Ladrea Johnson holds tight to hopes and dreams for her family’s future.

Johnson, 24, is not only a single mom to 4-year-old Dreme, but she recently also took in her younger brother and sister, both in their teens.

“I don’t want them to have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from or if they’re going to have support,” she said of caring for her siblings. “I want to be there for them, make sure they go to college and have a good life. I just have to teach them the right way.”

But the last few months have been filled with challenges. She secured an apartment following a short period of homelessness, but it flooded and is still being remodeled, Johnson said. She also lost her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. She was told that she made too much at her security guard job to qualify, but with two extra mouths to feed, her paychecks have to stretch even more now.

Johnson turned to Joined Hands, a food pantry hosted at the St. John Lutheran Church in Portage Park after losing those SNAP benefits. Johnson’s thankful for the food, she said. Whatever she doesn’t need she gives to her family and friends in need.

During this visit, she was especially excited about picking up some extra meat. Dreme’s birthday is this month, and she wants to have a barbecue to celebrate.

“It’s really good,” she said of the support. “I feel like it’s very helpful.”

Despite her hardship, Johnson knows how to stay strong. Some days she prays; other days she breaks down and cries. No matter what, she knows she can push through.

“I’m just trying to be positive because I know I’m going to get my blessings,” she said. “I know God is going to bless me eventually; I’m going to get blessings for doing good and giving back.”