Debby is no stranger to hardship. As a young girl, her mother was sent to prison and she went to live with her grandparents. A rebellious teen, she ended up living on the streets eating out of dumpsters and turning to food banks for extra help.
“I knew a lot about hunger,” she says of her time as a homeless teenager. “There are a lot of kids who have families that can’t afford to feed them.”
Her difficulties didn’t end with her teens. For years she struggled with poverty. Today, at age 39, she’s hoping she’s finally made it to the “other side”, a time when she can put her past behind her and look to the future.
“I think I’ve finally got it,” she says. “There’s a sense of relief, but I’m also terrified. I have to live every day for the rest of my life fighting.”
Ask for help. I thought I didn’t need help. I thought I could do it on my own. I’ve never known when to ask for help or I’ve been afraid to do so. You have to ask for help.
Now, she’s working at Tucanos in Boise. She sat down with the Foodbank as part of the restaurant’s October campaign to raise funds for hunger relief through patrons. She says she shares her story with the people she serves, hoping to add a face to the problem of hunger in our community.
“If anything I’ve been through can help someone else, then good,” she says.
After years of surviving on the scraps thrown away by restaurants, she says she enjoys working in one, spreading the word about those who aren’t so lucky. She says she takes any opportunity to encourage people who may be down on their luck.
“Ask for help,” she says as a suggestion to people who may be in need. “I didn’t. I thought I could take on the world. I thought I didn’t need help. I thought I didn’t need to go home. I thought I could do it on my own. I’ve never known when to ask for help or I’ve been afraid to do so. You have to ask for help.”
She wants Idahoans to try and walk a mile in the shoes of those they encounter who may be hungry – to consider that these people may be your neighbors, your coworkers, your best friends.
“There are a lot of families that just can’t find work,” she says. “I wish more people from the ‘other side’ understood that. It’s not that easy today. It’s just not easy, period.”
She carries that understanding of life’s difficulties with her as she moves forward to the next stage of her life.
“I’m confident, but I’m scared,” she says. “I may still struggle sometimes, but I’m trying.”