HERMITAGE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Calling Hermitage her home, Emily Bautista is a stay-at-home mother to her four young children.
“They mean everything to me,” Bautista said. “I will do anything for them.”
While Bautista takes care of the children, her husband works construction jobs.
At times though, her husband finds himself between jobs, and she is unable to keep steady employment because there is no one else to watch her children.
“It’s just been hard to financially take care of our kids,” Bautista said. “There’s been times where it’s just rice and beans, and there’s times where there’s no milk and there’s only water, or there’s no water but there’s a small cup of juice that everybody can share. There have been nights where we weren’t able to feed our kids at all.”
As Bautista struggled to find the next meal for her family, she stumbled upon a place in Hermitage called Grace Place, a pantry run by Charles Hood.
Grace Place allows people living in five zip codes, including, 37013, 37076, 37122, 37138 and 37214 to get needed food and supplies, once a month.
“The need that people have is incredible here in this area,” Hood said.
In 2014, the pantry helped 372 households. That number more than doubled in 2015 to 878. By 2016, Hood and his pantry were helping an estimated 1,500 households.
“The faces of hunger have changed over the years. You see more young people now,” Hood said. “I see a lot of people that have lost jobs. I see a lot of people that have lost spouses.”
He continued, “We had one gentleman that came through here. The two weeks prior to him coming to us, he had lived on one pack of meat and two packs of sweet rolls. That’s all he’d had for two weeks.”
Bautista calls Grace Place her saving grace, but she worries other mothers in her position are too scared to seek out help.
For them, she has a message.
“Food is literally the number on essential and for someone to not be able to have food in their home, they feel degraded. They feel they’re not worth anything,” Bautista said. “Hunger is hunger. Everybody has to eat.”
Click here for more information on Grace Place. You can also reach the pantry at 615-883-1826.