7:40am

Tue December 6, 2011
Community

Hunger Solved With Neighborly Service Help

Today, Mischelle Nitzel can look back at one moment and realize how much her life has changed. With the help of House of Neighborly Service, she is no longer hungry.

“I was arrested stealing food from Safeway, and the officer that arrested me gave me the name and phone number to House of Neighborly Service, and said they would be able to set me up with food,” Nitzel said.

Prior to getting caught stealing food, Nitzel took care of her son and grandparents in their old Victorian-style farmhouse outside of Berthoud. Raised by her grandparents, she said that the house was her home, and she expected to inherit it some day.

One day when Nitzel was in her office doing paperwork, she looked up at the surveillance monitors and saw her father and son making an unusual visit. She knew something was wrong. “There’s been a bad car wreck,” her father said.

Nitzel’s grandparents were involved in a car accident. Her grandfather’s spine, legs and neck had been broken, and he died at the scene. Nitzel’s grandmother survived.

“It (the accident) broke every bone in her body. They said she wouldn’t live, she wouldn’t walk or talk, she wouldn’t eat — and I brought her (life) back,” Nitzel said. “And we walked out of that hospital. …”

With $1.6 million in medical bills, the state took the farmhouse to help pay the debt. Then, Nitzel’s family chose to place her grandmother’s care with someone else.

Because her grandmother no longer lived in the house, neither could Nitzel. She decided to buy a trailer. But then she lost her job, and with no resources, she filed for bankruptcy. That’s when Nitzel met Faith, her partner.

Faith offered Nitzel a place to stay and Nitzel found more than a home. She found friendship and love. Nitzel also found a job in Milliken working in a convenience store earning $35,000 a year. It was the most she had ever earned.

After working at the convenience store for eight years, constantly moving heavy objects took a toll on her body. She could not continue the work and lost her job. She thought it would be OK; she thought Faith would support her. That did not happen.

“I lived with a woman who was my partner. She and I ended the relationship, but because of financial reasons, we both stay in the same house,” Nitzel said.

Her first visit to House of Neighborly Service, which is a recipient agency of the Northern Colorado Empty Stocking Fund, was difficult. “I felt like the lowest of the low having to go to welfare, because I never had to do that before. … I was starving. I don’t think I had eaten in weeks,” Nitzel said. “Medically, I was on the verge of being in the hospital.”

But when she brought home her first bag of groceries since her unemployment, she felt like she was again contributing to the household.

House of Neighborly Service continued to help her when she took a trip to Colorado Springs and experienced abdominal pains. She saw a doctor and needed surgery. “When I got back to Loveland, I couldn’t work. When I was talking to my technician, and I went to get my food, she told me, ‘We’ll help you get to the doctor. If you need gas money, we can help you.’”

Nitzel is currently unemployed, but five days a week she drops off at least 15 resumes to businesses. No takers yet, but she said she is optimistic.

Nitzel’s former partner works at a convenience store and buys the food and toys that are on clearance when she can. Nitzel donates them to House of Neighborly Service. It’s her way of giving back to the people who have given so much to her.

Lorena Flores is a Colorado State University student who wrote this story on behalf of the Northern Colorado Empty Stocking Fund.

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To donate to the Northern Colorado Empty Stocking Fund, please go to the NCESF website at www.nocoemptystocking.org, mail contributions to P.O. Box 588, Fort Collins, CO 80522 or P.O. Box 534, Greeley, CO 80632, or to donate immediately and securely, click the donation button below:

About the fund:
Since its founding in 2007, the Northern Colorado Empty Stocking Fund has raised over $333,000 to support health and human service agencies in Larimer and Weld County. With matching funds provided by El Pomar Foundation, every dollar grows by 33 percent. United Ways of Larimer and Weld County cover all administrative costs for the campaign, meaning every dollar donated goes directly to the recipient organizations. This year’s recipient agencies include: Catholic Charities of Larimer County, Catholic Charities of Weld County, Connections for Independent Living, Crossroads Ministry of Estes Park, Food Bank of Larimer County, Greeley Transitional House, House of Neighborly Service, and Weld Food Bank. For more information, please visit www.nocoemptystocking.org