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I'm Angela Jiménez-Calhoun, the Founder and CEO of Pantry Partners, Inc. I first made Norman my home in the 1980s while pursuing my education at the University of Oklahoma. Originally from Oklahoma City, I was drawn to Norman's small town charm and tight-knit community spirit. My journey here has been diverse  - from teaching middle school math for six years to owning several small businesses, becoming a real estate assistant to my husband, Mark, and in recent years embracing a new role as the Founder and CEO of Pantry Partners, Inc.

My Story

Throughout my time in Norman, beginning with my early experiences working with middle school youth, I've personally witnessed the profound challenges that young people face, not just within the classroom but also throughout our community. Motivated by this firsthand understanding, I committed myself throughout my adult life to giving back and providing vital support to youth when needed. 

My journey of offering support to struggling youth, whether quietly behind the scenes or through trusted friends, intertwines with the legacy of my beloved Grandmother's remarkable volunteerism in the Oklahoma City Hispanic community. Witnessing her selfless dedication to service and community inspired my own passion for community service, particularly in working with teens. These experiences are the very essence of my heart for youth in need. They echo the values passed down by my Grandmother, paving a path of purposeful service.

Fast forward to when my son was attending Norman High School in 2011. Those were the days when our house was always buzzing with activity, especially during lunchtime. My son would often bring home friends, and sometimes, there would be up to a dozen hungry boys at our table. Many days I would be making sandwiches and heating up leftovers as fast I could for a hungry group of teens! Other times, I'd pull up to Norman High School in our minivan, and they'd all eagerly hop in, ready for a lunchtime adventure. Taking them to a fast-food joint might seem like a small gesture, but to them, it was a chance for the same lunch experience as their peers. For some, they couldn't afford to treat themselves so we made it happen! Watching them enjoy those meals together, laughing and joking like any other group of friends, was profoundly impactful. It was a reminder that sometimes, it's the little things that make the biggest difference in someone's day. And for us, being able to provide those moments was truly a privilege.

Throughout our son's high school years, we opened our home to several of his closest friends who found themselves experiencing homelessness or living in crisis situations. My husband and I have always had a heart for helping young people, so we did what we could to support these kids. Even after our son graduated, our commitment didn't fade. We continued to open our home to his closest friends, who became family to us.

Despite our ongoing efforts to assist various kids in need over the years, we didn't fully grasp the extent of teen hunger and resource scarcity in our community until I answered a call to action from Norman High School requesting donations for food and resources for teens in need. That’s when I discovered Norman High School had a small food pantry, and I immediately signed up to volunteer. Little did I know, this decision would change the course of my life.

Since 2016 I've been serving as the NHS Food Pantry Site Coordinator. In the early years as the coordinator, requests for help continued to grow, stretching beyond just food needs. I relied on friends to help me fill those needs, eventually it became more than what my friends and I could manage on our own so I began researching options only to find a significant gap in programs and resources specifically available to underserved teens. 

These experiences heightened my awareness even more of chronic hunger and homelessness among teens in our community, igniting my vision to establish the non-profit Pantry Partners, Inc. in 2019. My goal was to shed light on the pressing needs of our teens and rally community support to address them. My vision was simple: to raise awareness about teen hunger and homelessness and securing the funds necessary to address these pressing needs. I was also determined to establish a safe space where these teens could find more than just food and resources; they could find wrap-around support, love, and hope.  By connecting at-risk teens with vital food and resources, my aim was to alleviate the burden of chronic hunger and homelessness, empowering them to focus on their education and thrive throughout their high school years with confidence and success.

My journey has been deeply personal. As a University of Oklahoma graduate, former middle school math teacher in the 90’s, wife and mom to two amazing kids, who have both graduated from Norman High School, I've experienced firsthand the importance of community support. Together with my husband, Mark, we've made Norman our home for over three decades. Our commitment to serving our teen community is unwavering, and through Pantry Partners, Inc., we're turning our dream of making a difference into a reality.

So, if you're ever curious about my motivation, it's quite simple: it's the faces of those underserved teens, their stories of resilience, and the steadfast belief that together, we can shine as a beacon of hope, illuminating brighter futures for all our youth in need.

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