In her earlier years after Navy service, Debi Warren was the volunteer warehouse manager at Our Daily Bread in Hammond for seven years. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she would make food boxes for people who had nowhere to turn to for food. Later in life, Debi would unexpectedly find herself on the receiving end of those food lines and forever grateful for those who give to Food Banks.

One of three children whose mother was from Illinois and father from Louisiana, Debi grew up with two brothers. Her life has been marred by tragedy: her youngest brother tragically took his own life, and her other brother became paralyzed when he broke his neck in a diving accident. At the time of the accident, Debi was serving in a Navy hospital. She got out early so that she could come home and care for her brother. She later had a son who was tragically killed by a drunk driver just over 5 years ago. Debi found herself alone, taking care of her brother and struggling to make ends meet.

While she had received a Navy pension for many years, it was just $1,000 a month. More recently she was required to move over to Social Security which dropped her income to $996 a month. With a limited budget, she began visiting a food pantry herself as needed to fill the gaps financially each month.

“Every month I pay all my bills when I get my check. Then I have to put up so much a month for property taxes, insurance and so it dwindles you know. There are a lot of times I don’t turn on my heat or my air conditioning because I know I can’t pay a big old bill. And I’m not the only one that has to do this. A lot of people have to do this,” she observed.

With the arrival of the pandemic, she found herself visiting the pantries more often.

“When COVID hit, I’d go to the pantry at Southeast Ministries. $31 a month in food stamps is what I get now, and so it’s not a lot for a grocery store these days,” said Debi. “So, I depend on the pantry a lot to help me. I have met other ladies in the food lines and so we now network and share resources to make sure that all of the food is used, and nothing goes to waste.”

Making the transition to receiving food assistance was a difficult decision for Debi.

“It’s hard to go from a place where I volunteered and now, I’m receiving food,” she stated. “I always had good jobs and worked hard, so it’s just embarrassing not to be as financially stable as I used to be. It’s hard and it’s frustrating but I know there are a lot of people like me in this same position.”

Debi now participates in the Senior Grocery program at the Food Bank and is very thankful for the programs but also wanted to let those who give know they are making a real impact on people’s lives.

“Donate. Donate. Donate. Because the need is great,” she said. “Without the Food Bank, so many people would go hungry. They would have no one to turn to. You all make a difference. I just want you to know that you make a difference to a lot of people.”