Hunger Stories: Meet Pamela and Ervin, Seniors Raising Children


Over the next 15 years, projections indicate the number of people aged 65 and over in Oklahoma will rise by 37 percent. Many seniors face mobility and health obstacles combined with living on low-wage fixed incomes, which creates problems of food insecurity for many people in this vulnerable population. One in 10 Oklahoma seniors are food insecure, and 28 percent of Oklahoma senior households have an annual income of less than $20,000.

Oklahoma elders have worked hard to build this state. They have spent their lives working, raising families and developing our communities. Now, with their earning years behind them, many seniors need our help to make sure their basic needs are met.

Ervin and Pamela are part of a growing trend for grandparents who serve as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Although their daughter and son-in-law are now working hard to get back on their feet, they lost custody of their four children. In the meantime, Ervin and Pamela stepped forward to take care of the children.

Ervin earned his living working drywall construction. Pamela is a former teacher, first starting in Tulsa, then working in Philadelphia for 30 years. Both are retired and on social security. Already struggling with just their social security income, taking custody of the children raised their expenses substantially. They currently receive food and other assistance through the South Tulsa Community House, a Partner Agency of the Food Bank. “As a former school teacher I helped families, but you don’t consider it will have to come back to you.” Pamela commented the food and services they receive at STCH helps them make it through tough times. “By God’s mercy we’re making it. The help they have here is tremendous.”

Even so, both Pamela and Ervin involve themselves with community service. When the grandchildren ask Pamela where she’s going, she responds, “I still have things within me. When your committed and give of yourself, you don’t stop cause you get older. There’s no such thing as retirement when that is your gift.”

Although taking care of the children has been difficult due to their age, it has its lighter and amazing moments too. Ervin enjoys the playtime when the children jump on him after a day of school, but it takes his muscles more time to recover. As a result of injuries Pamela sustained after slipping on ice in Philadelphia, she often has a great deal of pain. One day while moving slowly, to her delight, the four-year old approached her with a back massager to help with the pain. The next day he came up to her and said, “Mimaw, I got your back.”

The Senior Servings program identifies and assists senior citizens who are at the highest risk of hunger. The program provides nutritious food to seniors who are 60 years and older and at-risk of hunger. In partnership with low-income senior housing complexes, senior centers and congregate meal sites, the program provides a level of independence and dignity for clients. The Food Bank also serves Oklahoma seniors through our network Partner Agencies, such as South Tulsa Community House and many others.

For more information on Senior Servings contact Kelsey Ashwood at 918-936-4510.

To donate to Senior Servings, click here.