In May of this year, my kids and I were watching Madonna’s documentary, “I Am Because We Are.” My kids enjoy a good documentary as much as I do, and we often spend time pausing the movie, talking about what we see, and really discussing human behavior and interaction. We are watching this movie, discussing the plight of Africans and their struggles with AIDS and HIV which is ravaging their communities and decimating their families.
After the film is done, my daughter asks me why it was that people weren’t giving. There are kids that need school supplies and tuition that sometimes only totals ten dollars, yet they couldn’t afford even that. She asked about giving a portion of her allowance to the charity and speculated on just how much these kids would get if everyone gave just a dollar. This topic gradually evolved into how there were people living right here in our own city who were hungry and homeless and in need of help. She then asked what we could do about it.
It is interesting for me that out of the mouths of children can sometimes come our greatest motivations. I went online and looked up Roadrunner Food Bank. I have to admit, before this, I had never volunteered to do anything. Sure, I’d given money to charity, but it isn’t until you have it hit you that money only goes so far, that you can be motivated to go beyond simply giving cash into giving time. These places need people to make them work.
We set up our first session with the food bank and my introverted nerves were jangling and jittery. I didn’t know what to expect, but if my kids could be confident enough to want to go, so could I. I honestly don’t know why I was nervous. We got there to be greeted by smiling faces and people eager to have us dive right in and lend a hand. We were assigned pallet loading. Picture a warehouse much like your local Costco or Sam’s Club where each of the pallets is lettered and numbered. Now, you have a pallet jack and a slip of paper telling you what aisle to go down, what product to get, and how much of that product to load onto your pallet. It’s like a grocery list, but instead of the food going to your kitchen, you’re sending it to churches, food pantries, and shelters.
It was hard work. Over the course of two hours, my daughter and I (we were on a team while my son worked with another girl who had volunteered) stacked seven pallets, destined for various locations around New Mexico. The pallets were likely six feet tall when we were done, full of everything from canned goods and dried beans to snack bars and coffee. There was, however, something troubling me as I walked through the place and that was how much it looked like a Costco (albeit not quite as well stocked)…
I went up to the lead coordinator and asked her where they got their food. She got a small smile on her face and told me how they buy some with donated money, how they get government donations as well as business donations, (never quite knowing what they’ll get from businesses), but that they make do with anything. I asked her then, what about all the donations from people? Her smile faded a bit and she pointed to the last half-row where a jumble of mismatched cans sat in cardboard boxes. I should correct the idea that it was a half row… Let’s picture a Costco aisle again. Now, take off one half of the aisle. Now, cut that half aisle in half. A quarter of a row. That’s the food coming in from individuals.
I was speechless. Here is a place that serves over 60,000 people in the state of New Mexico. Here is where your imagination comes in again. Picture one single Costco, not filled to the brim, feeding a population large enough to be a small city on a constant basis. That is the Roadrunner Food Bank.
After our long day, the kids and I left with a great sense of accomplishment. They were so happy that it made my heart glad. They immediately asked when we were doing it again, and thus began more volunteering. We have packed beans into two pound bags, as well as pallet loaded again – leaving the place sweaty and well worked. Score a win for humanity!
I want to thank all the people at Roadrunner Food Bank for their kindness and for the work they do, and I want to encourage anyone out there that has a spare hour or two to donate their time to a good cause. There are many charities all over the country that are always in need of a helping hand. If you don’t have the time to donate, then send money. Even cutting out just one fast food meal and giving that ten dollars to a charity instead will go a long way.
There is so much that we can do as a society to give a helping hand to those who aren’t as fortunate, and we need to help. Humanity depends on humans being humane, and it takes so little to make a big difference in someone elses life. I encourage you to call or email your local food bank or food pantry to find out what help they need and whether it is something you can do… and there’s always a job for everyone – be it office work or on the floor doing the heavy lifting. They need your help, so get out there and give!
Find your local food bank: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx
Find a food pantry in your area: http://www.foodpantries.org/
Roadrunner Food Bank: http://www.rrfb.org/
Some stats that are really difficult to see but necessary for understanding: http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts/hunger-and-poverty-statistics.aspx