Families reach out for help from Houston Food Bank for the first time

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many families are now reaching out for help for the first time ever.

"I'm always thankful just to be here another day with my kids and everyone," explained Jessica Higginbotham.

Jessica is a mother of five children. During her final pregnancy, she developed a condition called peripartum cardiomyopathy, where her heart weakened so much that she needed a transplant. In the past four years, Jessica has undergone two heart transplants and a kidney transplant.

"All of my children have PTSD from her long scary trips to the hospital. I've had to answer questions like, 'Is Mommy coming home?' not 'When is mommy coming home?'" So, when COVID hit, having the fear of that bug out there, it wrecked me, man," said Jessica's husband, Jeremiah Higginbotham. "I can tell her, 'Stay home, don't go anywhere,' but I've got to make the money."

The couple used up much of their savings to pay for the transplants and medical care.

"First they cut us from having overtime. Us blue collar guys, you know, we live on overtime," Jeremiah said. "Then they cut us to 36 hours, which was less than 40 hours, so almost half of my income was taken away."

Soon after that, the family tested positive for COVID-19.

"I got it and within 24 hours, my husband got it," Jessica said. "We have five children, so the two older ones got it."

"She told me at 7 o'clock in the morning that she tested positive," Jeremiah added. "It was not the scariest day of my life, but it was like 'what do I do?' There's nothing I can do. I am petrified. I couldn't go to work. I called in."
Although Jessica is in a high-risk category for the virus, she and the family are surviving. But for the first time in their lives, they couldn't pay their bills. So they went to a partner agency of the Houston Food Bank.

"When we go visit them, it's only because we need it. We don't go every week, every month even. Sometimes it's every six weeks or every two and a half months," Jessica explained. "We get the nonperishable items, but then we also get the perishable items like milk and meat and produce, and so that helps a lot."

"It's difficult. I don't like it. I work hard to feed the family and that's not something you want to do," Jeremiah said. "It's not that it's a pride thing, just asking for help is not fun. It's an uncomfortable feeling."

The family now volunteers at the food bank. It's the best way they can think of to repay the generosity they've experienced.

"When they do food drives and stuff like that, we go and we load stuff up and we help out when we can," Jeremiah said.

"There's just no way we could have gotten through parts of our life without it," Jessica added.

SEE ALSO: How you can help with ABC13's Share Your Holidays 2020

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