Finding More Than Food
Four days every week, visitors to Scott, Dakota, and Carver County’s Community Action Partnership (CAP) Agency food shelf are met by Suzy Lynard’s bright smile and vivacious personality. A retired schoolteacher and a mother of three, Suzy spends her afternoons stocking shelves, unpacking pallets of donated food, and helping clients pick out food items to take home. Suzy’s enthusiasm for her job is undeniable, and the place this food shelf holds in her heart is especially dear—the first time she walked into the CAP Agency, she needed help with food herself.
Suzy grew up in Windom, Minn., with her three older brothers and her parents. Following in the footsteps of her father, a high school principal, Suzy graduated from Minnesota State University in Mankato and became an elementary school teacher and softball coach. She retired from teaching in 1990 after the birth of her third child and later returned to work in the service industry.
Over the years, her part-time jobs were usually enough to pay her bills, but sometimes there wasn’t very much money left over to buy nutritious food. As a senior, Suzy worried that a poor diet would have a negative impact on her health. When she found herself out of work in 2015, she finally decided to seek assistance and discovered that the CAP Agency’s food shelf was there to offer a helping hand. For months, Suzy brought home bags of canned fruits and vegetables, beans, bread, rice, and other wholesome staples that helped her maintain a balanced diet.
In 2017, a series of health issues sent Suzy to the hospital on multiple occasions, again leaving her out of work for three months and with a mountain of medical expenses. Realizing that she could barely even pay her electric bill on her limited income, she returned to the food shelf for relief. Two years after her first visits, she was delighted to find an increased selection of produce, meat, and dairy, as well as the unfailing friendliness of the food shelf’s employees.
Suzy’s gratitude for the food shelf and her positive experiences with the staff inspired her to volunteer. Then in May 2018, she became a permanent employee of the CAP Agency food shelf under the Scott County senior grant program.
“Everybody that works here is so kind and friendly. They love giving,” she said. “No wonder I love it here so much!”
Outside of work, Suzy spends as much time with her family as she can. She visits her youngest daughter, who lives nearby, and plays football with her grandsons after school. Family is a common thread in Suzy’s life and the holiday season is precious to her. However, she says Christmas is always stressful because she can’t afford gifts for all her loved ones.
“Everyone knows that the grandkids get the gifts, and that’s it,” she said.
Thanksgiving, however, is Suzy’s favorite time of the year. Her three children and four grandchildren all come to visit, and every year she prepares a feast to share. She says that the food shelf is a huge help when it’s time to cook holiday meals for her family.
“Last year I cooked two whole turkeys,” she laughed. “One of them came from this food shelf!”
When welcoming new visitors to the CAP Agency, Suzy finds that many people are embarrassed to ask for help. She makes it her personal mission to help them feel at home, emphasizing words of support and encouragement. “If you are in need, there’s plenty to go around,” she tells them.
CAP Agency is one of nearly 1,000 partners Second Harvest Heartland works alongside to reach our neighbors living with hunger. As Suzy shared, the holidays are a time of need for many families. Give the gift of dinner this holiday season, volunteer, or join us in a conversation about hunger.