Family overcomes poverty with help, resources from community

Food lines the shelves of The Central Pantry, Thursday, July 15, 2015. The pantry is a service of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. ADAM VOGLER/Missourian

Food lines the shelves of The Central Pantry, Thursday, July 15, 2015. The pantry is a service of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. ADAM VOGLER/Missourian

Story written by Madeline Jarrard,

COLUMBIA – Success for some is simply finding a point in which they feel they can comfortably provide for their families.

Patsy Bulington, 66, recalls a time seven years ago when her family struggled to make ends meet. Her success story is not one of extravagant wealth, but of finding stability.

The Bulingtons’ financial struggles began when their lives were changed in an instant: A car accident left Bulington’s husband, Thomas Bulington, in serious condition. Her son was knocked unconscious in the crash, and both of Thomas Bulington’s feet were crushed.

“He was trapped,” Patsy Bulington said.

Her husband was completely immobilized for six months. He had been a truck driver before the crash, but he was now unable to move, much less work.

“They didn’t come right out and say it, but (the doctors) said that he would be lucky if he ever walked again,” she said.

She dedicated much of her time to caring for her husband, which impacted her job as a cook at the local school. To add to the family’s stress, her contract was not renewed the following spring.

“We were both unemployed for a year and a half,” she said.

That period of time was one of the hardest the family, including the three grandchildren Patsy Bulington was raising, had ever faced.

“We didn’t go anywhere or do anything,” she said. “We scraped money together.”

During this trial, the Bulington family found help at their local La Plata, Missouri, food bank. Without it, Patsy Bulington knows “the kids wouldn’t have had a whole lot to eat.”

Food lines the shelves of The Central Pantry, Thursday, July 15, 2015. The pantry is a service of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, ADAM VOGLER/Missourian

Food lines the shelves of The Central Pantry, Thursday, July 15, 2015. The pantry is a service of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, ADAM VOGLER/Missourian

Patsy Bulington was also thankful for friends who brought food from the food pantry to her house when she had to stay at home.

Sean Ross, supervisor for the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri in Columbia, said that he has seen many situations like the Bulingtons’.

“We help them right away,” he said of people that come to the food bank for the first time.

Ross said he has seen thousands of success stories in his 11 years at the food bank. The common theme he sees in these success stories is persistence.

The key, he said, is “recognizing you’re making progress.”

Although it took about four years for the Bulingtons to see tangible progress, they were persistent.

“Our future was uncertain at the time,”Patsy  Bulington said. “We took it one day at a time. … We had to start all over.”

The money was hard to come by. When foreclosure loomed, the Bulingtons fought to keep their house.

“We paid the bills and clung onto what was left to make ends meet,” Bulington said.

However, the sacrifices that the Bulingtons made paid off in the end. After six months in a hospital bed and three months rehabilitating in a wheelchair, Thomas Bulington returned to driving his truck.

In 2012, the couple applied for a job transporting campers from factories to the dealerships. Today, their finances have stabilized and they have traveled throughout 48 states and Canada moving trailers.

“We survived and got through it,” Bulington said. “I think it just made us stronger in the long run.”

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