UNSUNG HERO: Marion woman helps employees impacted by government - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Marion woman helps employees impacted by government shutdown

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JOHNSTON CITY -- In this week's Unsung Hero, a Williamson County woman is being thanked for her role in helping federal workers during the government shutdown.

Kathi Odum is hanging on to the last few items she's collected while she waits to see what will happen in our nation's capital. In January, the Marion resident started taking donations to help workers impacted by the shutdown.

"They were telling me about how they were having problems feeding their families and stuff. A lot of people live week to week," said Kathi. 

From December 21, 2018, to January 25, 2019, the United States government shutdown for 35 days, becoming the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Many who are employed by the federal penitentiary in Marion were either furloughed or forced to work without pay.
"When you're employed and still working it's even worse because you have to come up with gas and food to get back and forth to work and not getting paid," said Kathi. 

Through her outreach on social media, Kathi was able to give out multiple $100 Kroger gift cards.

"I figured, that way if they needed some gas or some food, they could get it all in one place," said Kathi. 

She then decided to partner with First United Methodist Church in Johnston City, which has a food pantry.

"I didn't really even realize, only being here a couple of years, that the federal prison was that close, and that there would be people in our own community that would be impacted by it," said Pastor Stephen Hudspath.

Pastor Stephen is also part of the town's Ministerial Alliance, so he called other area pastors to help.

"When we are in need, that's what these things are for."  

Kathi called it the perfect pairing to fill a need.

"I had all the donations go to him, food and such and then I took care of the gas cards," said Kathi.

"When somebody is willing to step up and say, I know there's a person who is in need or this family that's in need, then we need to step up to the plate," added Pastor Stephen. 

Kathi's efforts helped five local families who had multiple children. Kathi said she plans to give back the gift cards to donors if the government comes to an agreement with the president.

If the shutdown happens again, she plans to reach out to another church. She also hopes employees will reach out to her for help.

"Don't be shy. Reach out to me and I'll do everything I can to help you and if I can't find the resources, I'll find the resources," added Kathi.

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