When I began working for the Center 10 years ago, I had no idea how a food bank operated. I knew that it was a place you could go if you were hungry, but beyond that, I was clueless. I thought you might like to take a walk with me through our food bank and learn about what it takes to operate and feed the hungry people in our community.
I’ll begin with a little history. Our Center was founded 22 years ago by local Christian churches to be a central place where people could receive help if they were facing an emergency. The response was to be 3-fold: Food, Faith, and Financial. Over the years, we have learned how to serve nearly 9,000 people each year. We are open five days per week.
The first thing you need is food. Sounds simple, but trust me…it’s not! If you aspire to give out the ingredients to make balanced, nutritious meals, that food source needs to replenish, and as a non-profit, that means faithful donors. We rely on our schools, churches, business partners, Feeding America, and individuals to keep us supplied in vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, etc. Most donations come in the form of canned food – that is really the heart of the food bank, non-perishables. The next thing you need are gracious volunteers who donate their precious time to help us check dates, sort through the food, and help distribute the food to those who need it. Then you must have families who are willing to come in to ask for help, so you create a place where they can do that as privately as possible while compassionate well-trained volunteers listen. And lastly, you need good people who help organize it all and others who keep you lifted in prayer.
Remember that important word, “non-perishables?” The canned foods, packaged pasta, and boxed cereals. They are vital to us at the food bank and we will always need them to fill the bags that we give away each day, but I want to tell you about an exciting new direction our food bank has been blessed to have open to us…fresh and frozen foods! An old walk-in freezer was donated to us and for the first time, we were able to receive frozen foods from stores and distributers. This is so helpful for our many families who have health problems like diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure. It’s only one freezer and it empties quickly, but what a difference the food makes! I am prayerful that one day we will have more refrigerated and frozen capacity so that we can not only feed, but feed nutritiously! If you have a garden and would like information on how you can “plant a row” for the Center, or if you have ideas you’d like to share with us about our food bank, please message me or leave a comment.
VW's journal entry reminded me that I should briefly update about mom and dad. Some of you know that they were both diagnosed with cancer at the same time...mom with breast and dad with lung. Mom had a lumpectomy and then a recurrence. She opted for a full mastectomy, and several surgeries and chemo later, she's in remission and expected to do very well. She's her old self again.
Dad's was a little more aggressive and difficult, but after surgery, radiation, chemo,and several meds, hewas recently put on a drug that for the first time, has the doctor looking at his PET scan and proclaiming, "all of the tumors have shrunken, some cannot even be seen anymore."
For all who encouraged, thank you. Your prayers meant everything to us. The side effects have been tough on dad and their passion for travel was put on hold for a long while. Being tied to the house has been awful, but they bought a cool camper van and now they're taking road trips together!
In fact, dad feels so good, mom's been able to come back to the center to volunteer again on Fridays. They made a beautiful donation designated for us to help clients who are suffering with cancer. Mom is even representing her church and sitting on our board of directors now! Happy days for our family.
This makes for such happy reading. :)
YAY! But I did assume no news was good news. :)
Thank you for the update. :) Good to read, and it does bring a smile to my face.
The grace of God is inspiring.
Just back in the office after addressing a group of Jr. High students on poverty in their community. I was so impressed by their attention and respect. They asked pointed and intelligent questions.
Our community is small and poverty and especially homelessness often go unnoticed as a hidden secret. Many of our citizens don't even know it's a problem.
When we talked about this, the kids asked where the homeless people go during the day and at night. I told them about some of our families who live in cars, about how they spend time in places like the library and the mall and then how they find places to sleep at night. I also told them that homeless children must be allowed an education regardless of whether or not they have an address, so some students in their school are probably homeless, and you'd never know.
They asked about ways they could help, about apartment costs, and shared their feelings about poverty.
I learned afterward that there was one kid in the group who was homeless and one child below poverty guidelines that the teacher was aware of.
I hear so much about the next generation, but don't count them out yet. There are exceptional minds and hearts out there. Here's a factoid for you...Do you know the impact of young people on the local fight against hunger? In our food bank, the largest donation of food (by a wide margin) is from... the schools! They outgive Second Harvest/Feeding America, individuals, and organizations.
Those food drives at your kids' schools are VITAL. Because of them, our small little ministry was able to feed almost 9,000 people last year!
I know my children's elementary school had a goal of donating 500 turkeys this past thanksgiving to the food pantry. The goal was for each child to earn $5 doing a "job" or "jobs" to donate for turkey purchases.
The kids apparently decided to step it up a bit - the school ended up donating over 800 turkeys.
My kids amaze me. Their school mates do too. I simply fear by the time they get to the age they can become more socially and politically active the world will have already put them in the position where such efforts would be futile. They almost already are.
After Hurricane Katrina left our Center a flooded, roofless, moldy mess, the stress left the former director burned out and sadly needing to find time to relax. She resigned and the Board of directors went through a grueling search for a new director. At that time, I was on staff as a Program Coordinator.
I LOVED my job. I worked with the volunteers as we interviewed hurting people to see how we could help...food, clothing, shelter, utilities, prescriptions, transportation, and more. We organized home visits. I was on the front line. I put my name in the hat for Director on the very last day. I wasn't sure I wanted it. After the many interviews, I received the offer and accepted.
These past 5 years have been a whirlwind. We have made so many amazing changes, and have grown up and stepped into the world of Development Planning. We are building relationships with businesses, organizations, and families. We have a new Partnership Plan, a new Student Sponsorship Program, and I have more ideas for how the Center can serve our community.
What keeps blowing my mind is this: We are 100% reliant upon donations.
What blows my mind again is this: The funds keep coming in. It's happening. We're doing it! With God's grace, we even get to EXPAND our services next year by THIRTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! Those are not government dollars...not even one of them. They are dollars that real people pulled from their own pockets, sharing from their own family resources, and handed to us, trusting us enough to apply every cent to those who have so little.
A year-end event we have annually netted us $4,500 last year...a new high! I opened the check from this year and it was $10,500. All for the food bank. We're looking now to see if we can purchase a walk-in refrigerator. You can't even imaging how much this can change our lives. It means FRESH FOOD for the poor and for people with health concerns and special diets!
On Tuesday, the Assistant director and I had a stack of envelopes on our desks that I cannot describe. We double-teamed them...just opening one after another. One was a large envelope with a bunch of smaller envelopes inside from a church which hung our Center on their Christmas Angel Tree. We were squealing...actually squealing and then just quiet as the emotions rose and rose until we were both sniffling and trying to hold it together.
There were lots of $20s and $50s. There were $100s. There was a $4,000. There were two $900s. There was one from a retired man for $1000 along with a form from the company to apply for matching funds from their retirees and employees. Then we opened PayPal.
In there, we found several donations and one great surprise... a thousand dollar donation from a VR Member. I can never, even with my beloved words, convey what generosity means to a small organization like ours...from the humblest gift to the overflowing cup...lives will be changed, spirits will be uplifted, and hearts will be healed because love like this...selflessness like this is powerful. It cannot be given in vain. Its impact on givers and receivers grows exponentially.
In total, we received over $14,000 - the most we have ever received in a single day...more than we made on our fundraising Gala last year! A staggering figure for a small ministry like ours!
One of those received checks was for $200. It was accompanied by a small card that read, "Dear ladies and gentlemen of the _______ Center, This donation is to thank you for helping my husband and I earlier this year when he lost his eyesight and was not able to work.
Since then, God has blessed us in many ways and this is our way of sharing His gifts with others who need help.
Now I know that when I post things like this, I will get some comments that talk about me. I want to be clear about this...this is not about me. This is about YOU. You did this...some of you donated here. Some of you donated elsewhere...maybe just clothes or a few dollars. If that organization hasn't explained the impact of that donation to you, hasn't expressed their genuine gratitude, shame on them. Allow me to do it for them.
It matters. You matter. Your prayers matter. Every time you are generous, every time you are selfless, it is the beginning of a story whose ending you may never read, but know this...you make forever differences each and every time.
Genuinely and with the most joyful heart you could ever picture, Thank you! It has been a whirlwind in these years, sometimes scary facing challenges and board meetings, but what an incredible and exhilarating ride! My faith has grown, not only in God...but in people.
Bless us, each and every one. :)
Reading this made my heart smile. :) Thank you.
Oh wow... I remember pep-talking you right before one or two of those interviews. That must have be a lifetime ago now.
I wish I could send a picture of how much you love what you do back in time to give you then.
It is easy to get lost in or overwhelmed by the hurdles we face. It never ceases to amazing me the depth of charity, empathy, and rallying our neighbors *and* strangers do.
That is what I love to hear.
People helping people for the sheer sake of lending a helping hand. Not for the acknowledgment or for their names being shared.
But to simply help out.
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