Annie and Shane have the kind of relationship you see in people who can honestly say, “I married my best friend.” Their personalities contrast in a way that compliments them both. Annie is exuberant while he is down-to-earth; Shane is more deliberate in contrast to her spur-of-the-moment style. Talking to them, it’s clear that they’re each other’s biggest fans and supporters. That love – and a little extra help – has carried the family through multiple hardships.
In 2019, Shane was unexpectedly let go from his job as an electrician. What followed soon after was a textbook case of adding insult to injury: the pandemic hit and dried up demand for Shane’s work, and since his company had gone through layoffs before COVID, he wasn’t eligible for any of the relief efforts the government put in place for those who’d lost their jobs to the pandemic.
The family made it through the summer, when bills were lower, getting by on unemployment while Shane hunted endlessly and futilely for work. For Shane, who had always prided himself on being a provider and do-it-yourself man, the experience was humbling. He’d never looked down on those who used government aid, not exactly, but he had wondered how do they let themselves get into that position? Now he knew.
“It was a terrible feeling,” Shane admits. “It's just the stress, you can't beat it. It's like consistent weights on you all the time.”
“There were hungry times,” Annie adds. “Times we ran out of dishwashing detergent, when we ran out of laundry soap.”
First, they missed paying bills so they could afford food. Then they stopped buying enough food for themselves so their children could eat.
“There were days where I was hungry, and I know he was hungry but he wasn't going to say he was,” Annie says. “But when I saw my children eat and get full, I felt full just watching them.”
It was Annie who happened upon the solution. She noticed that, every Sunday, people were congregating outside a church – not unusual in and of itself, but these people were in a long line that filed into the church and, when they came out, they had boxes of food. Curious and willing to try anything that might help her family, she grabbed a friend one Sunday and hopped in line.
It just so happened that the church was L.O.V.E. Healing Waters, one of Feed the Children’s community partners. Right from the beginning, its members were welcoming and friendly enough to put even a reluctant Shane at ease.
“That opened the door for everything from food to laundry soap to toothbrushes to clothing,” Annie remembers. “Any time any of my children were hungry – not just on Sundays, but any time of day, as long as there was a car in the parking lot – I knew I could get a box of food.”
The money they saved on food let the family begin to tackle their mounting bills, which was especially crucial as winter rolled around. And then one day, while the family was out of the house…
“Someone came and stole the heater from the outside, along with the duct work,” Shane says, shaking his head.
Annie chimes in: “We had to put the kids in one bedroom, because it’s easier to maintain heat in a smaller area. I drove up to Healing Waters, knocked on the door, and asked, ‘Do you have any personal space heaters or anything?’ And a gentleman walked back there, grabbed a heater, and brought it out to me. They came through for us so quickly, and that space heater was the only heat we had.”
Fortunately, Shane and Annie’s luck turned around. Shane was able to find work again, and the family no longer struggles to make ends meet. True to character, Annie still visits Healing Waters to see the friends she made there. “They’ve done so much for us,” she says, “and who am I to stop coming just because I don’t need help anymore?”
Although they hope to never repeat the experience, both Shane and Annie say they’ll never forget the kindness of those who helped them. Annie is quick to thank not just the individuals working at the nonprofit, but everyone who has donated to Feed the Children – people she will never know or meet – for the help her family received.
Annie and Shane also hope that their story will serve as an example of just why it’s so important to donate. They’re aware of how quickly life can knock you off your feet, no matter how well you thought you were doing. And when that happens, just knowing that you have someone there, willing to help you up, makes all the difference.