Cindy Stidham never thought that at 56 she’d be pawning off her belongings just to keep the utilities on.
She never thought that in Tulsa, where she’s lived and worked for the past decade, that she’d be walking to a nonprofit in November to pick up a Thanksgiving dinner; towing home a box of food strapped to a tiny pink cart and leading her blind roommate, Norman, who was tasked with carrying the turkey.
But for the past several months, it’s been her reality.
A former worker for a home health care agency, Sitdham lost her job when she lost her clients. Although they had built sweet friendships with her, many are considered high-risk and feared the contagion of the coronavirus, she said. With visits canceled, she fell behind on payments and lost her car.
She now relies on a friend who can sometimes take her on a trip to a food pantry.
Still able to find humor in the small things, like the trek to get the turkey — “It was a sight,” she said — Stidham finds herself staying up later and later as her hope wears thin.
“I can’t sleep, you know,” she said. “I cry a lot.”
Stidham is one of many relying on food pantries in the wake of pandemic job loss. One in particular she has visited at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma has seen a 500-600% increase in people seeking assistance, Debbie Crowley, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit, said.
And Food on the Move, another Oklahoma nonprofit Stidham has visited, launched a drive-through and drop-off program to serve countless people after COVID-19 rattled the daily operations of individuals, food pantries and restaurants.
“There is a lot of new need, which is understandable,” Crowley said. “We always try to give as much (food) as we can to get them by.”
On this Giving Tuesday, the Tulsa World is sharing the ongoing work of a few area nonprofits and the impact they make.
Catholic Charities and Food on the Move, like several other nonprofits, have seen a drop in willing volunteers due to COVD-19 risks, but there are always those who are willing to step up.
Jennifer Mount, a 44-year-old Tulsa-bred Realtor with family ties to volunteerism, jumped on board with Food on the Move upon request when organizers struggled to find workers.
The drive-through operation feeds hundreds of families, with some lining up hours in advance, and no matter how organizers wind the line of cars in the parking lot, it still stretches down the street, Mount said.
“We’ve only run out twice,” she said. “Even when we do, they know there’s nothing we can do about it.
“All of them are so grateful.”
And Mount is grateful for the opportunity to serve. Volunteering has given her a pathway to heal after losing her 29-year-old son and best friend, Tyler, to an accident last year.
“My world shut down Oct. 23 of last year, and then the rest of the world shut down,” she said. “No matter what you’re going through, whenever you get yourself out of your current situation and give to others, there’s no better type of relief or release that you’re going to feel as a human being than that.”
Her son worked at the food bank, and although volunteering there proved to be too painful, Food on the Move was just far enough removed for her to stomach.
“It was really good for me,” she said. “I knew I was making my son proud, too, you know?”
And it has been a blessing to see the generosity of so many at play, she said. Those who can’t afford to pitch in monetarily donate their time and efforts.
Giving Tuesday, a global movement that has inspired millions to celebrate generosity, encourages others to do the same. Following the hectic consumerism of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the day is meant to encourage people to do good, spending their time and efforts as well as money, according to the nonprofit’s webpage.
“Whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts, and everyone has something to give,” the website states.
Last Giving Tuesday generated $2 billion in giving alone in the United States, according to a news release. But it’s not all about money. Participants are urged to consider giving their time, talents, voice and attention to help those less fortunate or generate positivity.
Some ideas include reaching out to the elderly, creating a donation station much like a little library, posting a message of hope, showing gratitude for essential workers, paying for a stranger’s order, surprising someone with a parade, helping your neighbors, checking in on your loved ones, packing lunches for those in need, offering compliments, supporting remote classrooms and volunteering virtually.