Trigger warning: this story contains subject matter about suicidal thoughts.
HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) Diana Patton was experiencing a series of physical ailments and a life-changing gender transition around the same time. She was unable to work but had not yet qualified for disability benefits, and simultaneously was going through a divorce.
To say her pain was both physical and psychological is an understatement.
"I ended up in the psych ward over a dozen times, I had a couple suicide attempts," said Patton.
The United States Navy veteran found herself a few life lines: her service dog Jigsaw, the VA One-stop Center, and the St. Peter and Paul Parish Outreach Food Pantry.
Patton has been relying on the food pantry to provide her with nutritious food for years. The relationship she has built with the staff there has become so meaningful that it's extended beyond food transactions.
"They ask if I need a coat or makeup, anything they get they call me and ask. They helped me get a bed frame when I had my apartment in Derby when I lost all my furniture, they were great," said Patton.
The food pantry has been serving Hamburg since 1985. It gets its food from a number of sources, but the majority - up to 7,000 lbs of food monthly - comes from FeedMore WNY.
“There has been a big need, especially since Covid," said Karin Dusza, Parish Outreach Coordinator. "We’ve had a lot more families that need to come here."
In March 2020, when COVID-19 hit, the food pantry saw a 92 percent increase in the families it served.
And the need is showing no signs of slowing down. Since April of this year, demand every month for food has gone up over last year’s numbers.
Families who have come to St. Peter and Paul Parish Outreach Food Pantry
Source: Parish Outreach Report
The greater the need at the pantries, the greater the pressure on FeedMore WNY to provide them with enough food to keep the shelves stocked, while also bringing meals to homebound neighbors.
For a few months during the pandemic, Patton relied on FeedMore's Meals on Wheels program to bring food to her home. She also relied on its Animeals program to make sure Jigsaw was fed too.
The services and friendship that the food pantry provides for Patton keeps her both physically and emotionally nourished.
"Keeps us going. Gives us energy. Puts a little light in the dark. My depression goes down. I know I have them, I know I can talk to them."