Crystal is an energetic single mom taking care of her six-year-old daughter, as well as the two sons of her friend who is living at a women’s shelter. She smiles when she talks about The Open Link, a Philabundance member agency, but when the conversation focuses on the need for food in her Montgomery County community, she becomes serious.
“If it weren’t for places like this, a lot of people would starve. I wouldn’t have made it without this place in our community.”
Crystal is unemployed and on public assistance and relies on The Open Link for resume help, job search services and she also visits the food pantry. In addition to securing food, she gets household items, such as diaper cream, laundry detergent and other products that help her stretch her budget to cover her bills, including her daughter’s extensive medical bills.
“I’m making it through because The Open Link is here for me.”
Even before taking in her friend’s two sons, she was struggling to put food on her family’s table. But she couldn’t bear to let the boys – 2 years and nine-month-old – be placed into foster care.
Welcoming them in was a blessing in disguise, though, because that’s how she learned about The Open Link. When the social service worker came to check in on the boys about a year ago, he referred her to the nearby agency. She’s been a client ever since.
Crystal (L) is greeted and helped by an Open Link volunteer (R) during her shopping trip.
The Open Link staff are “wonderful, warm people. I’m not sure if they’ve been through what I’ve been through, but it feels like they have. If you’ve walked in someone’s shoes, you’ll walk that extra mile for them and that’s how I feel here. This is an awesome, awesome place – it feels like a second home.”
The Open Link participates in Philabundance’s Grocers Against Hunger (GAH) program, which pairs grocers with local agencies to ensure that food that would otherwise go to waste stays in the communities where it’s needed. GAH helps keep their pantry stocked with items ranging from cereal and fresh bread to meat and milk, as well as fruits and veggies. This robust food pantry serves approximately 1,200 people per year, including Crystal.
Crystal is grateful for the hand up that The Open Link provides.
“Places like The Open Link offer hope, not just help.”