Meet Lisa, a young mom… now a young single mom of two small children. After a heartbreaking and bitter divorce from the kids’ father, Lisa needed to make a big change.  Being too close to her now-ex was toxic for her and dangerous for the children.

So, onto Woodstock, a new community, a suburb on another side of Atlanta, to raise her small family.  Cherokee County’s reputation for good schools is widely known. However, apartment rentals, Lisa discovered, are very expensive.  As great as the school system is, there is very little affordable housing to be found.

Thankfully, Lisa was able to find a job quickly, but managing expenses as the single wage-earner for the household proved to be more than she could effectively navigate. Rent and utilities and car expenses and food and daycare…. And clothes and shoes for the growing kids… and what about those things that “had” to be bought?  Fast food at times, she felt, became a necessity… And those things in the store the kids begged for. 

As a single mom, Lisa was going through many adjustments at once. No longer with her “partner for life,” she was doing the best that she could, but it just wasn’t good enough. She was over-compensating for the lack of a “father” (although he wasn’t a good role model) to her kids by trying to be like everyone else.  She wanted everything to look as if she was strong, capable, and able to do all things on her own.

But, the bills started to come in. Every credit card statement demanded higher minimum payments; she was putting more and more expenses on them. She was at a tipping point.

The day came. There wasn’t enough money in her bank account to buy groceries and her credit cards were maxed out.  How embarrassing!  She couldn’t let anyone know at her new job that she was in trouble, that she couldn’t feed herself or her kids. Lisa didn’t know who she could trust or where to go.

So, what about Google? Her online search, “food pantries near me.” Papa’s Pantry, the food assistance program of Encompass Ministries appeared at the very top.  Papa’s sounded friendly and trustworthy.  Holding her breath, Lisa called to find out how to get food.  She was told of the pantry hours and that reservations are preferred to avoid a longer waiting time, but she could come anytime during those hours and we would do our best to work her in.  Thankfully, she scheduled a time that didn’t interfere with when she was supposed to be at work.

As she pulled her car into the parking lot, she thought she had finally hit rock-bottom, as if the divorce hadn’t already shattered her. Taking another deep breath, she found the courage to get out of her car to walk into the front door, wanting to run back to safety with each step.  Fighting tears, she introduced herself to Becca, the front office “make you feel at home” person.  Becca has her own story of struggle to victory which makes her the very best first person to meet inside the building.

Next, Faith rounded the corner with a big smile and Hello! Lisa admits to being a little confused during those first few minutes.  She thought she was coming for a food box.  Little did she know that she was about to meet her new friends, prayer partners, and stability team. Faith was interested in her story, her journey that led her to Encompass.  That’s an important part of the ministry… getting to know each person’s path, struggles, needs, dreams, and desires.  There is so much more than food assistance to be found at Encompass.

During her meeting with Faith, Lisa learned that we were not there for the one-off, but that we would come alongside her and help her towards her dream of stability and financial peace. Because Lisa had an income, we were able to jump-start her in the household budgeting program.  After the conversation, when it was time to “shop” for food items (at no charge) she was excited to find some of her kid’s favorite treats on our shelves that she could simply put in her bag.

So, back to the household budgeting program… each week since fall of 2021, Lisa and Faith met together on zoom, going through the details of her financial challenges.  Faith would take her chaos and confusion and turn it into optimistic order.  Lisa was able to prioritize what needed to be paid versus what whimsically she wanted to spend. Each week, she would soak up every word of wisdom Faith had to share. 

Today, (late December) Lisa is on track to have her credit cards almost paid off AND the program goal of $1,000 in an emergency savings account fund that she funded herself!  Sure we helped with groceries each week, which allowed her to put money into savings, but Lisa did the hard part.  She saw the goal of stability – the ability to provide for herself and kids, without depending on child support (which rarely comes) or the government, and stuck with it! That takes grit.  That takes determination.  That takes, “My kids will be better off than I was!” Fortitude.

For every donor who supports Encompass/Papa’s Pantry Ministries, Thank You! Without you, Encompass would not be able to help in any of these very basic ways… From putting food in kitchen cabinets and refrigerators to helping people achieve an EMERGENCY FUND and complete life change!!  How awesome is that?

Oh, by the way, Lisa recently told Faith, “I would be completely in the red if I hadn’t learned all that I did from you…  because I know how I am, rather how I used to be!”