Patrick is the sort of person who immediately draws your attention in a crowd, from his height to his broad shoulders to the smile lines etched in grooves around his mouth and eyes.
Today is no exception. In the line of people waiting to pick up groceries at a mobile pantry in Vernon Township, he stands out – and not just because of the bright red shirt he’s wearing.
As a former firefighter and EMS medic who recently retired after 31 years of public service, Patrick receives a small pension from the government. However, that pension doesn’t stretch very far after he pays for utilities, costly medication, and other daily living expenses.
One such expense is housing for himself and his 28-year-old son, who is living with Patrick while working two jobs at FedEx and a construction supply company to pay off debt.
But it’s another living expense that brings him here today: food.
“Food is not cheap, [but] this helps close the gap,” Patrick says of the Vernon Township Food Pantry’s mobile distribution.
Referring to himself as a creature of habit, he shares that he now comes exclusively to the mobile pantry for food assistance, starting after his initial visit on the recommendation of a friend. He loves the meat options offered at each visit, especially the bratwurst and Polish sausage that pop up from time to time.
Today, he’s glad to be taking home staples like milk and bread, along with several different kinds of produce – all healthy and nutritious options for the man who says he doesn’t move around quite like he used to, thanks to bad ankles and medicine-induced weight gain.
But here in the food pantry’s parking lot, where he’s loading those healthy groceries into the trunk of his car, he’s focused not on the negative, but on how thankful he is for the mobile pantry, the food it provides, and the positive impact it has on his health, his home, and his everyday life.
His parting words are accompanied by what might be his trademark smile: “A big huge thank you!”