Veteran’s service extends beyond time in the armed forces

veterand shows lanyard to photographer

“I have a heart for people and animals who are struggling or neglected or feel they don’t belong,” explained Kimberly, a disabled veteran who attends Mobile Pantries each month in Ionia County. “I can relate to that. It’s good that I went through things in my life that’s made me gravitate toward others going through the same.”

Autoimmune diseases and issues with her spine have made it impossible for Kimberly to work. Because of this, she has time to prioritize helping others — something she loves to do.

“It makes me happy that God gives me something I can do,” she said.

Her desire to give back is one reason she began regularly attending Mobile Food Pantries at the start of the pandemic. Although she sometimes gets food for herself, her main reason for attending is the great need she’s seen among many of her friends and others in her community, especially among those who lack transportation. At one point, she picked up food and delivered it to the homes of five families in need. However, gas prices have gone up, so she’s lately found it more challenging to deliver to so many families.

Still, at the Mobile Pantry she attended in October, she picked up food for two neighbors with special needs who can’t drive.

When she can (and when she’s not helping human friends), Kimberly rescues boxers from unsafe situations, which she sometimes fosters. Many have health complications because of their previous homes, so she doesn’t currently have any boxers, as they’ve all passed away.

Kimberly loves wild animals, too, and lamented not having her camera after seeing 100s of cranes in a field right before she came to the Mobile Pantry.

“One of my dream jobs would be a photojournalist — taking pictures of nature and writing about it.”

She loves animals so much that she’s on her way to becoming vegan. That’s why she particularly appreciates all the vegetables she receives at Mobile Pantries and often donates any milk she gets to a local homeless shelter — “I don’t want it to go to waste,” she said.

All the help Kimberly gives is reliant on her having transportation, but recently her car, which has 270,000 miles on it, has started showing signs of wear.

“The car market is so bad that I can’t find anything used that’s any good. I try to just go day to day and not think beyond, but it’s hard,” she said.

She’s hopeful she’ll be able to find a solution once her car becomes unusable.

“I don’t brag about being prior military,” she said. “I proudly served, driving truck and fixing vehicles from wartime. But I did come home with some disabling medical conditions and PTSD, all of which changed my health from 18 years old.”

Veterans like Kimberly across our service area are facing hunger and other challenges despite having sacrificed so much to fight in the U.S. Armed Forces. Yet many are continuing to sacrifice in order to help their communities. Thank you, Kimberly, for your service. The food bank is honored to lend a hand.

Thanks to the Ionia County Community Foundation for helping us serve Ionia County communities this year!

Story written by Communication and Marketing Specialist Juliana Ludema.