I am one of five children, I am the only first generation college graduate in my immediate family. I was lucky enough to attend Berea College in Berea, KY. As with all 1700 students accepted, I received a full scholarship for my tuition. At my college it was required to learn to swim or pass a swim test, have a job on the college campus, and attend cultural events called convocations. Learning to swim at age 19 is something I am so proud of and has helped me to have a growth mindset to continue to be a lifelong learner. I got to use state the art technology and software and got to teach other students and the professors how to use them. I also worked in the Psychology Department office. I got to know all of my professors personally, produced a monthly student newsletter and helped connect fellow students to scholarship and internships. At our Convocations I got to hear speakers and musicians from around the country and the world, I even got to have lunch with Fred D. Gray, Dr. King’s personal attorney! I graduated with a degree in Psychology in 2002.
The same year I graduated I got married, moved to Chicago, and started working for Lakeview Pantry, one of the busiest and long-running food pantry non-profits in Chicago. In 2004 I was one of the founding members of the Northside Anti-Hunger Network, an association of food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters on the northside of Chicago. In 2009 our agencies got a grant from our food bank to host a month-long photography exhibit called SNAPshots that our clients contributed to, depicting food insecurity.
When I started working Lakeview Pantry were 5 employees and 19 years later there are almost 50 employees. Since the onset of Covid we have robustly increased our Social Services to include social workers, housing case managers, therapists and delivery drivers. Our Home Delivery program which delivers to over 800 households of disabled or homebound individuals each month and we have one of the first Online Market shopping opportunities at a food pantry in the country.
Two years ago I was promoted to the Manager of Pantry Programs, managing up to 9 employees at two locations (one pantry is next to the neighborhoods of Wrigleyville, Boystown amd Uptown and the other is in the Hispanic neighborhood of Humboldt Park). I use the Spanish I learned in high school and college at least a little bit almost every day and sometimes a tiny bit of American Sign Language a volunteer is teaching me. I recently accepted a new title of our first ever Senior Coordinator, Client Experience which helps manage our client experience by focusing heavily on the fundamentals of Trauma Informed Care.
As a child of household without a phone or a car, who utilized soup kitchens each week and lived in a trailer park and then in subsidized housing growing up I know how important is to welcome each person we meet as a whole person who has so much life experience and wisdom to offer.
Along the way from graduating from FedHock I learned to drive a car when I was a month shy of my 21st birthday and learned to drive a stick shift when I was 27. I had two children in my 30s and bought a house in a neighboring Chicago suburb called Skokie that has 64,000 people in it. My daughters go to public school with students from around the world. My husband and I just celebrated our 25th dating anniversary and next year will be our 20th wedding anniversary. Our daughters are now 10 and almost 4 years old.
Everyday I am learning and growing and I love to encourage others. Check out my work at LakeviewPantry.org or on LinkedIn and if you ever get the opportunity to come to Chicago let me know if you need a tour guide or a place to volunteer as part of a mission trip!