Chris | St. Louis Area Foodbank

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Chris Roberts
has worked all his life.

“I’ve never been without a job,” Chris says. “ I started working when I was 15 at the high school cafeteria.”

His parents were teachers and active community volunteers who instilled in their three children two important things – the drive to work hard and the desire to help those in need.

Chris grew up in St. Louis where he and his family were members of Shaw Methodist Church. Through the church, Chris’ parents often took it upon themselves to help other people.

“They were always involved with helping other people with food,” Chris says. “It was not uncommon for them to buy $200 worth of food at the grocery store for somebody who needed it.”

After graduating from Southwest High School, Chris studied marketing and business management for two years at Indiana State University. While in college, Chris worked in food service at the university.

Chris later returned to St. Louis and spent much of his late 20s working as a personnel manager for Airport Parking Corp. When he needed a change of scenery, he moved to Kansas City. There he worked in construction and served as a chef at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

In 1980, Chris moved back to St. Louis to care for his aging parents. Even while he was taking care of his parents, he continued to work. He worked for 15 years as a toddler room teacher at the Shaw Avenue Children’s Center.

His mom died in 1985 and after his father died in 2003, Chris moved back to Kansas City, hoping to resume a career in construction. But with the economic downturn, he found jobs hard to come by.

For two years he struggled in Kansas City before he returned once more to St. Louis.

“That was a dark time in my life without my parents to guide me,” Chris says. “I didn’t do very well.”

He worked at Walgreens for several years before he moved to De Soto, Mo., five years ago. Craving the country life, he bought a small house on Cole’s Lake. “I just felt like I needed to be in the country,” Chris says.

Chris got a job at Walmart, working his way up from the stock room to front-end cashier.

“When I first moved down here, I was poor,” Chris says. “I had just started my job and my finances weren’t rock solid.”

Shortly after Chris moved in to his new home in De Soto, his furnace literally blew up.

It was at that point that he learned two things – first, he needed help. The second was that De Soto was full of giving people.

One of the families at his church, Mount Olive Methodist Church, immediately offered to take him in, offering him a nice room in their finished basement.

The De Soto Food Pantry, a partner agency of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, helped him get the food he needed.

For most of his life, Chris had been the one to help others in need. Now, he needed help.

“I believe that if we’re in a community that takes cares of each other, the whole community is better for it.”

“Being at the receiving end was very humbling,” he says. “In St. Louis, I would see people come into the food pantry there and often thought, ‘they don’t really need that.’ But now that I’m out on my own I see that it really does make an impact.”

Still, this lifelong volunteer couldn’t accept help without giving something in return.

“I decided to earn my keep,” Chris says.

He began volunteering every week at the pantry, handing out food to other families in need and unloading the Foodbank truck that arrives with deliveries. He also shared all the food he was given with the family who had so generously offered him a place to stay.

Chris also volunteers at the church, where he still sings in the choir, helps maintain the building, and prepares for events.

Unfortunately, Chris hasn’t been able to volunteer as much lately because his health has taken a turn for the worse.

“I was diagnosed with leukemia and diabetes,” Chris says.

By the time he pays for his medical bills, there is little left over for food.

“There’s nothing left,” Chris says. “I’m scrimping and saving just to buy cat food for my cat.”

Chris still relies on the food pantry to keep his pantry shelves from going bare. He has settled back into his home on Cole’s Lake with his two cats, Tabouleh and Mushka.

Things are better than they once were, but even with his salary from Walmart, he can’t quite get by.

Fortunately, Chris has discovered that there are people he can rely on in the De Soto community.

“I have a wonderful church family, and if I were hungry they would feed me,” he says.

Chris shared his story in February 2013 with Bethany Prange, communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. His personal circumstances may have changed since the original interview.

Jefferson County

On Oct. 30, 2012, the St. Louis Area Foodbank delivered roughly 30,000 pounds of food to De Soto, Mo. With help from a great group of volunteers from the De Soto Food Pantry, the Foodbank handed out apples, eggplant, butter, canned goods and yogurt to more than 150 families in need. Chris Roberts volunteers at the De Soto Pantry, where he is also a client.