We met James at St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Pontiac.
James is retired and lives with his daughter and her children. Their household consists of 7 people, a dog and a cat. James became a guardian for his grandchildren so they would not become a part of the system. “I stepped in so they would have a roof over their heads,” he says. James was raised in orphanages from the age of five, believes in the importance of family and wants to be there for his daughter and grandchildren. “As long as the good Lord is willing, I’ll be around to support my daughter.”
His daughter has had trouble finding stable employment after coming to live with him. He cites sexual harassment as one of the problems. “It seems to flourish around here,” he adds.
While James is grateful his grandkids receive funds from the state, he explains that those funds “only go so far.” James uses his social security and disability benefits to help support the kids. “Sometimes what we have just isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to travel to four pantries to get enough.” At the St. Vincent DePaul pantry they found mac and cheese, soups, ground beef, milk, bread and desserts.
James is a Vietnam veteran and served his country as an army cook. He says his daughter does the cooking now. He enjoys other aspects of raising his grandkids, including taking the kids to meetings and appointments and generally keeping an eye on them.
When asked what would make a difference in their lives, James says he is not sure—other than winning the lottery. He is hopes the future holds better jobs and more opportunities for his grandchildren. He keeps his life in perspective and is grateful for what he has. “We might struggle, but at least we are doing it as a family,” he notes. “It used to be a single unit of mom and dad, with dad being the breadwinner. But as times got hard, mom jumped in to be the breadwinner or to make ends meet. Now it is the grandparents who have to help.”
James says the food pantries make a big difference. “I love all the pantries we go to. All the workers treat people with respect—like we are part of their family.”