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Child’s desire to help hungry people becomes Families Feeding Families

December 15th, 2014 Posted in Arts and Life

By Katherine Larsen Lambert

CACHE VALLEY — It began with a diaper bag in Chicago, Illinois. After having lunch with her husband at the Richard Daley Center, Jaymee Avery noticed something about the homeless population. “When everyone went back to work, the homeless were everywhere,” Avery said. “They were eating food out of the garbage and off the ground. My son became very upset and started getting snacks out of the diaper bag and giving them to the homeless people.”

The experience had such a lasting effect on Avery’s little boy that later that year, he requested that instead of presents, he wanted ‘“to help feed those people,” Avery said.

Volunteers help Families Feeding Families put together lunches for hungry and homeless people in Cache Valley. Photo courtesy Tabetha Mueller.

Avery has been helping to feed those in need ever since. When her family moved to Cache Valley, she continued to work to help the homeless, taking donations ranging from water bottles to blankets to help families in the area. “We had a big garage sale and used funds we give away as rent to keep people from being evicted or pay utilities,” Avery said.

Reaching out through Facebook, Adam Estep was able to get the help he needed for his family through Avery’s daughter.

“We were in a really hard time,” Estep said. “It was the week my wife lost her job. The power bills were all due and we didn’t know what to do about it. So I sent a hit out on Facebook and Jaymee’s daughter sent us a hit back and was like, ‘Well, my mom does stuff like that.’”

After applying a credit to the couple’s account for utilities, Avery was also able to provide food for Estep and his wife K.C.

“We had little man covered with formula and stuff, but after that there wasn’t money left for us,” K.C. said. “I called Jaymee kind of late that night, at about eight, and she was there at 10 and completely filled my car with food.”

Avery said part of the Families Feeding Families purpose is to help those in need from going without food, or giving families the help they need to keep them from being evicted.

The number of homeless individuals in the Logan area fluctuates each year, Lt. Brad Franke of the Logan City Police Department said.

“We would hope that someone has family or friends that they can rely on,” Franke said, “but if they don’t, we hope to offer resources to keep them from being set on the streets.”

One of those resources is the 211 number run by United Way, Franke said. The 211 number has resources that range from food assistance to phone numbers for hospitals and clinics.

“BRAG and the Cache County Sheriff’s office will work with people to make sure they have a safe place to sleep,” Franke said, “and there’s other resources on the 211 number. It’s an information resource that runs through a list of options to take you to operator system for anything you can imagine.”

But there are no homeless shelters in Logan for those that do find themselves on the street, and the nearest shelter is St. Anne’s Center in Ogden.

“They used to give us vouchers to help give temporary housing,” Franke said. “They would see that we would give vouchers for motel rooms and a little bit of money for food for these families.”

Franke said a new plan is currently in the works to provide temporary housing for 24 to 48 hours for individuals without shelter. Transportation would also be available for those seeking the St. Anne’s shelter.

Another resource for individuals in Cache Valley that are in need of food is the Cache Community Food Pantry. The pantry was created by the Bear River Association of Governments in 1972, but became its own entity in 1993.

“We have about 165 families that come here every week,” said Matt Whitaker, director of the food pantry. “In addition to all those, we are able to help a lot of different non-profits such as CAPSA, {and] there’s Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, Bear River Health, we’ve got eight senior centers. Some of those are in Cache County, Box Elder County, Rich County, that we serve.”

While some of the funding for the food pantry comes from the state, Whitaker said most of it comes from Cache Valley. “The majority of the funding of the food pantry comes from local support,” he said, “whether it’s businesses, individuals, religions. We do three food drives per year. One of the holidays we do a Boy Scout food drive. There’s the postal carrier food drive. We do get a lot of food from the Utah food bank in Salt Lake. I would say about 40 percent of our food comes from Salt Lake. The other 60 percent is right here in the valley.”

In order to be eligible for the food pantry’s services, individuals must complete a brief application, show proof of income for every working member of the household and proof of address, Whitaker said.

“Most of the families that come here are in dire need,” Whitaker said. “A lot of them don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. We do have some that are in need just temporarily because they just applied for food stamps but don’t know when they are going to come, or they just moved here and the first month’s rent and deposit took all they had and they haven’t gotten their first paycheck yet. I would say that most of the families that come down here are pretty stressed and don’t know what they are going to do for groceries.”

While Whitaker noted it is a busy time of year for the pantry, it is also a busy time of year for Avery. Stacks of blankets in her home make her look like a hoarder, she joked, but the success of the Families Feeding Families has left her with limited storage.

“We are using one of our neighbor’s unfinished basements to store donations,” Avery said. “But they are going to have to have it finished soon and we are not quite sure where we are going to put them.”

Yet she continues to receive donations from the community.

“There was this lady that stopped by to donate coats her three sons had outgrown,” Avery said. “When she went to leave, I noticed she didn’t have a car. I asked her if she wanted a ride but she said no. I asked her how she knew where I lived and she said she had stopped by my old house and had asked my neighbors for my new address. My old home was at least a half-hour walk from my new home.”

It’s the compassion of those that work with Families Feeding Families that makes them different from other resources in the valley, K.C. Estep said.

“They are great people,” Adam Estep said. “The world needs more people like them.”


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