Success Stories

One of the many joys we have here at The Pantry of Broward is our success stories. In this section you can read about our clients and their stories and how The Pantry was able to step in and help to get our clients back on track and on their way to self support and continued growth amongst the community. Every month a new Success Story will be posted, come back and visit this section to see what caring, passion, and love can do for the seniors and grandchildren living in our community.

Arlene Carpenter

Life for Arlene Carpenter age 69 was always a challenge. As a toddler in a Georgia farming district Arlene had to drag her leg around, it wasn’t until she was five that doctors finally decided she had Polio and fitted her with a big leg brace. By the time she was 9 yrs old she was picking cotton in the fields. She managed to stay in school until the 9th grade but then had to work full time to help support her family. When her mother suddenly died, Arlene moved to Florida to be with relatives. She had a hard time establishing herself as a domestic because no one thought she could do the work or pull her own weight with her leg brace. She showed them she certainly could and went on to do factory work and became a cabinet maker. Time went on and her baby girl grew up and got a scholarship to college, severe illness prevented her from finishing. By now Arlene’s good hip had deteriorated so badly from all the years of doing double duty that surgery was required. Now she no longer could do manual labor and turned to foster parenting. She took in three siblings and ended up adopting them when the State wanted to split them up. They have since grown up and gone on to have good lives. Arlene’s daughter had moved back home with her three children to help take care of mom. Then one fateful morning, Arlene walked in to her living room and found her 27 year old daughter dead in a chair taken out by her severe heart condition. She left Arlene three Grandchildren. She was an instant mother yet again. Our hats are off to you Arlene and The Pantry is here for YOU!

Ray Williamson

At Sixty-nine Ray Williamson is the quintessence of our elderly clients. Born in Kentucky in 1941 he was raised on a farm and became a farmer following in his family’s footsteps. Good, hardworking simple living people. After his father’s death Ray took over running the family farm and care of his mother who was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis. He continued on with the family farm until ten years ago when he also developed rheumatoid arthritis. Since his mother was gone and there was no one to continue the work, Ray moved to Florida where the weather was much kinder to him. He used the skills that he had learned in carpentry to buy, remodel and re-sell homes which went very well for him until the bottom fell out of real estate. When Ray came to our door he had reached the end of his rope. He needed to leave his home which was in foreclosure and help relocating. We found him lodging and got him settled in. Ray still drives and loves to walk on the beach and read a good book. Here’s to you Ray!

Mayfort Cooper, May Story

Mayfort Cooper, a 61 year old Viet Nam Veteran, looks like he could slide into his uniform and be ready to go where needed at a moment’s notice. As with all of our clients his life journey, the ups and the downs, is very interesting and ultimately bringing him to our Pantry Doors. Born in South Carolina he has experienced varied and interesting careers, as a young man he was in the clothing industry , a window dresser, retail sales, then Viet Nam called and Mayfort first learned about Communications, drove 5 ton convoys, moved all the equipment to new locations became a Platoon Sergeant and maintained all the vehicles. After successfully completing his tour in the military, Mayfort eventually ended up in Florida where he has lived at the same apartment building for 20 years. Always finding new ways to educate and improve himself, he became a Care Taker in a nursing home and went to school to learn floral arrangements. Of course on this journey, as life has a way of doing, he was thrown a curve ball contracting cancer of the throat and requiring an artificial larynx. He persevered, his floral arrangements grew and supported him nicely until our economy tanked. When it did so did his floral business and Mayfort found himself hungry and in need of our help. Once a month we are graced by his radiant smile and witty personality. Truthfully, he has a rather “distinctive” voice, so we all come running to say hello and catch up when Mayfort Cooper is in the building.

Helping seniors live a dignified life

It is widely reported that at birth Maxine Davis was given a pair of dancing shoes instead of booties. Though this may be somewhat of an exaggeration it is true that by age seven she was a dancer for the CBS TV show, STAR TIME KIDS. During high school she was in three Broadway Musicals, and a TV project called OMNIBUS.

Graduation from high school brought the usual path for young women of that era; she married and had three children which she stayed home to raise. The marriage however, was a disaster and one morning she found herself alone with three children. Temporarily she required assistance, but ever enterprising she began relying more on her skills of knitting and designing clothes. Over the years (having three robust children) she had come to know the staff at the local clinic where she always brought her knitting. One day she found herself a patient at the local hospital and required a long hospital stay herself. The doctors started dropping in to order a knitted hat before they went in to do surgery and when they came out, the hat was ready and waiting for them. Thus a new career was formed. That Christmas she had made enough money to buy her kids a pool table, and multiple toys. Her hospital “bed mate” offered to get her on the local Alma John Show. The career was flourishing and she started knitting for Eartha Kitt, the Betty Davis Stores and Pierre Cardin. It was definitely time to give her company a name and after much thought she chose a French name, Mocha Noir (translation, milk chocolate on black). As the awards rolled in she routinely said, “I want to thank all the people who laughed and said I couldn’t: they put me where I am today”.

Eventually she became a recreation aide for The Blind and Disabled school. On one fateful trip while riding in an ambulance with one of her charges a truck careened into them resulting in severe back injuries for Maxine. The roller coaster that had be steadily climbing up, now began spiraling down. The death of her daughter, protracted back pain and crippling arthritis combined with the cold of New York City brought her to Florida and in to a sense of black despair. She still had her knitting but no longer wanted to leave her house. Then in a slip and fall in her home Maxine broke her left wrist and right arm. Now she was a virtual prisoner and could do nothing for herself. When she was referred to us she was hungry, without any form of medical insurance and not been on the medicine she so desperately needed for the past eight years. The Pantry went to work, of course a box of food was provided, we got her food stamps, medical coverage, her medicines provided, and paid her electric bill.

Two weeks ago while Maxine was waiting for her appointment with the social security rep who comes here to help our elderly, I had a chance to talk with her. There’s renewed vigor in her step and a wide smile on her face, her grandson who she raised since infancy and she thinks of as a son, just graduated top of his class at ATI. He had worked his way through and received no scholarships. She talks about her latest enterprise. Maxine is making hand sewn one of a kind Christmas Ornaments. She wants to start an on-line business selling these ornaments, but is having trouble navigating the world of computers so The Pantry is enrolling her in an adult computer skills class so that she can climb back up that mountain once again. And we at The Pantry say, YOU GO GIRL!


Emilia is a native New Yorker, who was working hard as a waitress when she fell in love with and married a man from Puerto Rico. A new journey began for her as she and her husband moved to Puerto Rico. She soon had a career going working with the elderly, planning outings and taking them on trips. Eight years and three children later she found herself a single mom with three children to raise. Emilia was no longer welcome in Puerto Rico so she and her three children moved to Florida where she immediately went back to waitressing and successfully raised her three kids. Her oldest son died in a hit and run accident when he was fifty.

Remember please, the time and the era, waitress of her generation worked for tips and when Federal Laws & Social Security changed and the employers were forced to pay them something, they had the employees sign statements that between what the restaurants were paying them and their tips they earned minimum wage. Therefore, the employees had minimum amounts taken out of their checks and back then Social Security was only deducted a few months out of the year.

As age and health problems ensued she was forced to forgo the simple pleasures of her life. The movies, Bingo and occasional lunch with friends were no longer possible. The rising costs of medications and everyday food prices left her making decisions she never thought she would have to. “Do I eat? Or do I buy my medications?” When Emilia came to The Pantry she was hungry and lonely. Today she looks forward to her trips to pick up her monthly food box and see what kinds of goodies we have to offer this month. Sometimes it’s fresh produce or fruit, even frozen Cornish Game Hens. The pastry and bread rack is there for her to choose from, plus extra’s not considered to be nutritious, but oh so good, like marinades, spices, sauces etc. It changes since we depend on your donations to stock that shelf.

Jonas M. Katz

Introducing Jonas M. Katz, Jonas comes from an era when his first car was a model T and he paid $10.00 for it. He had to add 4 spark plugs at .10 cents each and gasoline was .10 cents a gallon. His family was farmers and all the kids worked on the farm and went to school when they could. There were barely any roads and no-one had a driver’s license. Guessed his age yet? You got it. Mr. Katz is (as he proudly told me) 88 & ½ years old. Much emphasis was on the half year. When he reached young adulthood WW II was in progress and he enlisted in the Navy, successfully completing his tour in 1946. He married had three children working in construction until 49 when he moved the family to Florida. He formed a general construction company, built the first electrical fence for FPL that has come to surround all of their plants. Economy and times were changing and the company eventually went bankrupt. Undeterred Jonas went in to reupholstering and cleaning furniture. Finally two years ago at 86 he was forced to retire because the arthritis was stronger than he was, his health issues escalated and his social security check of $786.00 a month that he worked every day of his life for was not enough to cover his rising medical bills and the general increase in everyday living expenses. His savings have long since been depleted. Of course being a widower and living alone, would be enough to depress anyone. Not our Mr. Katz, he perseveres and keeps his mind active. However, if you want to chat with Mr. Katz, better call first as he is very much on the go and not one to sit at home. Question for all of you: how many people in 1939 while working, saving and planning for retirement ever thought that today a LOAF OF BREAD would cost $3.00? Again you got the right answer, NO-ONE.

Joan Shook

Joan Shook, 74 years young, was originally from Rhode Island. She put herself through hair dressing school and worked for ten years as a hair dresser. Joan later married and became a full time housewife and mother of two children, a boy and a girl. When the children were grown, Joan and her husband moved to Florida. She entered Real Estate school and got her license. Things went very smoothly for a while but in 1981 her son (a roofer) fell through a roof and onto a concrete floor. No longer able to care for himself at all, and with no funds for professional care, Joan quit her job to take care of him. In 1996 Joan required open heart surgery and her husband had been diagnosed with severe Alzheimer’s disease. Joan continued to take care of him until 2000 when he passed away. Joan marched on. She continued doing things that made her happy but she kept feeling weaker and weaker and “oh Hello” Leukemia had knocked on her door. Now she receives transfusions every ten days, to two weeks. Her big outing for the month is to come to The Pantry and visit with us and get her box of food that she so looks forward to. The day we talked I thought she had just been to the hair salon, but no, Joan still cuts and styles her hair and it is gorgeous! V.W.

When Lack of Food is a Symptom, Not the Cause

It would have been easy to simply have given a box of food to 73 year-old James when he came to The Pantry of Broward seeking help. But our experience at The Pantry of Broward has shown us time and time again that the need for food is symptomatic of other pressing needs affecting the seniors we serve. For this reason, each new client is invited to a one-on-one counseling session with our professional case worker. After several hours of talking, listening and phone calls, we discovered that James had opened a bank account so his Social Security payment could be directly deposited. The bank gave James his first ever debit card without fully explaining how it works.

A “friendly worker” at the neighborhood corner store offered to help and James gave him the pin number and, for the past three months, his “friend” had been making regular withdrawals from James’ account.

Our Case Manager was able to recover more than $2,500 reimbursed by the bank, obtain a new bank account number and debit card, waiving of several hundred dollars of bank overdraft fees, and arrangements for direct debit of James’ rent and utilities to make sure they are covered each month.

James may never need to come back to The Pantry of Broward again for help, but had we simply given him a box of food he would soon have been evicted and probably become one of our long-term clients. It takes time, effort and concern to find the real needs of our seniors on low, fixed incomes. But this is what makes The Pantry of Broward so unique and so effective.




Martin is one of our many clients who receives support from The Pantry of Broward. He recently sent us the following message.

“I am one of the 300 people who benefit from these food drives and I just want to say “Thank you” to all involved and everyone at the Pantry, who always seem to have a smile on their face and make each of us who avail ourselves of your service feel as if WE are doing THEM a favor by allowing them to help us. There is never a feeling of a charity or being a ‘charity case’. I look forward to coming the The Pantry of Broward not only for the desperately needed food but for the good feelings they give me and that I carry around the rest of the day.”



Sherry is a 43 year old grandmother of a two year old little girl. Sherry came to The Pantry of Broward to get assistance obtaining legal custody of her granddaughter. Two months prior to arriving at The Pantry of Broward Sherry was laid off from her job. She was struggling to care for her grandchild who was in need of heart surgery. Sherry was overwhelmed, she couldn’t pay her mortgage and her property was about to go into foreclosure. After the first meeting with Ursula Williams, the case manager for The Pantry of Broward, Sherry was relieved to learn that The Pantry of Broward could arrange for her mortgage payment to be made and she and her grandchild received a much needed food box. We referred her to Legal Services to start the process of adoption papers for her Grandchild. One month later, Sherry found a new job and her granddaughter received the much needed surgery. After three months, Sherry is back on her feet and she has legal custody of her granddaughter, all thanks to The Pantry of Broward and YOU, our donors



Annette is a 72 year old woman, wheelchair bound, and raising a 9 year old granddaughter. Annette obtained legal custody her grandchild in 2005. Annette wrote a letter to The Pantry of Broward indicating that her electricity had been turned off, and requested assistance with her high electricity bills. After seeing the Case Manager at The Pantry of Broward, Annette had her electricity back on, but our intervention did not stop there. We learned that Annette was paying close to $325 per month in transportation costs to get herself and the granddaughter to school. She didn’t have the money to pay for transportation and electricity, so she found an alternative. It was touching when Annette told us her story: “we wake up at 5:00 am every morning, she walks and I wheel myself 45 minutes to school. Sometimes I carry my granddaughter on my lap when she gets tired of walking. She needs to be at school early to participate in the school provided breakfast. If I have the extra money, I contact public transportation to take me back home, and then bring me back to school to pick her up in the afternoon. If I do not have the extra money ($5.00), I either stay at the school library, or go to the shopping plaza nearby until 2:00pm when school gets out for the day. Then we walk our 45 minutes home.” With the help of The Pantry of Broward, Annette and her granddaughter receive a monthly food box, her light bill has been paid and future bills have been reduced, and her granddaughter will be transported to and from school every day by the generosity of our volunteers.



Betty is 72 years old, and after working hard all her life and dreaming about an easier life in her golden years, she realized that she would never make it on a $210.00 per month from social security. After her brief retirement, Betty continued to work in the mortgage industry for 5 years, but was laid off due to the struggling economy. Soon Betty was unable to pay her own mortgage as well as several other bills. She contacted The Pantry of Broward and asked for help, something that is very hard for most seniors, asking for HELP. After her first appointment, Betty received her balanced and nutritional food box. We were able to get her into an employment program for seniors wanting to get back to work. We saw the determination and customer service experience that Betty has and now, Betty is working part time as a receptionist at The Pantry of Broward, a job she enjoys and the ability to HELP herself.



Edward, 73, with tears in his eyes, didn’t need to explain how grateful he was for the food he had just received. His savings gone, he had come out of retirement and started working part-time as a janitor as his social security simply did not keep up with rising prices. Edward came to The Pantry of Broward after receiving an eviction notice. He had been living in his apartment for over a year without electricity. After his initial meeting we were an advocate for Edward to find a new place to live, and with electricity. He receives a monthly food box weighing over 50 pounds, so he is loaned a special wheeled cart to be able to get the food home on the bus. “Many of the seniors served by The Pantry of Broward use the public bus service and are unable to carry heavy boxes which is why we loan these carts,” explained Case Manager Ursula Williams. “We try to cover all the needs of our clients and make their Pantry visit a friendly, uplifting experience despite it being a time of great need.”


Adeline, a mother and grandmother, will be 80 years old in September. She has been a resident of Douglas Gardens, a HUD housing development for seniors in Pembroke Pines for the past eight months.

Adeline lived in New York for over 30 years; she raised two sons and worked as a nurse’s technician and aid in a local hospital. After retiring she relocated to Florida, initially living with one of her sons in Orlando. But after a period of time, she realized that she wanted to be independent and have some privacy.

Adeline knew it would be financially difficult to make it completely on her own on the small social security check she was receiving. She applied for Section 8 housing assistance and after waiting for three years for an apartment to open up in this senior housing development, her prayers were answered.

The Pantry of Broward helps Adeline and more than 50 other elderly residents of Douglas Gardens with a monthly nutritious box of food. She is so grateful for the additional help. If not for this additional food assistance, Adeline would not be able to make ends meet. “I don’t really like to cook, so I open the food box and I can warm up items and make simple meals for myself.”

Adeline, like so many other seniors in our community, worked hard all her life, paid taxes, raised a family and simply wants to live her golden years as an independent and proud woman. These are our clients, and you are helping them to live a dignified life.