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At nine years old, Sam had the weight of the world on his shoulders. In the last year, he had lost his dad and his home. He was borderline diabetic, struggled in school and didn’t sleep well. His family of six was living in a cramped motel room with all of their possessions in banana boxes. On a rainy afternoon, he and his mom walked into one of Second Harvest’s feeding partners at their wits end, tired, hungry, and wet.
“Can I get you some dry clothes?” asked Stephanie Bowman, founder of One Heart for Women and Children. Sam stared at the floor.
“Why would you help us?” his mom asked.
“That’s what we do here,” Stephanie explained. She found them some dry clothes and led them to the pantry where they filled two bags with food.
Sam’s eyes lit up when he saw the shelves. He grabbed bananas his favorite - and then oranges and avocados. “Mom, can we eat this for dinner? I don’t want any more fast food.”
Looking at Stephanie, his mom said, “If we could afford it, we would eat like this every day.”
After that, Sam and his family became familiar faces at One Heart, where they received food assistance including pantry staples, fresh produce and meats. When his birthday came around, Sam’s one request was a little out of the ordinary. He wanted a grill. “But not a fancy one,” he said. “I don’t want it to get stolen.”
Through the generosity of strangers, Sam got his wish. He learned how to safely light the grill and enjoyed preparing food for his family. His favorite thing to grill was fruits and vegetables. He tried them all.
After nine months, Sam and his family were back on their feet. His mom found a job in Jacksonville, he had a straight “A” report card, and he had no sign of diabetes. Before they left town, he and his mom stopped at One Heart to say goodbye.
“I have a message for you,” Sam said. “Everything tastes good on the grill, except bananas.” And then the boy who refused to make eye contact when he first walked in the door gave Stephanie a big hug.
“Thank you for helping us. Thank you for believing in me.”
Learn more about our childhood hunger programs and how you can help at www.feedhopenow.org/ways.