DeKALB – It’s been a rough couple of years for the Newton family.
Lynette Widman lost her job as a warehouse worker and lost her apartment, so she moved in with her daughter Tiffany Newton, her husband and their 3-year-old daughter.
However, Newton’s husband also lost his job as a machinist at Nehring Electrical. Now, the only income they have is Newton’s 16-hours-a-week job at a Dollar General store and Widman’s unemployment benefits.
“My phone is going to get shut off because I can’t even afford my phone bill,” Newton said. Her mother chimed in: “We just borrowed money for the electric [bill] too, because that was going to get turned off, too.”
It was their dedication to Newton’s 3-year-old daughter that led them to stand outside The Salvation Army’s DeKalb chapter Tuesday morning to get canvas bags full of food for Thanksgiving.
Gary Billings, The Salvation Army’s food pantry coordinator, said they were scheduled to distribute 761 packages of food Tuesday.
“It’s helped out tremendously,” Newton said, stating that it was her second year participating. “I’m so grateful for this church, because they have helped me out several times, especially within the last year.”
The three canvas bags each family receives contain turkey, vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, fresh or instant potatoes, fresh or canned fruit, pancake mix, and some kind of dessert. Billings estimated the total value of each meal to be at least $30.
Njema McIntyre, a single mother, stood in line with her son Anthony before the Thanksgiving meal giveaway began at 9 a.m. McIntyre said she works part-time and goes to Kishwaukee College while taking care of her two sons.
She didn’t need to reach out to The Salvation Army for help with Thanksgiving until this year.
“Before, I could usually make it off of my part-time income,” McIntyre said. “But now I’m stretching it as far as it can go.”
More DeKalb County residents have been using The Salvation Army’s programs overall, Billings said.
“Times are still tough,” Billings said. “A lot of people are out of jobs. ... There are more people than there have been in the past. The pantry, for example – we had a record month this year in October of 745 households. That’s about 2,800 to 3,000 members, so the need is still there and still great.”
The food pantry coordinator is thankful for the community’s support for Salvation Army programs, including the Thanksgiving basket giveaway and Toys for Tots. Billings does worry about running low of a certain food in the pantry, but the community manages to come through each time.
Several parents brought their children with them to stand in line to get their bags. But even if they weren’t present, a quick conversation revealed that their children were on their minds.
“It’s hard to tell a 3-year-old there’s no Thanksgiving dinner, or there’s not going to be a Christmas.” Widman said. “We don’t have any money.”