“I’ve called them my new family — and it’s a huge family.”
When she showed up to the Wilbarger Street Church of Christ in Vernon, Marilyn Torres was hungry and alone.
“I was on the outside of the door,” Torres said. “I was also going there because I needed food.”
A divorce and hard financial times brought Torres to the church’s food pantry.
“She doesn’t wait to be a part. She makes herself a part,” said food pantry volunteer Nancy Richardson.
Torres wasted no time inserting herself into the food ministry that kept her afloat during her toughest days.
“I’m paying like every bag of food I received,” she said. “And the way I was treated, that’s the way I treat the people that walk in there.”
“It makes it all worthwhile,” said fellow volunteer Martha Dillingham. “I feel like we’ve done what we came to do.”
When people arrive at the Benevolence Building at the church, they can get anything and everything they need from a new suit jacket to a toy for their kids to the most important part — a cart full of groceries for the entire family.
And while Torres’ resilience is a testament to her strength and grit, she says the coolest part of her story is what her fellow volunteers did for her.
“That’s what I call a blessing because they didn’t ask me,” Torres said. “They just said ‘are you home?'”
Torres suffers from epilepsy. Frightening seizures loom over her every move — especially when the summertime heat makes them more frequent.
When Torres’ air conditioning stopped working, her friends knew they had to act fast.
“Suddenly it was like: ‘I got this much money to go in on an air conditioner for her.’ and another one was like: ‘I got this much money.’ ‘and I’ve got this much money.’ We had the money in just a few minutes,” Richardson said. “I don’t think she realizes we had a lot of fun just doing something that might help her.”
“If you’re going to help someone, that’s the way it’s done,” Torres said. “You don’t ask permission because people with pride like me we’re going to say ‘No. No. No, we don’t need it.'”
That’s why Torres wanted to continue this cycle of paying it forward, so she can help others who are as hungry as she was and say thank you to the church family that gave her, her life back.
“Sometimes we take for granted what a little air conditioner can do,” Torres said. “It kind of gave me my life and let me sit here again.”