The patron whose story follows asked to remain anonymous, so for purposes of the story, his name has been changed to Richard.
“I like to be independent,” Richard said in a way that told me that he knows all too well about the false stereotypes placed upon low-income people. “I plan to start my own business one day. I’m going to have my own barber shop.”
For now, Richard is a truck driver, but it’s not enough to make ends meet, especially when the state’s systems that are in place to help low-income people are flawed.
“A lot of why I’m here isn’t even my fault. I had food stamps and I filled out all the paperwork like they told me to, but the paperwork must still be sitting on some employee’s desk because they cut off my food stamps and told me it was because I didn’t do my paperwork,” Richard said. “It takes them a long time to put all this paperwork through and here I am without enough food to eat. It’s just inappropriate.”
That’s what brought Richard to GBM’s for food assistance. Though Richard will now have some food to fill in the gap his temporarily discontinued food stamps left, getting what he needs is still proving to be a challenge.
“I called my job to let them know I’d be a little late because I’m here getting food for me and my kids and they hung up on me. Some people don’t care about your responsibilities to your family. Some people just don’t want to help you,” he said, shaking his head in frustration.
But even Richard’s unaccommodating boss can’t put a damper on his day. “I appreciate y’all for helping me. I’ve been here before for meetings about voter’s rights for convicted felons–that was before I ever came here for food stamps. I try to do what I can to be involved in the community. Y’all do good work over here,” he said.
And, to Richard, GBM’s good work doesn’t stop with its direct services–GBM’s impact is felt throughout the community.
“I think y’all being here cuts down on on violence, too, because if people don’t have what they need, they might feel like they have to steal to get food or rob to pay their bills,” Richard went on to say.
“When I get my business together, I’m going to donate to help support y’all. I want to see this keep going,” he added. And that’s the best compliment of all.
If you’d like to make a donation to GBM’s food pantry for people like Richard, click here to make a monetary donation online, or you can drop food off at the GBM’s location, 2304 12th Avenue North Birmingham, AL 35234, Monday through Friday between 8:30am and 4:30pm. All donations are tax deductible.