Storehouse volunteer publishes book

The Storehouse volunteers bring food to clients. Photography Lauren Allen

The book took a few years to write. It was a long process of interview after interview, going back to double, triple and quadruple check every fact. She would share the stories from The Storehouse — the place she volunteered at for years — and let them make a difference. These were real, meaningful stories, and Nancy Kurkowski was determined to get each one right.

The book took over a decade to write. Its setting was built from the ground up, and Kurkowski was there to watch it happen. She volunteered for years, the book just an idea in the back of her mind as she learned every familiar face that came through the nonprofit’s doors. Her book, We Are Your Neighbors: Stories from The Storehouse, wouldn’t have been possible without the years she spent there first, she says.

The book took her life to write. It came from her mindset of helping where and when she could — a mindset that kept her coming back to help The Storehouse, whether she just watched her child get married or was diagnosed with breast cancer. Whatever she faced, Kurkowski did so with the desire to give back, she says, and she has 116 pages to prove it.

With the book now available, Kurkowski can say with pride: every second was worth it.

The Storehouse Community Center is a nonprofit organization located at St. Andrew Methodist Church that consists of four programs: Seven Loaves Food Pantry, Joseph’s Coat Clothing Closet, Project Hope Neighbor Care and The Academy Education Program. The programs come together to help fulfill The Storehouse’s purpose — to “feed, clothe and care as neighbors in one community.”

Mary — portraits courtesy We Are Your Neighbors

Mary

Mary moved from Oak Cliff to Plano to put her children in Plano ISD. A single mom, she worked multiple jobs in health care and with the district before being hired at Project Hope, a full-circle moment from when she’d use the Seven Loaves and Joseph’s Coat programs when money was tight.

“Everyone [who comes to] The Storehouse is just like me,” Kurkowski says. “They are fellow children of God and God loves them just as much as us. That culture has always been engraved in The Storehouse, and it’s what I tried to engrave in this book.”

After being reached out to in early 2009, Kurkowski joined a handful of people with a common goal: create a food pantry to help Collin County residents due to the 2008 global financial recession. The first day The Storehouse opened, the pantry served one family. Now, it serves thousands.

“The people we were seeing were people that never thought they’d be in a food pantry,” Kurkowski says. “These were people who had steady jobs, but were really impacted by the crisis. We were positioned to be in the right place at the right time, which let The Storehouse grow as much as it did.”

 Arnold — Portraits courtesy We Are Your Neighbors

Arnold

Arnold grew up in poverty in Lancaster and worked his way up to an over-a-decade-long HVAC career. That is, until a workplace injury and subsequent cancer diagnosis made keeping a job that demanding impossible. With Seven Loaves pantry and an anonymous donation that covered his medical bills, Arnold was able to get back on his feet and watch his daughters kill it with Plano West basketball.

Kurkowski continued to volunteer for The Storehouse until the end of 2014, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She spent the majority of 2015 undergoing chemotherapy and surgery, then recovering. Kurkowski says the diagnosis strengthened her relationship with God and her peers.

“I realized the friendships [and] support that I had, because so many people came out of the woodwork,” Kurkowski says. “When we just go through life, we forget how much we depend on our friends, but God showed that to me.”

After recovering, Kurkowski was hesitant to go back to her old role, because she had been gone for a year. She was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer for the next few years, where she helped make sure foster children were in good homes.

“(God) drew close to me because I was open to him,” Kurkowski says. “He reminded me that there is something greater in life than just doing your own thing. We’re here for a purpose.”

During her time away, Kurkowski kept up with The Storehouse. When told about a potential vision for the next steps of organization, she began to volunteer there again in late 2022. As she met more and more “neighbors,” the people The Storehouse serves, she came back to an idea she’d always had in the back of her mind — telling their stories.

“I wanted to open some eyes and hearts with this book,” Kurkowski says.

The Storehouse volunteers Photography Lauren Allen
Photography Lauren Allen

Kurkowski asked frequent volunteers and visitors for stories they may know, then set to work on crafting her book. She interviewed each subject multiple times, then let them read the stories to make sure they were comfortable with the book being published.

“It was very important to me that the stories were empowering to the neighbors, that they come across as heroes in their own stories, because they are heroes,” Kurkowski says. “The Storehouse isn’t doing the rescuing; we’re giving our neighbors the resources and letting them rescue themselves.”

In mid-April, the book was published. During The Storehouse’s 15th anniversary on May 16, We Are Your Neighbors was officially unveiled and passed out to stakeholders and community members. Now, the book is available on Amazon for $10 as a paperback and 99 cents as an e-book.

“The point isn’t to make money,” Kurkowski says. “The point is to open people’s hearts. The point is to share the value of getting to genuinely know someone who’s different, who’s a child of God that just happened to be born into different circumstances.”

The Storehouse retail shop Photography Lauren Allen
The Storehouse retail shop. Photography Lauren Allen
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