On Thanksgiving Day, Donna Larrabee sat down to the table with her husband John and their four grown children. Donna has a lot to be thankful for, and looks at life with a sunny disposition and a fondness toward the kindness of those around her.
On that particular Thursday, Donna spent her morning preparing a turkey, mashed potatoes, and a couple of delicious pumpkin pies – her kids provided the rest. The table was well stocked that day, and thanks in part to Feeding America West Michigan and the mobile pantry program, her table and fridge are stocked year round.
After moving to Michigan from Chicago at the age of nine, Donna has lived in the same town for more than 60 years. For her entire adult life, she managed a small family farm with her husband. “Goats, pigs, chickens; you name it, we had it,” Donna said. John helped on the farm when he was home – otherwise he could be found driving trucks to supplement the farm’s income. With two incomes, the pair were able to support their family of six. Upon retiring, however, finances expectedly became more strained.
Despite age and medical troubles, Donna and John still find the time and energy to raise two cattle every year. They split one animal with their four children, and sell the other in order to pay for the processing of both animals. Still, the couple struggles to pay for some grocery items on a fixed income. That’s where Feeding America West Michigan comes in. Donna has been attending the mobile pantry at the Seventh Day Adventist Auxiliary Building in Allegan for the last three years, and the operation has left a lasting impact on her and her family. Fresh produce, in particular, is a challenge for Donna. “I come for the vegetables and the fruit. My husband and I just can’t afford it out of the store, so it’s really fantastic,” Donna says. In the Larrabee household, nothing goes to waste. Donna continues, “I don’t take it if I don’t need it…if I can’t use the vegetables, I give them to my kids or can them.”
The mobile pantry has also created the opportunity for meaningful impact beyond simply providing nutritious food to hungry families. “I love (the mobile pantry), I really do. The people are so friendly. It’s nice to be able to talk to the people; I don’t get out that much so I love being able to talk to the people,” Donna says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. These people make it so nice, they don’t make you feel ashamed to come and get it,” she concluded. Donna was with her daughter at the mobile pantry in Allegan last month, where she chatted with staff and other regular clients while waiting for her turn in line. It is clear that the mobile pantry is a place where Donna and her friends and family feel safe and welcome.
Donna has a charismatic smile and sunny disposition: it is clear that she has lived her life well and surrounded herself with those she loves, and vice versa. Donna and her family should serve as a lesson to us all in humility and compassion. Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time.
Story written by Lauren Spangler, Communications Manager