One Massachusetts mother’s struggle to overcome the coronavirus and feed her children
Diana Perry had never been to a food pantry before last July, when she found herself embarrassed to be in line at the one The Salvation Army runs in Lynn.
On Nov. 29, 2019, she was laid off from her job as a dispatcher at a Danvers plumbing company.
But she and her three children — her 5-year-old son and 7-year-old twin daughters — managed to get by on her husband’s salary as a painter and carpenter until he was diagnosed with renal cancer and died of kidney failure on June 27.
Within a month after his death, Perry, for the first time in her life, found herself in line at the food pantry.
“I never thought I’d be in this position,” said Perry, 44. “I felt so embarrassed, I started to walk away. But a staff member called to me and said I could just take a box of food. I grabbed it and just walked away.”
Like millions of other Americans who have lost their jobs, Perry suddenly found that she needed help with the most basic necessity: feeding herself and her children, her struggle compounded by grief over the loss of her husband of 20 years.
“It was hard for me to be on my feet and doing well and have that — and my husband — taken from me,” she said. “I thought I had lost my entire world. I cried every day for two or three months. I never imagined I’d need help feeding my children.”
Perry reluctantly began to go to the food pantry once a week, pulling up in her car and waiting patiently along with 600 or 700 other people.
By the beginning of last November, though, she began having trouble breathing. She couldn’t finish sentences and was so weak that she could barely make it to the hospital on Nov. 7, when she was diagnosed with the coronavirus. Doctors told her to go home, rest and take lots of fluids.
It was hard to rest, though, when she didn’t know how she was going to pay her $1,300 in rent. So she combed the web for jobs and stumbled across a listing for a part-time receptionist at The Salvation Army.
Toward the end of November, she tested negative for the virus, interviewed for the job and got it.
Today, The Salvation Army is helping with her rent and still gives her food from its pantry. But now she’s among the staff and volunteers who distribute it to the hundreds of people who wait in line.
“I still have a hard time thinking something like this could ever happen in this country,” Perry said. “It breaks my heart to see so many people who need food. But I’m glad we can at least offer them something.”
By MARIE SZANISZLO | Boston Herald
PUBLISHED: January 23, 2021 at 2:25 p.m. | UPDATED: January 24, 2021 at 1:46 a.m.