Finding hope through hardship
Several years ago, Jeff and his wife Margaret joined the Reaching Independence through Support and Education (RISE) program through the Drew Lewis Foundation. RISE originated with the Northwest Project, a fiveyear campaign to pilot anti-poverty strategies in Springfield neighborhoods. The couple had been living in survival mode, feeling overwhelmed by the bills that remained unpaid at the end of every month.
Through RISE, Jeff was able to finish his degree, and he received a promotion at work. His family established reliable transportation and refinanced their home. They were in a good place, and things were starting to look up.
But then the pandemic hit. Jeff, who works full-time for a manufacturing company and part-time at a convenience store, went from working 60 hours a week to only 40. He had worked so hard to create financial stability for his family, and after just a few months, he was struggling to pay the bills again.
Thankfully, Jeff qualified to receive food assistance from the Drew Lewis Foundation.
“They gave us fruit and vegetables, cheese, milk, cereal and a lot of other food. They even delivered it to our home when we couldn’t get to the distributions,” he shared.
Jeff wasn’t ashamed to ask for help when life got difficult.
“We needed all the help we could get. At the end of the month, we still had bills and debts to pay. Those weren’t going to stop just because we were in a tough spot,” he expressed.
Receiving food from the Drew Lewis Foundation gave Jeff, his wife and their children one less thing to worry about.
The Foundation began partnering with Ozarks Food Harvest to host Mobile Food Pantries last spring. Amy Blansit, CEO of the Drew Lewis Foundation, quickly mobilized her volunteers and staff to respond to the increased need in the Springfield area caused by COVID-19. Ozarks Food Harvest worked with the foundation to provide food for the distributions for several months. Week after week, hundreds of cars lined the block in front of the building to receive food.
“Being part of making sure people have their very basic need met is fulfilling and heartbreaking at the same time. People had tears in their eyes as we handed them a week or two worth of their basic food needs,” she shared.
Amy was familiar with Jeff and Margaret through their participation in RISE, and she was happy to help the family put food on their table.
“Being able to help them reduce one expense to make it through this year was a great feeling for our whole team,” she said.
Jeff has now regained hours at work and is no longer receiving food assistance. He’s working hard to recover the stability his family had established before the pandemic.
“When we needed help, they were there for us. We are so thankful for this. The Drew Lewis Foundation is eager to help people that need it, and they will do whatever it takes to make a difference in someone’s life,” he said.
So many people like Jeff are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic and receiving help through Ozarks Food Harvest’s Mobile Food Pantries and other hunger-relief partners weekly. We will continue to be here to offer the help they need while getting back on their feet. Thank you for your continued compassion that is helping neighbors in the Ozarks facing challenges of all kinds.