Lottie is a single mom living in Concord, Vermont. For Lottie, challenges with transportation and affordable childcare have made it difficult to make enough money to afford food. Despite working, she doesn’t make enough to cover her basic needs, but is making too much to qualify for many assistance programs.
The cost of maintaining a reliable vehicle and filling it with gas to get to work and to the grocery store has been a struggle. “You’re forced to forgo [something] to fix your car, or pay childcare for the week, or to have to pay a bill. You have to neglect something in order to put food on the table. The struggle is still there even though you’re working,” Lottie explains.
Lottie tried to change her life by moving to Maine. She left with her daughter and what she could fit in her car. “I’m very stubborn and hard-headed,” Lottie says. “I didn’t want to be on assistance when I left here, I wanted to be on my own.”
When they reached Maine, she worked as much as possible, but it was difficult to afford childcare for her daughter while she was at work. Ultimately the challenges Lottie found in Maine left her and her daughter homeless.
Lottie had a friend in Maine who would watch her daughter during the day so that she could work or find a job. “And at night, we would—I have a tiny little Chevy Aveo […]—we would sleep in the car, on the seat, in the Walmart parking lot,” Lottie remembers.
During this hard time, Lottie was grateful to have the support of her community. “I ended up reaching out to one of the local food shelves for help there, because I just couldn’t make ends meet,” she says.
Before long, Lottie moved back to Vermont where she got a job as a housekeeper at a hotel, but she had to travel more than an hour each way to get to work. “Even when I moved back here I was struggling.”
One day, Lottie got a flat tire on her way home from work, so she put on her spare tire. But the very next day she got a second flat tire, and with no spare to use she was out of luck. Fearing that she would lose her job if she didn’t get to work, Lottie asked her mother to pick her up and take her to work. She left her car on the side of the road with a note on it saying she would be back for the car after work.
Then something incredible happened.
A stranger found her car and bought her four brand new tires. “I didn’t know how I was going to afford a new tire or even fix the tire. It was either: fix the tire and go without milk and eggs, or go missing work until I got the tire fixed,” says Lottie.
This kind stranger was older, doing his best to make his own ends meet on a fixed retirement income. “He said I didn’t owe him anything,” Lottie remembers. He told her that when he was younger and struggling, someone helped him. All he asked of her was that she pay it forward.
“It brought tears to my eyes in how some people are so kind in this world and so willing to help you even in their own struggles. It restored my faith in humanity that there are still people out here willing to help one another.”
“Even if I’m struggling, it doesn’t matter. I know there are people who are worse off than me that don’t have anything. And if I had more room at home, I would take people in. Or if I had a camper in my yard, I’d let people stay in it. And I never used to be like that. So I think that guy brought out the better side of me.”
After working as much as possible and saving every dollar she could, Lottie found a place to live with a rent-to-own agreement. In four years she will own her home, and she won’t have to worry about housing anymore.
But Lottie knows there will continue to be challenges, so she is grateful to have the help of her local food shelf and community to help keep food on the table. “I couldn’t do it on my own, without the state help or the food shelf. No way could I do it,” Lottie says.
Thanks to the support of her community, Lottie’s circumstances are more stable now. She’s eager to pay it forward, saying “I’d like to have a garden big enough where I can donate to the food shelf. […] And maybe give my eggs away from the chickens or the fruits and veggies that I grow. Or maybe teach people how to grow their own garden.”
Lottie hopes to help make a world where people don’t have to struggle. “I wish other people had what I have. I wish other people could find more affordable housing, so that they can afford to put the food on the table and take care of their kids and their families the way they need to.”
“I want to be able to use what I have to also help other people,” says Lottie. “Because I know what it’s like to struggle.”
Imagine the difference we can make, when we all come together.
You can help provide grocery staples, like milk and eggs, for a neighbor experiencing hunger. Visit vtfoodbank.org/giveto donate.