A Phone Call with Norma

I often have the privilege of sharing the success we see every day here at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). Unfortunately, the journey to self-sufficiency and financial independence is often a hard one. Many of our clients struggle to make it by. Our receptionists are all too familiar with the desperate calls of people seeking support. Below is an example of one of those phone calls. I received the e-mail below recently and wanted to share with our supporters as it was a huge reminder of not only the resources that we offer, but the love and heartfelt compassion our employees have for this cause. I hope this story allows you to get a brief insight into sometimes tough calls we receive and how just one employee can make such a positive impact on a single life. In today’s news stations flooded with stories of mass tragedy, it is reassuring that we are making a positive impact in our community and offering support to those who need it most.

“We received a call today from a very desperate homebound 94 year-old senior who was deliriously hungry.  She called yesterday afternoon. Norma lives alone with her little dog and hasn’t eaten for days. Her sweet tone, humble nature and absolute desperation REALLY tugged at my heart strings and my only consolation was that one of our partner agencies, Christian Fellowship Ministries, offering a food distribution the next day, was close by on Cottage Way apparently right down the street from a church she has attended in the past and she thought she would be able to find it. However, she was very confused and asked me to repeat the information quite a few times. She called back again today and sounded even more delirious, faint and weak complaining about her hunger.  I used more administrative time on the call than I should have and I know that those of us on the front lines feel this deep, agonizing helplessness sometimes.  I have gotten many other calls like this but never quite so jolting as this one and I wanted to bring her some food after work.  I was reminded that we do not interact with clients at that level for safety reasons and that if I went over to her house something dangerous could happen.  Instead, I called Non-Emergency to inquire about what type of service they might offer and Eskaton TLC about the outreach calls they make. 

Non-Emergency said that they would check in on Norma and if the officer felt it necessary, they would contact Adult Protective Services in which a case worker would get involved.  I felt much better when I got off the phone knowing that professionals who interact with people at that personal level were involved.  Those of us who answer the phone hear stories about people with cancer whose sibling’s and or spouses just died, people narrowly escaping threats, violence, people being evicted who are homeless and crying etc.  They not only need help in the form of shelter, food and other services, they want someone to listen and to feel loved. Although we cannot spend a ton of time with each caller I always feel supported knowing that I can make a difference.”

Submitted by
Elise Hawkins, SFBFS' Communications Officer

Special thank you to Cary Howitson, SFBFS receptionist, for sharing this story.