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Kerry Sylvester: 'There's no judgment here. They feel for you'

Loaves and Fishes food pantry patron Kerry Sylvester, 34, of Front Royal, right, gets a hug from pantry founder Shelly Cook. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Emily Flynn, left, a volunteer at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, assists Kerry Sylvester with loading items into her cart. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Kim Walter

FRONT ROYAL -- Kerry Sylvester, 34, her husband and three children immediately felt the partial shutdown of the federal government.

According to Sylvester, her husband had a seizure while driving for work, which resulted in an accident. Now, he can't work until December and won't be able to drive for another six months.

"We had to turn to food stamps," she said Wednesday evening as she waited outside the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry. "But our timing couldn't have been worse."

The family turned in their food stamp application forms the day before the government officially shutdown. Normally, everything would have been ready to go, but the government program was unable to process any new applications.

The family was hurting anyway, she added. Sylvester's husband owned a small construction business that "did alright," but with the turn in the economy came less work, and less money.

Sylvester was familiar with the food pantry, since she had been there before to pick up food for her neighbors and a few other families.

"This is what feeds people with nowhere else to go," she said.

Sylvester also knew about the friendly atmosphere of the pantry, and would have brought her children had it not been on the chillier side that day. She said volunteers often find a snack or "extra lollipop" for kids while they wait.

People who "listen," she said, also run this particular pantry.

"There's no judgment here," she said. "They feel for you."

Sylvester added that there was no way someone could come to the pantry and not make a new friend.

Once her husband is able to go back to work, Sylvester has pledged to become a volunteer at the food pantry. Even though Wednesday evening was her first time having to actually receive help from the pantry, she said she knew it would be a life-saving experience -- one that made her want to give back.

"That's one thing I've learned from these people, is to stay positive," she said. "God doesn't put more on your plate than you can handle. We'll get through this."

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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