“I Am You”
Updated: Jun 14, 2018
Sallie is the director of one the FRFB’s pantries. She is a dynamic and personable woman, who is committed to fighting hunger in our community. What makes Sallie truly unique is that she was once the person who sought assistance from food pantries. With the help of a few kind people, Sallie overcame many challenges, ultimately starting a successful pantry herself!
Back in 1994, Sallie was in a destructive marriage, caring for her two small sons and a troubled stepson who had ended up in juvenile court. The family was given a parenting counselor who came to the home once a week. At this time, Sallie was trying to feed her family of 5 on just $5 a day. Upon hearing this, the counselor suggested Sallie go the FRFB. When she walked into the food bank, she saw President & CEO Oya Oliver for the first time, managing everything around her. Sallie recalls thinking, “who is this pretty, tiny lady running things?” At a time when Sallie felt very defeated and had little self-esteem, she was inspired by Oya.
Over the next year, Sallie went to the food bank several times. Her marriage ended, she got a job, was able to pay her bills, provide for her sons, and regained some stability in her life. Sallie was not afraid of hard work and took a job in construction. When an opportunity arose, she accepted a position with an auto parts company, becoming very successful and earning awards for her performance. Sallie remarried and her life settled down.
One night she received a frantic call from her daughter, who had struggled with mental health issues, saying “they are going to take my baby!” Unaware that her daughter was even pregnant, Sallie was shocked to learn that her daughter had just given birth prematurely to a boy who weighed less than 2.5 pounds. When told that the baby, who had special needs and would need round the clock care, was going to go into foster care, Sallie felt called to take her grandson.
Because her grandson needed constant care, Sallie was forced to leave her job and it became impossible to live on just her husband’s income. Sallie again sought assistance from church pantries to feed her family and help make ends meet. However, in going to these pantries, she was struck by the way she was made to feel by the staff. She was asked for personal information and treated with a lack of sensitivity. One day, she went to a different pantry, where she was greeted by an older man. His only question-- “How can I help you?” Sallie appreciated that she was not required to give any other details other than her name and that she was allowed to pick the items she wanted to feed her family. Suddenly, Sallie says, “I felt humanized and I got my power back.”
Sallie immediately drove from that pantry over to the church she attended. She sat down with her pastor, who was very familiar with her struggles and said, “I have been a member of this church for ten years. Why is it that never once has this church offered assistance and I have had to go to other churches in town for food?” She recalls that her pastor sat back, thought for a moment, and then leaned forward asking, “Sallie, what are you going to do about it?” Accepting the challenge, Sallie and her pastor worked together to start a church pantry at Stafford Church of God.
Sallie knew that the pantry could not rely on donations alone in order to feed all who sought help. Overwhelmed, Sallie decided to go back to the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank to become an agency partner. Walking into the FRFB, the first person Sallie saw was Oya Oliver. At that moment, Sallie realized that she had come full circle.
Sallie is adamant that the church’s pantry could not function without the partnership of the FRFB. Through the Fresh Connections program, which connects pantries with fresh produce sources, Sallie says the pantry receives so much produce, she shares it with two other pantries and a senior living facility. The FRFB also received a grant that enabled her pantry to purchase a computer, printer, and shelving for her pantry. Non-grocery items from the FRFB such as sandals, bandages, soap, and shampoo have also been very helpful in the church’s projects outside the pantry to help the community.
It is amazing how a small church with just 100 members became such an important presence in the community, feeding 10,000 people. Sallie says when people come in for assistance, she only asks for their name and zip code. She talks to them, asks how she can help them and directs them to programs that can provide other types of assistance. Sallie’s goal is for each person to feel respected and powerful because she has been there. She often says to them “I am you!” Because of the kindness of a few people, Sallie was inspired and is a leader in the fight against hunger in our community. One person can truly make a difference in our community-- and when we work together, the possibilities are boundless.