This is one of a series of stories about the nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.

A little milk, one box of macaroni and cheese and some lunch meat.

That was all Laura, 40, whose real name is not being used to protect her privacy, found when she opened her refrigerator one night seven years ago to feed her two young boys. Recently divorced, low on cash and without a steady job, Laura made what little she had last her family for three days.

"I prayed for strength, and I prayed for the strength to ask for help," she said.

That help came in the form of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, a nonprofit that distributes food to the hungry - 17,623,945 pounds of it during the 2011-12 fiscal year - and assists in health initiatives for children, the elderly and the chronically ill.

Shortly after Laura gave up her career as a network engineer and moved to Colorado Springs as a military wife, her husband left the family and moved in elsewhere, leaving her as the primary caregiver for her children.

Initially reluctant to receive help, Laura found that the contract work she was landing couldn't pay the mounting bills, including child care and car-related costs. Then there wasn't enough left to fill her family's stomachs.

"It was just that little extra help at that time that kept me going and looking for a full-time job," she said.

About six months after she first visited a food bank, a full-time job came - a position she holds today. Then, Laura and her family were able to slowly move away from Care and Share aid.

In 2008, Laura returned with her boys to the organization as a volunteer, repaying the food bank for what it did for her - a commitment to help others that she has since continued.

"It wasn't too long after we had moved here and settled down that the marriage fell apart," Laura said. "It was one of those things that one moment you have everything and the next you don't."