April Canselo, 53, has plenty of love to give. She has 3 children, 3 adopted children, and 11 grandkids.

As a home health aide, she single-handedly raised all of her children on $5.50 an hour.

When asked how she managed to raise so many kids on her own, she says with a laugh, “I prayed a lot.”

More than prayers, it was April’s hard work.

“Sometimes I worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week to make sure the money was there for basic needs,” she said.

While she has never had a shortage of love or dedication for her children, having enough food was a problem. Fortunately, April has had the help of NY Common Pantry, a Robin Hood-funded emergency food provider, to make sure her kids never went hungry.

Robin Hood, food, poverty, New York, common pantry

For April and tens of thousands of others, NY Common Pantry is a lifeline.

“I really don’t know what I would have done without places like this. I believe God has places like these open for people like me,” she said. “I can’t even imagine what it would have been like without it.”

NY Common Pantry proved to be especially critical when April got too sick to work.

In her early 20s, she was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder. Her body began attacking her own nervous system and she was left paralyzed for months, kept alive only by a respirator.

Miraculously, she recovered, but still suffers from severe complications from the illness.

“Eventually I had to stop working so that I could be home,” she said. “My health started to decline again because I was working a lot of hours and [my kids] needed me.”

Despite not being able to work, with the help of NY Common Pantry, April was able to raise 6 children — and even served as the den mother for many of her children’s friends. There was always a seat at her table for anyone in need of a meal and she was more than ready to be a nurturing figure.

“My boys would bring home friends that were without moms and they would say, ‘Mom, he needs a mom too,’” she said. “There was one boy that I wasn’t able to adopt, but he still looks at me as his mom and I made sure that I took care of him too.”

While all her children are grown, there are many grandkids for April to dote on and NY Common Pantry continues to be a lifeline for April and her growing family.

April’s oldest son recently went through a messy divorce. While he gained custody of his children, he lost everything else and was forced to enter the shelter system with his two sons.

To provide as much stability and normalcy as possible, April now takes care of her grandkids while their father is at work. When not in school, they spend their days with her.

Robin Hood, food, poverty, New York, common pantry

With growing boys in her home once more, NY Common Pantry has once again proven to be the key to feeding her family.

“For my son living in the shelter, the money goes fast because they don’t have anything to cook on so they have to buy out a lot,” she said. “So I supply meals at my home and [the pantry] is how I make sure that we have enough in the house and it really helps a lot.”

More than food, NY Common Pantry has helped make memories for her entire family.
For Thanksgiving, April not only received a turkey with all the fixings, but also side dishes.

“That was a blessing to feed the family,” she remembers. “We had a beautiful family gathering at my house. Everyone was there.”

Meanwhile during baseball season, Mr. Met made a visit to the pantry and handed out free baseball tickets. April was able to take all of her grandsons, who love the Mets, to their first ever baseball game.

“I’m a big Mets fan and I made my grandkids Mets fans too,” she said. “We had so much fun. We still even have this giant Mets hat full of popcorn that they gave us.”

“To me, this is love. You take care of one another and pantries and places like it do just that.”

By: Eugene K. Chow

Photos: Ron Antonelli 

Robin Hood, food, poverty, New York, common pantry
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