Neighbor Victoria’s Story

Victoria, a former teacher, and her husband, an electrician, relocated to Illinois with their three young children, ages five, seven and nine. After a client failed to pay her husband for a significant $17,000 project, Victoria and her family found themselves searching for answers.

“I would personally like to thank you [donors and the Northern Illinois Food Bank]. It actually brings tears to my eyes because our family was really struggling. What you’re doing here has not only sustained us food-wise, but it’s also given me hope as someone who didn’t used to be in a position of need. And now I am.”

Victoria is thrilled with the quality and variety of food she found at the Glen Ellyn Pantry, one of the 900 food pantries, soup kitchens and feeding programs in our network.

“Last week, there were avocados. There are tomatoes. This week, there’s cantaloupe. I’m just thanking God that there are these expensive organic fruits and vegetables available to us at our time of need.”

Victoria even found ingredients for a special Valentine’s dinner:
“And then I saw that the food pantry had given us all these lovely pork chops with pesto butter.”

As new folks to Illinois, making friends and connecting to people are important to Victoria and her family.

“There are a lot of very gracious folks at this particular pantry. One of the ladies is a realtor and she and I always have excellent conversations. The folks [who] are in charge are just really lovely. And that just really blessed me.”

With three kids in school, Victoria appreciates the school lunch program but finds the summer times more difficult: “The kids in the summer don’t get free lunches at school, so…it’s even harder to make ends meet in the summer.”

Before receiving help from the food pantry, Victoria noted that “we had almost nothing in the refrigerator, and I just didn’t want my kids to experience that. It was tough. And now that we come here, we have enough on a regular basis.”

The food pantry allows Victoria to save money and work toward a new career in nursing after many years of teaching. “I’m a licensed teacher. I’ve worked with kids for about 19 years. I’m pursuing, through the community college, a second career in nursing.” The money Victoria saves by visiting the food pantry she can use to go back to school and pay for other family expenses.

Rising costs have made pursuing career goals more difficult, “The cost of living here going up has really made it challenging to buy food. This [food pantry] really makes it possible for us to pay rent.”

“My husband works full time, and I’ll be going back into the workforce.” But for now, the food pantry helps Victoria and her family make ends meet: “Your generosity is helping people that really are hardworking.”

Neighbor Story: Markius

Twenty-five-year-old Markius works at a music store while trying to make it as a musician. He and his brother live together while renovating a home for their mother.

After graduating from college in 2020, Markius lost his job and had to move back into the house he’s now fixing. As Markius described, 2020 “put everything on a sort of standstill, but that standstill didn’t mean I didn’t pay bills. That standstill meant I just don’t progress this year.”

If Markius didn’t have the help from the food bank, he would not be able to follow his dreams as a musician.

“Well, if the food bank wasn’t here, I definitely wouldn’t be a musician. My life would be a nonstop, like a nine-to-nine factory job.”

By getting help, Markius can pay for gas, taxes, and other living expenses. “There are a lot of people like me that have loads and loads of potential, loads and loads of creativity and drive, that are being held back by a situation. Thank you for giving me the options and freedom to actually progress in life.”

Markius added that without the food pantry, “I wouldn’t have the option or the time to better myself.”

Of course, rising costs have made life harder. “It’s not a choice whether or not you want to eat. So, it was surprising to me that so many people just spend all their money on food.”

For some folks, the stigma of going to a food bank prevents them from getting help. Markius explained that he didn’t grow up with that idea. He grew up in a very poor area where he saw neighbors helping each other out to get food. At church or at school, people often worked together to solve food challenges. For Markius, getting help with food expenses enables him to invest in his life, to have options and the freedom to progress in life. That’s an empowered neighbor.