Monique was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when she was 7 years old. After more than 4 brain surgerys for her condition and a variety of other health issues (Monique used to be diabetic and has a variety of other health battles), Monique is thankful for her doctors who work together to manage her care and the assistance she is provided.In 2005, Monique was introduced to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) by a social worker at the Department of Human Services – Aging and Disability Services. At first, Monique was able to come to AFAC directly to pick-up food, but with the large crowds and her difficulties getting around, and having to be bed ridden for awhile, her social worker kindly brings her food every other week. While she does receive SNAP benefits, they don’t always last. Therefore, she is thankful for the food she receives from AFAC – she especially loves the soup and items she can add to soup, such as vegetables and chicken. She also appreciates the tuna and as it can be hard to stand and cook, she likes items that are easy for her to cook.
Her health insurance doesn’t cover her seeing a nutrionist and she is trying to lose weight to help her overall health. Monique lives on a $1100 budget per month. Thankfully, a housing grant covers 60% of her rent and with her $1100 she pays the balance owed on rent, utilities, phone bill, medicines, and Star (metro accessible transportation).Monique says: “I have gotten so many blessings from kind people who just want to help. I am blessed with the money and food I receive and after being sick for so long, I want to be more social and help and if telling my story helps and talking to people helps, then that’s what I want to do.” Monique is enrolled in Georgetown’s continuing education program and takes a class one day per week towards her liberal arts degree. After being sick for so long and dealing with the health care system, she hopes to one day work with people on health policies structures. Monique lives in Rosslyn and is a member of Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church.
We are thankful to her for sharing her story.
Yoly has been living in Arlington for 15 years now. Originally here on a 3-year contract as a nanny for a World Bank employee from Peru, Yoly was able to find continuing work in childcare and elder care just after her assignment ended. Today she is a US citizen and, like many, she struggles with underemployment and low-wage jobs.Yoly has found intermittent work as a housekeeper for a local hotel. She cleans 30 rooms every day she is called in to work. “No overtime,” she says. “You do your 30 rooms, it doesn't matter how long it takes. That is too much for me. I'm 50 years old. And I have a thyroid condition -- the kind where you feel tired a lot.” She considers finding more accommodating work, with a more predictable schedule, but there are hurdles. “I've been out of work for three years now -- regular, full-time work. Maybe I get an hour here, and hour there, taking care of children or old people. But for the full time jobs now they want you to have a driver's license and a car; they want you to have a certificate for taking care of children or old people. I don't have the money to learn to drive or to pay for lessons in child care or elder care.”
Yoly’s situation is compounded by limited access to food. Because she has managed to save some money from her past intermittent work, and because she does not have children, Yoly does not qualify for food stamps. Recently at wits end, underemployed and facing crisis, she was compelled to ask for help. The social worker (at the Ballston Community Center) there wasn't much help in getting work, but she did send me to AFAC. I eat whatever they give me here -- fruits, vegetables, pasta, spaghetti sauce, salad greens.”
Yoly is very appreciative for the food she receives from AFAC, but does have a few items on her wish list. “Some of my favorite foods you won't find at AFAC—Quinoa for example, or cuye --guinea pig. Here they just sell guinea pigs as pets, but in Peru we use them for meat.” Her voice brightened when asked about her favorite time in the kitchen, “I like to cook. One of my specialties is Guiso de Trigo, steamed wheat grains. It's flavored with yellow chili peppers -- I like picante food. Also, there's garlic, onion, parsley and grated cheese. You serve it with fried fish. Or ceviche.”Yoly is finding some hope in AFAC’s help.
Marvin “Happy” Robbins
Every staff member and Friday volunteer knows about one of our very special Friday clients, “the Veteran.” Except for a few lucky ones, however, they do not have the opportunity to meet or chat with him when he comes to pick up his groceries. Because he is handicapped, his food is delivered directly to his car each week. Marvin “Happy” Robbins is 75 years old and is a U.S. Army veteran.
Happy’s (he prefers this to his given name) very interesting life story begins on a Sharpsburg, North Carolina farm, where he grew up and as an outstanding pitcher at Elm City High School, was scouted. Happy was signed by the New York Yankees and played for the Yankee farm team (called “semi-pro” at the time) for one season, prior to enlisting and serving in the U.S. Army for two years, 1954 and ‘55. He served for 18 months in the Korean Conflict.
By the time Happy returned home and was honorably discharged from the service, he tried again to play baseball, but after two years away from the game “couldn’t throw hard enough anymore.” A good friend, Chuck Hinton, facilitated a job interview which led to a 20 year job with the District of Columbia Parks and Rec Department, while concurrently officiating Boys Club and high school baseball, basketball and football games, for thirty years. His involvement with recreation, sports and kids meant a long and satisfying career for Happy.
At age 50, he developed diabetes, and in 2001 underwent heart by-pass surgery which resulted in a blood clot in his leg and subsequently an amputation. Happy, true to his name, has a positive and somewhat irreverent attitude about his disability, remarking – “There are plenty of people who are dead with two legs and I’m still going strong with one.”
Happy lives in the Dominion Plaza Apartments, and learned about AFAC from a neighbor. He went through the Arlington County DHS required process to obtain a referral to AFAC. He lives on his social security and veteran’s benefits. The food AFAC provides to him is critical; it gets him through the week until the next pick up, saving him from the extra cost and effort of a trip to the grocery store. He especially is grateful for the fresh chicken, milk and eggs. We are grateful for Marvin “Happy” Robbins – a man who served his country and a generation of DC children well.
A Long-Term Client Depends on AFAC
Watching the procession of men and women, many with their children, lining up to come through AFAC, always makes me wonder what their stories might be. Occasionally I give them a hug as I help them decide what veggies and fruits to take home. I hope a bit of conversation, laughing and looking them in the eye gives them hope that I and others truly care about them as individuals. This interaction is always one of my joys at AFAC! Recently I was pleased to have the opportunity to spend some time with a client, Leslie (not her real name).
Leslie comes in weekly and is escorted through the back of the warehouse by a staff member or volunteer, unlike the other clients who come through the front door. I always wondered what her story might be. She is a very sweet woman in her early 60s who shared matter-of-factly that she has lived with mental illness since college and has been retired from government for 23 years.
She told me being around crowds in public places causes so much anxiety that she would not be able to come if not for the individual attention she receives to help her maneuver the lines to pick up her food. She said she lives on a mere $850 per month, and put her fingers up in the air to indicate the long list of medications she is taking.
I asked her how she got to AFAC each week, which is an amazing part of her story. For the past eight years, Leslie’s friend since their computer lab days in college, has picked her up every week and brought her to AFAC. For eight years!As we finished our visit, she stood up and took the initiative to shake my hand and asked my name again. She shared that she was unable to lean over to pick up her two large bags of food due to a pinched nerve in her back. As we walked to the car, she introduced me to her good friend. We exchanged smiles, and I told her I looked forward to seeing her again next week.
(Written by AFAC Volunteer Ronda Adgate; Spring 2010)
My name is Kent Davis, and I’m an AFAC client. You may wonder how I came to be in this position. I think about that myself, every day.
I have had a full life—a happy and secure childhood and as an adult, a member of the United States Army and a restaurateur. But the bulk of my professional experience has been as a designer and outfitter of commercial spaces. During my career in Washington, DC, I designed over 5 million square feet of offices!
An ill-advised partnership resulted in the loss of the last restaurant I designed and owned and since that time, I have had my own small business as an independent designer. My last project, and certainly the most challenging and memorable, was the design of Wedge One of the Pentagon. I finished and handed the keys over to the staff of that space in the Pentagon on…….that sad and tragic day……September 11, 2001. A month later I was the first civilian to enter the ruined offices to see what could be salvaged.
I have not worked steadily since the Pentagon project. I fear the technology utilized in my field now has passed me by. I am the living proof that anyone—no matter how educated or successful, can be just a paycheck away from being in a very tough financial situation. A paycheck away from being an AFAC client.
Did I have savings? Yes. Did I have investments? Yes. But if you live long enough, as I am blessed to, they may not last as long as you need them.
I go to AFAC each week, I receive the food I need and depend on, to get me to my next visit. The wonderful staff and volunteers at AFAC make me feel comfortable about accepting food.
I never, ever thought this would be my story. I hope it is never yours.
Thank you for ... supporting AFAC.
Lada Mnatsakanova - single mother.
Hear more about Lada's story in this video (minute 4:55).