By: Shelley Pierce

My dad is a tough son of a gun, which made him invincible in my eyes when I was young. And handy would be an understatement for him. He worked as a custom cabinetmaker.

When I was in junior high he slipped a disc in his lower back at work and ended up being laid off due to the injury. He needed surgery to repair the damage, but it ended up dragging out many months because they suggested that he try other options before undergoing surgery. To make matters worse, a knee surgery soon followed. For a tradesman, physical injuries spell disaster, and we started to feel the effects at home.

My Mom was taking care of my Dad, raising four growing kids and working part-time job at JC Penney in the drapery department. With a young family to care for and a house payment to keep up with, our finances got tight. Suddenly no money was left over at the end of each month for necessities, including food. We ended up using food stamps to supplement and the local F.I.S.H. food pantry helped to cover the rest.

I remember going with my mom and waiting in line to gather what we needed for my two other sisters and baby brother. On one visit in particular, a kind gentleman asked my mother a question that led to the story of my father’s injury. As my mom recalled the situation, tears started to fall onto her blouse. I remember feeling how embarrassed she was to be in the situation, yet still grateful that others cared enough to offer the assistance. That help got us through a few holidays where we would have otherwise gone without a family feast.

Looking back, this food was a life saver for our family. As a mother, I realize today how these basic needs are critical to keeping a healthy family, both physically and mentally. It’s why I teach my children to always give back to their community and to be grateful, because what you have today can be gone tomorrow. We all go through peaks and valleys, and I fell blessed to be in a situation where I can give back to the organization that gave me and my family foundational support when we needed it most.

My parents were always frugal and never spent beyond their means. This taught me life lessons that have stuck with me to this day. Whether it is clipping coupons or shopping around, I always try to save a buck where I can. Still, no matter how much I save—even if it all went to FISH—I could never repay what they gave to my family. It’s not something you can purchase after all. It is learned, and it’s called hope!

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