The Pearsons were once a normal, middle-class family, but when Melinda Pearson’s husband lost his job at Good Year Tire in Tyler, everything changed.

“It’s a very big, big difference from middle class to this,” Pearson said.

The decline in the economy is largely to blame for struggling families like the Pearsons. They are representative of a new trend in the economic crisis; it’s no longer just the poor that need assistance. Now the middle class is seeking help.

“I have met with my agencies, and they are reporting that they are seeing people they have never seen before, and they are seeing many middle-class people who, for whatever reason, are on the margins and needing help for the first time,” Robert Bush, the president of the East Texas Food Bank where Mrs. Pearson sought help, said.

Mrs. Pearson explained that this is the first time in 13 years that she has had to seek assistance for medical or for anything.

“It’s scary because you’re used to being able to pay for meals,” Mrs. Pearson said.

From January 2008 to October 2008, the Food Bank saw a significant increase in need.

“We saw a 22 percent increase in demand, which equates to about 20,000 additional people,” Bush said.

The Pearson’s have a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. Mr. Pearson formerly worked for Goodyear Tire and is now a full-time student at Tyler Junior College West Campus for air conditioning and heating. Mrs. Pearson is unemployed.

Their circumstances have caused them to seek outside assistance.

“It’s hard because you’re embarrassed. You don’t want to go get help especially when you’re used to living a certain way,” said Mrs. Pearson. “I was up there at the Food Bank crying yesterday because you don’t know what to do. You look around and you think, no this can’t be happening.”

The Pearson’s find hope in family and God.

“There are times we feel like throwing up our hands and giving up, but then later on we realize it’s not worth it because we love each other and it’s going to pass,” Mrs. Pearson said. “We take it by the day, and just pray. It is all you can do is pray and let God take care of it, because you can’t.”

She also finds hope in the Food Bank and its services “the Food Bank and people like that are great.”

Bush shared that the best part of his job is that it has a social purpose.

The East Texas Food Bank is behind the scenes providing food for local organizations such as The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, and PATH. The Food Bank is a great resource for local families.

“The way the economy has changed, we have had to adapt and add in programs to try to fill gaps in services,”

Bush said.

There is always opportunity to help at the Food Bank. Volunteers are the main source of help for the non-profit organization.

“The giver receives much more than the receiver. The Food Bank is a wonderful place to work,” Caroline Picket, a third-year volunteer for the Food Bank said.

The Food Bank also thrives on donations. For every dollar donated they can generate enough food for eight meals.

For more information about how to donate or volunteer, contact the East Texas Food Bank, or visit easttexasfoodbank.org.

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