by Teresa Jackson on July 31st, 2020

This year has created a conundrum as far as time is concerned! When I was a child, a single day felt like a week -- especially if we were planning a trip to Six Flags the next day! But, as I have matured, time seems to have accelerated with each passing day, feeling more like a blink than a 24-hour period. When I was younger, the adults in my life told me to expect this. As most kids do, I gave it little thought until I reached a certain age. This year of 2020 is a crazy, strange mix of time moving more slowly than ever before and racing by so quickly! Sheltering at home makes the days seem to last forever; yet today is July 31! How can that be? The last time I checked we were packing Spring Break backpacks filled with nutritious food so kids could enjoy those important meals that they typically receive at school. Yet, when I look at the calendar, it says July 31. This has been the longest Spring Break in the history of Spring Breaks!

All of this talking about the passage of time caused me to think about how our senior friends are faring during the pandemic. So many seniors were fairly isolated before the shelter safely at home precautions began. Trips to the grocery store, nail/beauty salon, pharmacy, church, or senior center were the highlights of their week. Before the pandemic, Friday was our special day at Sharing Life reserved for seniors and people with disabilities. We loved Fridays and looked forward to seeing our older friends. Some of our guests would bring cards or dominoes and play while waiting to shop in our food pantry or clothes closet. They made friends at Sharing Life and shared advice on where to get the best deal on tires or oil changes -- and loved to recommend their favorite new student at the beauty school for bargain haircuts. They talked about their children and grandchildren; they prayed together with staff and one another. They often told us how important it was to their budget to be able to come to Sharing Life and shop for food and clothes on a regular basis. That usually meant once or twice per month. We brought in other organizations to offer services like blood pressure checks, Medicare benefit education, or fraud alerts about scams that target senior citizens. We also made sure we left plenty of room in our financial assistance budget to help our senior friends with their utility bills and rent. We are still providing food and helping with financial requests but we often feel concerned about the mental health of our friends as they shelter at home. We are looking forward to the time when we can open our doors to in person services.

In the near future, we will be sharing some statistics about the number of seniors we serve and how we serve them. Oftentimes, statistics can be dry and less than compelling. However, I wanted to remind you today that seniors are often hidden from our busy lives. This is particularly true during the pandemic. Please check on your neighbors. A phone call or socially distanced conversation in the front yard might make someone’s day. Make sure they have enough food and are staying cool during the summer heat. If you learn of a need, please let us know. We want to help. God may be using you to sustain and rescue the ones he loves.

"Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you;  I will sustain you and I will rescue you." Isaiah 46:4 NIV

by Teresa Jackson on July 24th, 2020

Food insecurity is real. Even before the pandemic changed our lives and increased the need for food pantries, many families struggled to put adequate nutritious food on the table. You may think food insecurity only happens to the lowest income households in our country; sadly, that is not true. Many median income families also struggle with hunger. I want to show you how that can happen. Dan and Susie are hard working parents of a toddler and an infant. Dan, a high school graduate, works for a local package delivery company 40 hours per week and earns $15.00 per hour, or $31,200 annually. Susie has an associate’s degree and works as an instructional aide at the local middle school. Susie wants to return to school so she can become a teacher. Currently, she earns $15.00 per hour, or $31,200 annually.
The family’s combined income, after taxes, is $60,840.  Their monthly budget looks like this:

Health Insurance: $ 1,100.00
Child Care: $ 1,600.00
Rent: $ 1,200.00
Renter’s Insurance: $   10.00
Auto(s): $  700.00
Auto Insurance: $  300.00
Gasoline: $  200.00
Electricity: $  150.00
Water: $  100.00
Phone: $   80.00
Internet: $   50.00
Savings: $   25.00                  
Miscellaneous* $  200.00
$ 5,715.00 or $68,580 per year
*Miscellaneous includes clothing, school supplies & fees for field trips etc., doctor’s visits, diapers, toiletries, cleaning products. Note that there is nothing left for groceries.)

Total income after taxes: $54,400. Total expenses: $68,580

Dan and Susie are $14,180 in the hole before they make even one trip to the grocery store!

These are realistic figures for Dallas County. The rent is for a 2-bedroom apartment. The auto loans cover two used, but decent, vehicles. The auto insurance doesn’t take into account that either driver may have an accident or ticket on their record and that both adults are over 25. Utilities can vary from season to season based on weather and temperature. Internet is a necessity in 2020. So is a cell phone. These items are basic utilities that every employer expects their employee to have. This budget does not include a landline or cable. Sharing Life counsels all clients to have an emergency savings account of at least $500. This account is often the difference between a payday loan that can lead a family down the path to homelessness or surviving an everyday emergency unscathed. Everyday emergencies include new tires, brakes, or other maintenance for the vehicles, unpaid time off work due to being sick or caring for a sick child. There are a million little things that can send a family down the path to financial ruin. Things most of us take for granted like co-pays, medication costs, or co-insurance after the insurance has paid their part. None of these costs are included in the budget above. Also note that this family has no debt. No credit cards or loans to pay. The figure stated for health insurance is just the portion the family pays toward their policies. Their employers pay a portion of the premiums for the adults. According to numerous sites I visited to do research on this subject, the average cost of health insurance for a family of four in America is $25,000 per year.

Let’s talk about child care. Are you surprised that Dan and Susie are spending $1600 per month on day care? According to Child Care Aware, that is really a bargain! The average cost of center-based daycare in the USA is $11,896 per year ($991 monthly) for infants and $10,158 per year ($847 monthly) for toddlers.

What surprises you most? What should they cut? Health insurance? Child care? A vehicle and auto insurance? What if they live in a community with little or no public transportation?

I hope you see how challenging it can be for families who are working hard and still aren’t earning enough to make ends meet. They aren’t lazy or squandering resources. They must have help to make it day to day.  

That is where Sharing Life comes in. We help people who are struggling to eat well. We offer meat, milk, eggs, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, and other shelf stable items families need to eat well balanced diets. We also assist families in need with rent, mortgage payments, and utility assistance for electric, gas, and water bills. We offer work force development, employment services, and financial coaching. Our special programs provide school supplies and gifts at Christmas.  

There is just no money in the budget for these items for Dan and Susie. I often remark that the gifts given by our generous donors inspire hope in the lives of the people we serve. Can you see why? When Susie comes to Sharing Life to get food twice a month, sometimes we also have diapers. When Dan has three more days to go and the tank is on empty, Sharing Life can provide a gas gift card so he can go to work until payday. Yes, we fill tanks at Sharing Life. Gas tanks, hungry stomachs, backpacks, and basic monthly bills marked paid. Through this people see Jesus and feel hope. Thank you for giving so generously, again and again. Dan and Susie and their two babies thank you. And so do I.  

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Hebrews 13:16

by Teresa Jackson on July 17th, 2020

Sometimes I become overwhelmed by all the decisions I must make as a leader. During this uncertain time in the pandemic, the rules seem to change daily. As an information junkie, I find it difficult to decipher fact from fiction with the sheer volume of data coming across my desk each day. It makes my head spin! I have found it helpful to choose a single thought to repeat to myself when feeling overwhelmed by the stuff of life. For this season, that thought comes from Matthew 6:34. I hope it brings comfort and peace to your world.

I am looking forward to seeing all of you at our annual Gala next month on August 27th. You are going to love it! Unlike previous events, this Gala will offer a unique and safe way to support Sharing Life while getting a firsthand glimpse of what we've been doing these past few months. During this “drive-thru, never leave your car“ event, you can enjoy a ready-to-eat boxed dinner served in the same way our clients have received boxed groceries during the pandemic. Various aspects of Sharing Life's operations will be showcased via large displays as you wind your way through the parking lot. It is going to be so much fun! Financial gifts will still be accepted via cash, checks, and credit cards, or you can use your smart phone to try our new "text to give" option! Tickets are free but you must register to attend so we can have our caterer prepare enough food. Click HERE to register as a Gala guest.
 I am so thankful for the support everyone has shown throughout the years, and especially during this pandemic. You are appreciated more than you know!

by Teresa Jackson on July 10th, 2020

Legacy. What is yours? Is it important to you? I cannot think about my own legacy without thinking about the legacies of those who have inspired me. When I consider my leadership journey, I see the men and women who gave of their time intentionally to impact and fashion my leadership for excellence. Some came close and walked alongside me for a season; others have spoken from a distance. Still others have been my friends and mentors from the beginning and are still walking with me today. All have provided wisdom and encouragement when I needed it most. I plan to share a little about some of these treasured friends with you in the months ahead.  
Today I remember the honorable John Monaco. John was a Mesquite City councilman from 2001 - 2007 and the Mayor of Mesquite from 2007 - 2015 . He was very kind to me, always encouraging me and showing appreciation for the work I was doing in the community. He showed up at Sharing Life events. He wasn't there for a photo op. He served clients alongside other volunteers. He was engaging and really listened to people when they spoke to him. He hosted food drives when we needed food the most. He truly cared about the people in Mesquite who were experiencing hunger and poverty. He honored me in 2011 by naming me the recipient of the inaugural "Pillar of the Community" award. I was very surprised and completely overwhelmed by this prestigious honor. I will ever be grateful for this tribute. He always departed our meetings with a positive and encouraging word. He was a kind man. John Monaco passed away on July 5, 2020. His legacy as a respected Mesquite councilman and mayor are much larger than the little things he did for me. His life impacted thousands and thousands of people. Yet, when I think of him -- fully knowing and respecting his work as an elected official -- what I remember most is how he treated me. How he took time for me. He was the kind of person that left you feeling better about yourself. I am grateful that I knew John and was privileged to call him my friend. If you knew him, I suspect you can share similar memories. Jesus shined through you, sir! I send my most sincere condolences to the Monaco family and all who loved John. He will be greatly missed.

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."  
Romans 12:10

by Teresa Jackson on July 1st, 2020

Bob Goff is one of my all-time favorite authors. He can tell a story so well that you think you were present when it happened. The foundational message for every book he has written is love and hope. His popular books include Love Does, Everybody Always, and now, Dream Big. I dare you to read one of these books and not walk away a better person. In a world filled with so much pain, a world in need of healing from a longstanding racial divide, I want to recommend Everybody Always. This book was not written specifically to address racism, but it will bring balm to your soul as you seek ways to heal and give love to those hurting among us.

"People who are becoming love keep it real about who they are right now, while living in constant anticipation about who God's helping them become." -- Bob Goff, Everybody Always

Don’t you just love that?  

I must confess that I am definitely a work in progress. Honestly, I thought that--by this time in my life--I would be further down the path to becoming love. Who knew life would be so challenging? So, keeping it real, you should know that I have more work to do to become more like Jesus. I see my flaws and admit I don’t always know how to fix them.

Fortunately, God sees me as I am and, through His grace, is helping me to become love so I can genuinely share that love with everybody always. Everybody. Always.
And to that I say Amen.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28, ESV)

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