Client Story: The Fight to Survive

By Claire Lee

Fall 2021

“Sometimes the line between poverty and making it month to month is so small...yet not always reachable without a little help.”
– M.D., Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank recipient

We all walk a very fine line between being financially stable and not. A series of events can throw anyone from a position of providing help to receiving help. One client of the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank shares her story of how her life changed drastically and how she found relief and stability through the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

“I am a veteran but feel a little hesitant to say it since I feel I should be in a better financial situation to reveal that. I'm used to being independent and not asking for help, but that has changed also. I've always been a very hard worker; I have a college degree and worked multiple jobs, but have had so many things happen financially, personally, and medically back-to-back that I've not been able to get back totally on my feet again.

My husband was injured then subsequently lost his job. I spent 5 years taking him from doctor to doctor – nothing helped. Eventually, all our savings were gone. He was lost to pain medication, and after he left, I lost my house. My child and I found the cheapest apartment we could, which left no money for food once all bills were paid. I had to sell everything I had of any value to make ends meet, which really was not a lot. Most of what I had was just sentimental. A lot of that had to go to make room in our small apartment.  

Our rent had gone up and I could not afford it anymore where we lived. I had applied for some low-income housing in Issaquah and was able to get in. There was still little left for food after all bills were paid. It seemed every time I would have the opportunity to maybe get a tiny bit ahead, something would happen. All I had went to fix it and what I didn't have went on a credit card. Before long, they were all maxed out.

When I finally was able to put a few dollars aside per month for emergencies and paying off debt, the pandemic hit. I have never lost a job in my life. Usually, I have had at least 2-3 jobs at any given time, but I lost my job, all savings was depleted, and credit cards maxed out again to survive.

We learned about the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank when we moved to Issaquah.

Before coming to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank, we were eating nearly all canned food. My health had begun to fail due to poor eating habits and lack of resources. It was exciting to see things like fresh celery and broccoli at the food bank! As I was able to eat better, I felt my energy level rise. It was so nice to have things like chicken and salmon!

One of my new goals since coming to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank is to take the time to eat healthier. The food bank offered online cooking classes through another organization [Chicken Soup Brigade] but I never would have found out about them if it had not been advertised by the food bank. I thought I already knew a lot, but I learned so much. It was fun, positive, and easy to duplicate. Food bags were provided so you did not even have to have money or shop for the ingredients. I had never cooked tofu before this class! It was something I just never had growing up. It was so nice to find another great source of protein!

It was a relief and very comforting, especially for my son, to know that we would not be hungry. We had several disabled older neighbors in our apartment complex. They did not have transportation or seemed to always have medical procedures done. I was so amazed when they told me that the food bank had people actually deliver food to them! 

I am so very thankful for the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank. It has been the one steady thing through the pandemic. Always there, keeping some stability in an ever-changing life and world! Never going to bed hungry is a very good, secure feeling! They have never made me feel judged or belittled. They treat me better than I treat myself...and for that I will always be grateful.   

To the supporters of the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank - thank you so very much. As a mother, I especially want to thank you for giving me the ability to watch my son grow physically and mentally and even participate in sports. It is very hard to stay positive when you cannot even feed your child properly. Your donations are being so wisely spent. There are almost always plenty of vegetables and fruit and sources of protein.

It is obvious someone has put a lot of thought into not just short term, but long-term effects of the food. There are rarely sugary cereals or candy but there are nutritious foods that nourish your body.

When you are stressed from the feeling of where your next dollar will come from to survive and keep you from becoming homeless, it is easy to fall into eating lots of sugary things that are not so good for you. This puts you into a downward spiral for your health, which then makes it even harder to get and keep work...or even have the motivation and energy to do so. I really think someone at this food bank has thought about that! I feel like the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank is not just putting a bandage on things but are actually trying to help heal the wounds!

When it was announced that children would go back to in-person school I panicked. I realized my son had no shoes that fit him for school. He had outgrown them all during the pandemic. The clothing bank was able to get him shoes to wear. They also gave me shorts for him that were long enough!   

When I think back to how I used to be able to write checks to people going on mission trips or to a friend that was having a hard time and yet now, I cannot even afford to get a DVD out of Redbox for $1.99, it makes me realize just how quickly things can change. Somehow there seem to be people out there that know just know how and when to give....and it makes such a difference. I can't wait to be one of them again!”

Thank you, M.D. for sharing your hardships and incredibly tough story. We are all inspired by your resilience and positive outlook on life!