During the winter months, when electric and gas bills skyrocket to keep up with the increased cost of heating homes, money is often scarce – and no one knows this better than Sally, a 68-year-old resident of the small village of Durand, Illinois.
After living with her parents for the past twenty years, upon the death of her father in 2011 and her mother’s transition into an assisted living facility at the age of 92, Sally was homeless for three months, and moved into a new home last winter.
Now, although she is happy to have a roof over her head, she has found that the excitement from her changed living situation is tempered by worry as all of her expenses – from rent to utilities to food – continue to go beyond what she can afford. “I’m way behind on [paying for] everything,” she says.
When faced with these competing costs, Sally usually reroutes money from her grocery budget. But while she manages to get by under these circumstances, she has become intimately acquainted with the discomfort of hunger.
“I never have enough money for groceries,” she says, sharing that she receives $11 per month in SNAP benefits to use in addition to whatever is left over after paying bills. “I’ll go weeks without eating much.”
We met Sally last December during her first visit to Rock River Valley Food Pantry in Rockford, and she was very nervous to be there. But despite the newcomer jitters, she was undeniably excited about the food she was taking home. Chatting with people in the waiting room, with her white coat and hair standing out in a sea of muted grays and blacks, her voice rises above the clatter of carts and chatter of guests: “I hope they still have turkey left! I want to fix Christmas dinner for me and my mom.”
As the weather takes a turn for the colder and the days fly by in a countdown to the winter holidays, we ask that you keep Sally in mind. Help us make sure that none of our neighbors in need anywhere in Northern Illinois have to choose between heating their homes or eating a warm meal this winter.