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Perryville Pillow Talk

Our neighbors in Perryville have had some rough nights of sleep, so we’re sending pillows!

Early this week, we were happy to receive pallets of pillows that were donated because they were mismarked and couldn’t be sold in retail stores. We started distributing the pillows to transitional housing programs, but when we heard about the tornado emergency in Perryville, MO, we wanted to help. We worked with Salvation Army to load up two of their trucks with new pillows for those affected by the Perryville tornado Tuesday night.

We were glad to be involved and send help however we could. We didn’t know that the pillows we received as a donation would be needed this week, but we were happy to take them knowing they’d find good homes somewhere.


Many people don’t realize that we take donations of all kinds, or that we distributed over one million pounds of non-food items last year. These include household cleaning items, emergency response items, personal care and child care items. All of these are among the most requested items for families in need, and we’re proud to distribute them.

Thank you to Salvation Army for helping us help others rest easy!

Fresh Beginnings – At One Time or Another, Everyone Needs a New Start

Transitional Housing

The St. Louis Foodbank operates a Transitional Housing Program for people moving from a local shelter into their own residence.

We know it’s hard to scrape together the funds to pay a month’s rent, not to mention the utility down payments, security fees, etc.

To help with those one time additional costs, we provide a 30-day supply of food and other household items. Everyone needs a little help at some point, or at least some guidance.

Judy and I created our own transitional housing program with our daughter. After graduating from Missouri State University, Shawn accepted a job as a travel director.

The position has taken Shawn to many exotic places, but it also required that she spend the vast majority of her time out of town. Therefore, there wasn’t much sense in moving her into an apartment.

Loving parents that Judy and I are, we told her she was welcome to live with us but she’d have to pay rent. The Finnegan family transitional housing program had two options.

Shawn’s first option was to pay $250 each month and her loving parents would thank her very much and spend it on meals, movies and entertainment. Her second option was to pay $500 each month and we would return the entire sum whenever she decided to move out.

Shawn paid us rent for three years before an overpowering urge to flee drove her out and now has her paying rent to complete strangers.

Looking back, I’m happy about two things. First, Shawn paid the higher sum. Second, Judy collected the monthly rent payments and dutifully put them in the bank. Eighteen months after moving out of her parents’ home, Shawn bought her own house with the down payment from our transitional housing program.

Judy and I are in an enviable position. We have college educations, we both work and we’re able to live within our means. We have one child who successfully navigated the tumultuous years from 16 to 25. That seems to be the decade when parents everywhere pray their children don’t make one really stupid decision that could forever change their lives for the worse.

Transitional Housing Family

We know that circumstances beyond our control happen every day. A serious illness, a car accident, a lost job – so many things could start a spiral down that suddenly gets out of control.

Shelters are full of people who fell into that downward spiral. They certainly never planned on being in a shelter.

I’m thankful the Foodbank’s Transitional Housing Program can be there to help these folks down on their luck; just as I’m thankful Judy and I were able to help Shawn.

Everyone – at one time or another – needs a chance for a new start…a fresh beginning.



Frank Finnegan
St. Louis Area Foodbank President and CEO Frank Finnegan first shared a version of this story in the March 2013 Tablesetter newsletter.

Housewarming for a Homeless Family

Transitional Housing Family

Homeless and veteran should not be in the same sentence.

These are the wise words of Trish Jenner, the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s volunteer coordinator.

Trish is absolutely right. No veteran should struggle with homelessness.

But in truth, no American should.

Unfortunately, we all know that homelessness does exist, for far too many individuals in this country.

The good news is that there are organizations working hard to put these mothers and fathers, sons and daughters into homes. Nonprofits like Almost Home, Habitat for Humanity, the Kathy Weinman Center and Humanitri do a great job of giving these individuals a home and a better future.

But here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank, we understand that if someone has been homeless, or living in a temporary shelter, he or she probably won’t have many belongings. They won’t have a closet full of clothes, much-needed toiletries, or a pantry full of food to stock their new home or apartment.

Even if individuals are not homeless, but have been living in the overcrowded homes of relatives or participating in a live-in treatment program, they often are not able to purchase the items they need to get a fresh start.

So while a new tenant being served by an organization like Places on Page or the Veterans Administration Medical Center should be able to rejoice in finally finding a good place to live, they still have to worry about buying the items they need to survive.

That’s where the Foodbank can help.

We offer the Transitional Housing Program, a one-time offering of food and household items that help families and individuals make the transition from a shelter or the streets to a new home.

The Transitional Housing Program is one of only two direct service programs operated by the Foodbank – the rural Food Fair Program is the other. We consider the THP a “direct service,” because we distribute food and other products to an individual or family in need for their use only.

And over time, we have come to realize just how important these items are to a family or individual trying to establish roots in a new home.

Occasionally, a client will come to the Foodbank with her agency caseworker to pick up her family’s THP food shipment. It is remarkable to see the joy on their faces when she realizes the “food basket” is a pallet full of a month’s worth of food and boxes of household necessities.

I believe, because of the tears I have witnessed at these times, that it may just be at this exact moment, that it really sinks in for such a client that she has acquired not just a home, but a home in which she will be able to feed her family.

That’s how we know that this program is making a difference.

Over the past 15 months, Julia Day, Places for People’s development director and master scrounger, has made many referrals for her new residents to the Foodbank’s Transitional Housing Program.

And she’s not alone.

We are ready at any time to send a shipment to the Veterans Administration Medical Center’s Clemmie Cunningham or Matt Vaporean, or the Veterans Administration Hope Recovery Center’s Joanne Joseph and her staff.

Local social service agencies served by this program include:

  • Almost Home
  • Habitat For Humanity
  • Humanitri
  • Kathy Weinman Center
  • Preferred Health Care
  • Queen of Peace Center (Catholic Charities Housing)
  • Salvation Army
  • St. Louis Crisis Nursery
  • St. Martha’s Hall (Catholic Charities Housing)
  • Veterans Administration Hope Recovery Center
  • Veterans Administration Medical Center

With the help of all these agencies, the Foodbank gets to play a small role in giving a fresh start to homeless veterans, families in shelters and individuals in a myriad of unfortunate situations. We are proud to do our part.


    Jim Eschen is the agency relations manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank