by Demarie H., 14
Alarms screeched throughout crowded bathrooms, and clothing baskets scattered across the floor. She sits huddled with her children and writes resumés to escape the warehouse-like building.
At age 40, Pamela Stewart Williams finally sits comfortably in her apartment with the worry of food and clothing for her and her seven children out of her mind.
Things weren’t always safe for Pamela, having her first child in a homeless shelter at 19. “[The shelter] was next to a jail, so if anybody escaped or anything happened, we were on lockdown,” she recalled. “It was a little scary. It was in a big warehouse-type building, and everybody had their roles. We shared bathrooms, and we shared a laundry room.”
However, Pamela persevered by applying to a women’s program that provided her with an apartment and helped build her resumé. She went to school for billing beforehand, got her certificate, and has been doing it and courting ever since.
But, even with her own home and job, Pamela struggled financially.
“My husband had lost his first job, and we weren’t eligible to get food stamps because they claimed I made a lot of money,” she said. “[But], four years ago, someone had told me about Lunch Break, saying that they have a food pantry, they give out clothes, they do a Christmas toy and backpack [drive].”
Lunch Break is a company that provides life’s necessities, such as food, clothing, life skills, and fellowship, to financially insecure individuals and families. Because of these life-saving services, Pamela is no longer concerned about having food or clothing in the house, knowing that the company always has her back.
“Lunch Break is very helpful [and] encouraging. They help with jobs, [and] they have other opportunities. If you get behind on your bills or something, they have programs for that. The staff is very caring; if you call and leave a message, they’ll get to you as soon as possible, and they’ll try their hardest to help you,” she said. “If they can’t help you, they’ll find resources to help you. And that’s with anything. It doesn’t have to be clothing or whatever—it can be counseling or if you need a lawyer. They help you with everything.”
Pamela recalled that Lunch Break had recently begun hosting events for children, such as a school supplies drive and a coat drive in the summer and wintertime, respectively. Before Covid-19, the company held a dinner event for families one Christmas.
“They gave out dinner, the kids sat and ate, and they gave them books and everything. My kids really enjoyed it! They were super excited—like, ‘we’ve seen Santa!’ That was one of my best experiences with the kids going [to Lunch Break],” she gushed. With such positive experiences, she continues to recommend Lunch Break to her friends, especially those with multiple kids around the holidays. During Christmas, the staff provides baskets with cooking ingredients and toys for parents to gift their children.
Now, with a little more time on her hands, Pamela spends most of her time with her kids, who sometimes come with her for food pantry runs. But for herself, she hopes to return to school and pursue her passion. “[It’s] one of my big things because I wanted to go into the legal field,” she said. “I do want to get back into school and better myself while I have the chance.”
Looking back, Pamela regrets not finishing college and having many children early in her life. “Jobs have more requirements for a master’s or bachelor’s degree in order to become a director or whatever,” she said. “I can go back to finish [college], but I’m stuck at a certain position or level of payment because of my school level. If I went back to school, I’d have more money and more opportunities with the kids.”
Pamela also remembered her embarrassment while waiting in lines for food or clothing. “Now it’s like, you have to do what you have to do to take care of your family,” she expressed. “I can’t be embarrassed about it. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the opportunities if you need help.”