Thanksgiving & Receiving | Charles’ Story

Your support helped this faithful volunteer when he needed it most.

Loving his neighbor always came easily to Charles. He spent much of his time in California helping people out at church or the local food bank. But when rent in Long Beach started to outpace his income, he knew he couldn’t stay.

“I kept telling myself that the Lord was going to make a way for me,” says Charles.

He and his wife quickly found a new home here in Phoenix. Soon after, he picked up a steady job as a Security Guard at the Phoenix Convention Center. God even directed his car past Hope for Hunger Food Bank, to get him back to what he loved doing the most. Charles signed up to volunteer immediately.

But God had another reason to make this connection. Charles never imagined that the place he was helping would someday help him.

“I’ve been here every day at 6am for almost four years,” says Charles with a smile. “Serving the Lord keeps me coming back every day.”

Most mornings you can find Charles directing traffic in the parking lot of Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Hope for Hunger Food Bank, keeping the line moving and the food flowing. But over the past four years, he’s lent a hand in all areas of the food bank – and had some incredible moments.

“I’ll never forget the lady who came in here and she had 8 or 9 kids. She broke down crying when she saw how much food she was getting. We all surrounded her in prayer. When it was over, she said, ‘I needed that!’ She was so grateful because she didn’t know where she was going to get food.”

It’s an experience he’s seen time and time again.

“You don’t know what a person is going through when they come here. They can be mad at the world and you give them a cart and tell them, ‘The Lord is going to make it better for you.’ And they look at you and you can tell He’s already in there making a difference.”

It’s a promise that Charles has had to hold on to this year. When COVID made headlines in March, conventions and businesses of all types shut their doors across the country – and that’s bad news for a security guard.

Charles not only lost his job; he lost his industry.

Weeks of job-hunting turned into months. Savings ran dry. Charles suddenly found himself in the shoes of the countless families he served here at Hope for Hunger.

“I adjusted my shopping list accordingly to keep us fed, but Hope for Hunger was there when I needed it.

Like thousands of other families every month, Charles had access to food when he needed it most, thanks to you.

This year serves as a stark reminder that hunger can strike any one of us, especially during a pandemic. Countless individuals and parents have been blindsided, never thinking in a million years they would be struggling to put food on the table. It will be a long time before families fully recover – they need help now more than ever!

It’s your prayers and strong support that are keeping families fed, making ends meet and keeping countless men, women children off the streets this season. And while the same is true for Charles, we’re sad to report that he still hasn’t found employment. Unfortunately, we’ve lost the service of this much-loved and faithful volunteer as he headed back to Mississippi last month to work on his family’s farm.

As sad as we are to see him go, we know that God will continue to make a way for him. On behalf of all of us at Hope for Hunger, we’ll miss you Charles!

“I love coming here, greeting people, talking to people, giving them hope. It’s like a family. This place is a blessing for anybody.”

Hungry to Help | Angie’s Story

Angie’s heart goes out to the families who visit Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Hope for Hunger Food Bank. It’s because she’s been there, and knows the fear that comes from being unable to feed your kids.

“I was a single mom of three, working two jobs to make ends meet. But then some medical issues cropped up and I couldn’t drive for a while. We ate a lot of mac and cheese and ramen but, eventually, I had to admit that I couldn’t keep it up. I had to go to the food bank. It took a lot to ask for help.”

Today, she gives back by volunteering her time to keep hungry families fed. But as the pandemic grinds on, Angie’s noticed the number of families pulling into the parking lot is on the rise. It’s not just her imagination. Due to the coronavirus, the number of children identified as ‘food insecure’ in Maricopa County is projected to increase another 9.4 percent by the end of the year.*

That’s 49,541 more families in trouble. That’s 99,083 more kids who won’t be getting enough to eat. Together, we can put food on the table. Hunger Action Month is here and it’s time to get to work.

Years later, I can still remember the fear I had walking into the food bank. I felt like a failure. But the people there were non-judgmental. They smiled at me, asking what I needed, telling me to take this and that. It was a huge relief.

"I see that same fear on the faces of parents here. It’s cool to be one of those people now who can put them at ease. To see that fear turn to relief is amazing.

Monday through Friday, every week, you can find Angie in the food bank parking lot, ushering in cars full of families who need help. Back in October, she was serving once or twice a week. But when Covid-19 hit and many of our volunteers decided to stay home, Angie stepped up to fill the gap – even though doing so made her uncomfortable.

“I started to get nervous, not so much about getting the virus, but because I didn’t want my kids and my grandkids to be scared to be around me. So I prayed about it, trusted God, and the next time I came in they had a new procedure, where we started loading food directly into the cars instead of having people come into the warehouse. That’s happened three different times. Each time I got nervous about something, there was a policy change to keep everyone safe. They’re [PRM staff] so good and careful. They look out for us.

But even with the faithful service of people like Angie, there’s still plenty of need for volunteers.

“We always need volunteers,” says Danny Dahm, our Food Bank Coordinator. “Many of our consistent, elderly volunteers have had to remain at home for their own safety. Young people have stepped up to help out in their place during the pandemic. It’s been very encouraging to see, but we’re ramping up for our big turkey drive and we’ll need as much help as we can get.”

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and this year, there will be more families in need than ever before.

“We’ll have bins set up at Wal-Marts throughout Peoria and Glendale, but people can also drop off turkeys here as well. Of course, canned and dry goods, non-perishables, are always needed as well,” says Danny. (See the enclosed Hunger Action Month insert for a full list of needed items.)

Right now, Angie sees around 175 cars a day, many representing more than one family. Thanks to God’s mercy and your support, supply is, so far, keeping pace with demand. But as the weeks stretch on and more and more jobs are lost to quarantine, the number of families who need help getting to the other side of this pandemic is on the rise.

“We tell people, ‘The earlier, the better!’” says Angie. “We give out lots of food, but near the end of the day we start seeing the carts come out with less and less food. It’s whatever God provides.”

Every day, it’s your prayers and support, putting food on the table for hungry families across the valley. Thank you for keeping thousands of men, women and children safe during these uncertain times.

“God protected me and the kids back then and it’s amazing to be in the season now where I can give back.”

*https://www.feedingamericaaction.org/the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-food-insecurity/

“I was looking to serve and a lot of places were setting up food drives, but this place was already handing out food! Plus, it was easy to register and quick to get started. I was eager to get going and put my time to good use!”

– Joe, Food Bank volunteer