Joy came to Winton LifeLine Community Center in need of emergency food. In the past the center gave out food to hundreds of people as they were standing in line, but we realized that this ‘quick fix’ made us feel good but really did not help the people look at their preferred future.
So, we changed our approach. We still help with emergency food, but not without hearing people’s stories, learning about their plans and dreams and passion and encouraging them to take the next step.
As we listened to Joy’s story we learned that her Hispanic husband had been laid off, that his 3 children often spend time at their home and the she was pregnant with their first baby. Joy is a very articulate young woman and we could see that there was so much more there about her, then just her need for food. When Joy missed the bus to get her GED we helped her and in turn got invited to her graduation where she beamed with pride.
While Joy grew up on welfare, she was determined not to become another statistic. We encouraged her to go to college and pursue her dreams and helped with gas money at times. Various government agencies also saw her potential and helped her get enrolled. We also invited Joy to be part of our Community Garden and she was so excited to be able to get fresh fruits and vegetables for the family.
During her time at the community garden she connected with the Loren & Barbara, the farmers who provided the land. They mentored her in various aspects: how to appreciate God’s creation and care for it, how and when to grow the plants, how to prepare and store them, how to use spices. During this time a lot of personal mentoring and encouraging took place. Everybody enjoyed this growing friendship and learned from each other.
When Joy comes home from her weekly trips to the garden, she shares the fruit of her labor with her neighbors who in turn share some of their goods with her. Together they decided that they could have some vegetables in their own little apartment complex.
Joy heard about the Master Gardener Program and is planning to go through the training so that she can share with others what she has learned and give back to the community. She is dreaming and planning for a big community garden in Winton.
Over time she received other items through various agencies and groups (diapers, furniture, clothing) and she noted that many of her neighbors did not speak English and had a difficult time getting the help that they need. We started talking about starting a Spanish/English class. Some of us would learn Spanish and others English, building a bridge between the Hispanic and Anglo community.
During these tough economic times Joy and Jose are at times in need of help, but that does not hinder her from helping others in her community, building bridges between races and working with her neighbors to transform her apartment complex. They share groceries and receipts, exchange clothing, help each other when in need and enjoy a growing community.
While it all started with the need for groceries it sure went much further than that!