.
“I just remember thinking back to that visit, that this is the best experience at the worst time of our life,” she said. “We had never been without food, like we were then. We needed food, and all kinds of other household stuff, diapers, and then the gas just to go out and get those things.”
Neighborhood House’s Food Support team members are trained to help connect families to other programs and services as needed. After Emily shared more about her family’s needs, the two food intake workers who helped her during her visit referred to two other Neighborhood House programs: our Family Centers, for assistance with getting new furniture, and our Parent & Early Childhood Education (PECE) Program for temporary care.
Emily has been looking for a job so she can provide more for her children and move into a safer apartment or housing option. It has been difficult, however, since she is currently a stay-at-home mom with no support. She has been applying for various positions, but would prefer one where she could bring her children with her on the job.
Emily says she has been apprehensive about having someone else watch her children – who she says have never been out of her sight – and when a job opportunity arose to become a bus driver, where she could bring her children along, she still needed temporary child care while getting her certification. She reached out to the Neighborhood House PECE team to see if they could provide that care while she trained and studied for her Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) exam.
“I hadn’t had anybody watch them ever, so it was a big leap for me,” she said.
Emily grew up in an unsafe home, where she was the victim of sexual and emotional abuse, so understandably, trusting others is not something that comes easy for her. However, after talking on the phone with Amanda, the PECE Program Manager at Neighborhood House, and coming by for a visit, she said felt she was ready to give it a try.
“This was the first place I trusted to bring my kids to,” she said. “Just seeing the ways they liked Amanda right away was so great. My children are mostly nonverbal and both of them have increased their vocabulary just from attending a couple of times. Amanda told me, ‘he called me Teacher Amanda today. I was so happy.”
Emily and her children became temporary participants in the PECE program in January and part of February while she trained for her CDL exam. Though she still has many hurdles to climb, such as finding employment and safer housing, she said she has definitely felt a new wave of
confidence after coming to Neighborhood House.
“You helped me conquer my number one fear – my kids being away from me,” she said. “I don’t trust anyone else with my kids, and now I know they can do well in a school setting. They love it here.”