stories from manna
Many people see organizations like Manna Food Center as serving the poor, homeless and unemployed. The fact is, Manna helps out a wide range of people, each with different reasons for coming through the door. The phrase “working poor” can describe the average Manna client -- underemployed, seasonally employed, or employed in an unstable field – someone who doesn’t always need a helping hand, who but finds themselves stretching to make ends meet every now and then.
The following were adapted from “The Stories of Manna: Narratives from the Ground,” a collection of profiles compiled by University of Maryland graduate student Sarah Lazarus. Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Joann is a single mother. She first found Manna when she lost her job as a caretaker. When Joann was working, she qualified for daycare assistance from Social Services. Once she became unemployed, however, that assistance either ended or, in other cases, became logistically impossible to use. While she picks up some money by looking after her friends’ children or doing their hair, it’s not enough to make ends meet. Manna’s assistance allows Joann to feed herself and her daughter while she continues to search for a paid position that will either allow her the schedule to take care of her family or, ideally, pay enough for her to afford a nanny.
Laila has spent the last 13 years working as a certified nurse’s assistant in hospitals and private homes. Since the income from these jobs can be unsteady, she’s been working on her bachelor’s degree in nursing, with hopes for becoming a registered nurse. She’s only one semester from graduating, but she’s had to put her dream on hold to tend to her family. Laila’s son is also in college, and two tuitions was too much for the family of seven to handle. She, her husband and her son all work – a full-time minimum wage position and two part-time low-wage jobs among the three of them, but her family still relies on the folks at Manna to help them get by each month.
Varshea was born into a military family. She graduated from Largo High School, holds a certificate from Prince George’s Community College, and graduated from a career college in California, where she studied business. She had to give up her job at a bank, however, to return to Maryland to take care of her ailing mother, a task that makes it very difficult to find a full-time job. Varshea works part-time while tending to her family and paying back her student loans. Manna only sees her a few times a year, when she feels that she is truly in need of the help. Other times, when funds are less tight, she makes a point of giving back to the organization. “Even if it’s only three dollars, I donate when I can.”
These are just a few of the stories of Manna’s life-changing work. These are our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers. Normal, hard-working, caring people who just need that helping hand to get by. Every week, box by box, the staff, volunteers and supporters of Manna help write chapters in thousands of stories just like these.