by Teresa Jackson on September 25th, 2020

"Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."
Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Many people hold this verse close to their heart. It has echoed through my mind many times these past six months. During the first month of the pandemic, I often caught myself holding my breath, thinking it might keep me from catching the virus. Isn’t that crazy? Fear causes us to do things that make no sense. Oftentimes, we aren’t even aware of the behaviors and mindsets we are exhibiting in order to protect ourselves or others from the big, scary monster we are trying to avoid. We just go on auto-pilot, reacting to the things we fear rather than responding.

 Fear can be paralyzing. Fear can look a lot like anger. Each of us deals with fear differently. People who live with chronic poverty often live in fear, as life has shown them they can trust no one. Many have experienced adverse childhood events (ACE) which leave them living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fear of being hurt, whether physically or emotionally, can resurface, causing flashbacks of abusive experiences that bring anxiety and panic attacks. This kind of fear is the most basic emotion humans experience -- the fear of life or death situations. It leads to the "deer in the headlights" reaction. For instance, if a human being is malnourished or living with chronic food insecurity, the brain automatically tells us to find food. Sometimes the reaction to being hungry is to buy the cheapest food one can find. Quantity, not quality, is what matters. That's why you may have seen people purchasing cases of ramen noodles, rice, pasta, or other high carb, low nutrition foods. Those foods taste good, are filling, and can be consumed in large quantities for pennies per serving. Unfortunately, this type of diet can lead to obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. None of that matters. The goal is to never be hungry again. Nutritionists tell us to eat foods found along the perimeter of the grocery store. Meat, dairy, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Foods found in the middle of the store are usually boxed or canned and, in most cases, more affordable for those on an extremely tight budget.

I am so proud of the Sharing Life food pantries. I am proud of our Hub partners. Because of the extreme generosity of our donors and partners, we distribute hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh produce to people who are hungry and under-nourished. Every week, Sharing Life distributes at least one semi-truck load of produce. During the summer, we provide even more than that. Our partners include the North Texas Food Bank and many retail partners including Sam’s, Walmart, Kroger, Tom Thumb, and Sprouts.

This is one of my favorite photos taken at Sharing Life. This little girl was so excited to get an apple. Think about that for a minute. Not a Barbie. Not a bike. An apple! It is my daily hope that, by providing nutritious food in quality and quantities enough, we are lessening the number of ACEs that local children experience due to chronic hunger. I pray that parents know Sharing Life is a safe and welcoming place to receive the food they desperately need for themselves and their children. I am thankful to God and each person who plants seeds in this ministry. Our mission is to provide a harvest of nutritious food that is then given away to those who are hungry.

Lord, let us never know the fear of not knowing where our next meal is coming from. Use us to feed those who are hungry and afraid.

by Teresa Jackson on September 18th, 2020

There are many myths surrounding hunger, homelessness, and poverty. September is Hunger Action Month, which is why Sharing Life's social media platforms  have recently been highlighting some widely-held myths concerning hunger in America. To learn more about these issues, as well as the number of fellow Americans impacted by food insecurity, please follow our Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages.

Today, I would like to share some information on how food banks and food pantries operate. A food bank and a food pantry are very different entities. Food banks mostly operate as distribution centers to food pantries. Both types of hunger-relief organizations operate separately, but both kinds of groups function under guidelines established by Feeding America, a nonprofit organization based in the United States. Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people via food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. Each state has their own Feeding America affiliate. Ours is Feeding Texas.

Food Banks are regional distribution centers for local food pantries. They do very little direct service and, when they do, it is usually during a declared emergency. One direct service provided by many food banks in the US is the mobile food pantry. These trucks go to underserved neighborhoods or rural locations to offer fresh produce and baked goods to local residents; however, a mobile food pantry is not a replacement for a fully-stocked food pantry. Our regional food bank is the North Texas Food Bank ("NTFB"), which is a social benefit organization located in Plano, Texas. The organization distributes donated, purchased, and prepared foods through a network of nearly 1,000 feeding programs and 262 Partner Agencies in 13 North Texas counties.

Sharing Life is a hybrid that started out as a food pantry in 1999. Then, in 2015, Sharing Life became the first Hub in the NTFB’s new distribution model to provide a more-effective way of disbursing these foods to an ever-increasing area. At that time, Sharing Life was not only a thriving local food pantry, but it also became a redistribution organization for the NTFB. That is how we continue to operate today.

We not only act as one of the largest individual food pantries in the State of Texas, but provide support and food to 75 community distribution partners. Sharing Life receives at least one semi-truck and multiple smaller truckloads of food daily. This food comes in and goes right back out. In all of 2019, we distributed 5 million pounds of food. From March 15 – August 15, we distributed 5.1 million pounds of food! I expect us to give away at least 7 million pounds of food by the end of the year, breaking all previous records.

Each hunger-alleviation organization is tasked with raising their own funding. Even though we are very collaborative, we often compete for donations from the same individuals and institutions. People sometimes tell me they made a donation to Feeding America or NTFB and were so happy to do so, because they know it benefits Sharing Life. It does! Without our partners, we absolutely could not accomplish the task of feeding our neighbors so well. However, donations to those entities are not redistributed, but remain with that nonprofit. That is why I'm asking you -- if you wish to alleviate hunger locally -- to consider giving to Sharing Life directly. That way, we can guarantee that your neighbors in need will benefit, not only with food, but with all the other services that Sharing Life provides.

Thank you and God bless you for your generosity!

by Teresa Jackson on September 11th, 2020

If you have known me very long, you have likely heard me say that our food programs are the meat-and-potatoes of Sharing Life. That is because when a person is hungry or under-nourished, they cannot do anything else well. Think about it. When I am really hungry I become weak, my hands shake, my head hurts, and my stomach growls. I get irritable. All I can think about is eating! There is no way I could learn a new skill or be at my best at work. Now imagine that is your normal way of living. Every day, you eat the cheapest foods you can afford, ration the food available, and skip some meals altogether. By feeding people well, we at Sharing Life are preparing children to learn and grow strong brains and bodies. Having food in the pantry allows adults to be focused on work and family responsibilities, relieving the stress that keeps them from being fully present. No one should be hungry -- ever! September is Hunger Action Month. The entire nation is focused on the issue of food insecurity. Sharing Life is honored to serve our community with the following hunger alleviation programs:
  • Drive-thru food pantry - We offer 11 drive-thru options each week at our Mesquite and Balch Springs locations.
  • Delivery - During the pandemic, we have food delivery available via our partners Amazon, Uber, and Star Transit. We also have volunteers who assist with this important service.
  • Nourish2Flourish - A child hunger alleviation program that operates anytime students are not in school. Our partner is retired Dallas Cowboy Travis Fredrick.
  • Hub - We provide food to 75 community distribution partners and agencies who then distribute the food locally in their neighborhoods. We also support these partners in a myriad of ways.
  • Pet Food- It’s not always available, but we try to keep some on hand. We know that seniors will often feed their pet and go without eating if pet food is not available.
 Since March of this year, we have distributed more than 5 MILLION pounds of food. That is more than 4.3 MILLION meals! In all of 2019, we distributed 4.9 million pounds. That is a lot of food! Many among us are food insecure. What a privilege to be able to help those families fill their pantries! Thank you for being our financial partner in this fight against hunger. It is because of your generosity that Sharing Life has been ready to serve since the pandemic hit our community. If you would like to invest in alleviating hunger for some families in our community, please consider blessing Sharing Life with a gift on Giving Tuesday. It’s only a few days away, but donations are being accepted now. I promise your gift will make a difference! Go HERE to donate.

"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40)  

by Teresa Jackson on September 8th, 2020

People have written entire books on learning to be grateful. Gratitude journals are used as a tool to reflect on the things in our lives for which we are thankful. In our pre-Covid culture I think it was easy to become complacent about the mundane, everyday-ness of life. In September of 2020, the daily grind of February 2020 would be a welcome relief! We now understand how precious our time was when spent freely with people we love. I look back and feel immediate gratitude for the gift of attending a worship service, shopping in a mall, eating warm chips and salsa from the never-ending kitchen of a great Mexican food restaurant or even having friends over for a backyard barbeque on Labor Day. I am so grateful for the gift of travel! I am not so patiently waiting for the day it is truly safe to board a plane and visit my family in Wisconsin. I am so grateful for all of these simple pleasures that brought joy to my life.

One of the routine events of my life is the annual Sharing Life Gala. We plan from the ending of one Gala until the big night arrives the next year. We love sharing our passion for the mission and telling our stakeholders about how we have served our community in the previous year. The 2020 Gala provided plenty of opportunity to show how quickly the Sharing Life team could tackle an unexpected circumstance and meet the challenge with excellence. I am grateful for so many things about our Driving Thru 2020 Gala. I am grateful for our Gala Committee chairs, Lori Nesler and Tracy Panousieris. They worked long and hard wrangling volunteers, staff, popcorn, M&M’s, boxed meals, and so much more. Everything they do is done with great intention and care. I am grateful to our sponsors. Let’s be honest. The event is a fundraiser. Without our sponsors the show would not go on. Every penny of every dollar matters to us. Every gift from our guests makes a difference in the lives of those we serve. I am grateful to our vendors who provided their best efforts to bring their products and services to Driving Thru 2020. I am grateful for Alan Paul. He makes us look so good! When you see us looking like a Fortune 500 company in print media, you are seeing the impeccable work of Alan Paul. I am grateful to my team. I would especially like to give a huge round of applause to Jacob Taylor and Shanna O’Shields. These two went above and beyond. Seriously, folks. They gave the blood, sweat, and tears needed to get stuff done. 

I am grateful for YOU and to the God who sustains us every, single day!

"When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, thankfulness overflows. Even in the darkest of times, we can praise God for his love, his sovereignty, and his promise to be near us when we call". (Psalm 145:18)

by Teresa Jackson on August 10th, 2020

We are ready for our annual Back to School Fair! We are looking forward to greeting families to give them backpacks, school supplies, and other goodies in our drive-thru parking lot. It’s not the way we normally conduct this yearly occasion, but we are pretty good at hosting drive-thru events by now! Learning to be flexible and pivot when life demands it is a skill. For many of us, that trait is learned and does not come naturally. I wish I had learned to be flexible when I was a younger leader, wife, and mother. There is much to be said for going with the flow and being open minded enough to lean in the direction that the wind is blowing. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken!

In economic terms, flexibility means having enough savings on hand to survive a 90-day period without income. The pandemic has shown us just how important that financial principle can be. Saving for a rainy day is often a big challenge. Honestly, it can be an impossible challenge for people living in poverty. We are now in the fifth month of a worldwide pandemic. Some of our neighbors have been without a paying job most of that time. The last five months of rainy days have caused hardships for many families with moderate incomes. Sharing Life is providing rental and mortgage assistance to help these families avoid eviction. We have already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility assistance to help them keep their lights, water, and gas from being disconnected. We have more money to spend and we are accepting applications and writing checks every day.

When you give to Sharing Life, you are giving to a rainy day fund. Your gifts have kept senior citizens, children, and families safe in their homes. It has allowed us to keep utility disconnections at bay. It always matters -- but in the heat of a Texas summer -- not having electricity can be deadly for our most vulnerable neighbors. We have fed thousands and thousands of people and fed them well. One day soon, we will look back on this period of time and be relieved it is behind us. The rain will stop, the clouds will disperse, and the rainbow will appear again. When I remember the storm, I will think of you. Your kindness and generosity. How you loved people you didn’t even know by giving to Sharing Life. And I will thank God for every one of you.

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