This is where I volunteer every Monday from 9-2PM, my favorite day of the week. From the picture , you can see it doesn’t look like most food pantries. Why? It is the design where the older woman is walking through shelves of food with a shopper to choose what she wants, likes, or needs. Most pantries give a consumer a prepacked bag of food for the three day emergency food.
There are strict guidelines by the government as to number of servings according to family size for protein, vegetables, fruit , soup, and grain. The volunteer shoppers tell them how many choices they have. Oh I forgot the fresh fruit and vegetables which the clients can take as needed. It always makes the volunteers happy when a client is excited about the fresh produce. Many have no facilities to cook except a microwave, which is usable to cook fresh vegetables but most don’t want to be bothered. Many clients want quick and easy, as many people do! Me included. Monday we had a huge table full of fresh foods brought over by a volunteer. He goes every Monday to the Regional Food Bank, fills his car with fresh produce and drives it over and unloads the food and brings it into the pantry.
The Monday team is made up of 7 people. One checks clients in on the computer and checks a current piece of mail to insure eligibility. Two are behind the shelves stacking and breaking up boxes then there are four of us shopping with clients. I need to find out exactly how many volunteers there are making this food pantry run so smoothly. We provide 6000 meals each month, the pantry serving the greatest number of people in the capital district. One reason for that is that it is open every day from 9-2 except on Friday , when it is 9-12. There are a great many churches who donate canned goods weekly. but the pantry is part of Catholic Charities and started by them. Many pantries are open with very limited hours. Another interesting fact is that donations both items and money are very strong from the volunteers who support it with their time and treasure!
Oh, I have many more stories for you , but this is just an introduction. ConSERNS-U as a food pantry but much more. Clients say openly they don’t like to go to another place for services because the people there are “mean to me!” We welcome our clients, remember their names, listen to their stories, shake hands with them, look them in the eye to acknowledge their humanity, try to help in any way we can, and never judge.
I was trying to sum it all up and I think “dignity” is the appropriate word. We treat then with dignity and how we would want to be treated.
“There but by the grace of God, go I.”