Best friends rely on each other during times of need

40 Faces of 40 Years Together - Shellie and Debbie

Together is just one of the 550 network partners Food Bank for the Heartland works with to distribute food to neighbors in need. Their pantry allows community members to pick out their own food, just like a grocery store—and is replenished daily with fresh produce, meats, dairy, and shelf-stable items.

We recently met Shellie and Debbie in the lobby of Together’s pantry in Omaha. The two have been best friends for more than 50 years, after meeting in junior high. Over the last five decades, they’ve supported each other through some of the toughest times, including the pandemic, the loss of Debbie’s business, and now inflation.

Both agree that on the hardest days, it’s their friendship that keeps them going. “There are some days you’re just depressed. And when that happens, I’m there for her and she’s there for me. We have each other’s back,” says Shellie.

Debbie says she needed that support during the pandemic. “I’m a seamstress and when COVID hit, I lost my entire business. I did weddings, costumes for theater, and special occasions, and that all shut down. When that happened, my business was gone.”

While both are grateful they haven’t gotten sick from COVID, the pandemic has affected them in other ways. “We’ve both been very lucky health wise. But it’s more than just physical health. This pandemic has taken a toll on everyone mentally and financially,” says Debbie.

The duo—who only live six blocks from each other—visit the pantry every few months to hold them over when food is low. Both women say the service has been a lifesaver during these uncertain times. “It’s convenient here. They have a great selection of fruits, veggies and meats and a good selection of other staples, too,” says Debbie.  Shellie agrees. “There’s not a lot of places you can come to when you don’t have a lot. It’s so nice to come here and get the help you need when you need it.”

Since they’ve started visiting the pantry, the two have noticed the impact inflation has made on the community. “We’re seeing more and more people who have never been here. That’s a sign of the times. People can’t afford gas or food right now,” says Shellie.

For those individuals who find themselves needing help for the first time, these women understand how hard it can be to admit you need help, but Shellie says, it doesn’t have to be demeaning. “The biggest step is walking through the front door. Once you get here, you find it’s not so bad. The people are so nice, and no one makes you feel less than.”

While these best friends can always lean on each other, they feel blessed to have Together—and the support of the Food Bank— “It’s just a great feeling to know you’re not alone,” says Debbie.