If you'd met Tikaya two years ago, you would say she was on the right track. She graduated from Jones High School, earned an associate’s degree and completed cosmetology training. She worked as a stylist for several years and began teaching at a local college. Tikaya and her three children were happy, healthy and helpful.
"My passion was always helping people, either in the stylist chair or cooking a meal for them. I was always trying to reach out and help someone," she recalls. "And my youngest son, he's a giver too, always asking if he can help me or someone else."
Her career derailed when the cosmetology program closed. Unable to keep up with her bills, her car was repossessed. With no income and no car, Tikaya often cried herself to sleep.
"I felt like my life was hopeless. I didn't know where to go to find help."
Tikaya reached out to the United Way's 2-1-1 Helpline and was able to connect with a food pantry in Second Harvest's network. There she was able to pick up a cart filled with groceries, including peanut butter, her son's favorite, bread to make sandwiches for lunch, and other pantry staples.
"I feel good now," said Tikaya, after visiting the pantry. "I have some food in the freezer. I have some fruit and snacks for the kids to enjoy too. As long as the children are happy, mom is happy."
Tikaya is currently enrolled in Second Harvest Food Bank's Culinary Training Program. Her children board the school bus every morning and one block down, she boards a different bus bound for her own school.
"I've learned to never say never. You never know when you may lose your job, or your car, or worse," Tikaya explains. "You never know when you'll need a helping hand and an opportunity to get back on track."