March 29 -- A contemporary tale of two cities is taking place in Pembroke, Ill., and Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
One city is a community entrenched in poverty. The other is thriving in plenty. The two are now united through a mission of hope that began when a mom from Hastings picked up the morning paper.
"I was reading the New York Times on a Sunday about a rural community, Pembroke, Ill., that was so profoundly poor that people's basic life essential needs were not being met," said Pamela Koner.
"I walked in off my deck and proclaimed to my family: 'I've just read this story that moved me in such a significant way, I have to do something.' And it was very interesting. It was a little otherworldly, I have to say. And I'm not a very spiritual person."
Something from the story touched her personally and resulted in three crucial steps.
"I walked in, I said I have to do something," Koner said. "The next step was, I have an idea. And the third one was — is family-to-family."
Finding a Way to Help
That morning, Koner began a series of phone calls that would lead her to Pembroke's church pastors, Lisa and John Dyson, themselves dedicated to uplifting their community.
"Pamela Koner called and talked to my husband and she wanted to find a way to help," said Lisa Dyson.
The conversation was straightforward.
"I said 'What do you need?' And he said, 'I was hoping for a miracle.' And I said, 'Well, I'm not a miracle but what do you need?,' " Koner recalled. "And he said, 'Well our people here the last week of the month, the food pantry runs out. Our people here are starving. I said, 'I've got an idea. How about if I find a family in my community to adopt a family in yours and we create family-to-family?' And that's how it began."
Lisa Dyson said that the connection is stronger than just receiving gifts.