Welcome back to another installment of our weekly blog!
This week we are going to be focusing on the values of volunteering and adding some time to help others. Lisa and I both volunteer our time to work for a fantastic organization called Food 4 Kids. They make sure that Kids have healthy food at home and over the weekends.
It is scary how many kids across the country do not have food to nourish them over the weekend. From a personal stand point, I can tell you I have been where these families are right now. 15 years ago, I was struggling to make ends meet and we barely had enough food for the week. I relied on organizations like Food 4 Kids to make it through the week. They helped feed my two children.
I could not work, due to anxiety and physical ailments that took me down a path that I had no control over. I did not choose to be in that situation. It was what life handed me at that time. When life gives you lemons you just need to do what you got to do to make lemonade.
Most of these parents are in similar situations. Losing their jobs, illness or children that need constant medical attention are just examples of some of the plight these parents are marinating in. Blaming them for trying to deal with what life handed them does not make the situation better nor is it right.
Lisa was doing work for Food 4 Kids at a past place of employment and broached the idea of volunteering our time. She had also seen their Executive Director, Lena, on CHCH news talking about volunteering. It seemed like a great opportunity, as I could relate. I was always looking for a way to pay back the kindness in some way.
We started out during the summer months, which is run much differently than the school year program. In the summer, you deliver the food directly to the family’s homes. You have quite a bit of interaction with them. It’s eye opening and heart breaking at the same time.
We arrived, our first Saturday morning, at the Food 4 Kids office to pick up our bins. We have a list of items to buy, consisting of perishables from the grocery store. The bins themselves were well packed with fresh fruits, vegetables and other day to day items. I believe, in the beginning, we had 5 families to feed that first week. Forgive me if I am off on that number, it was well over 2 years ago now.
Included in the bins were weekly recipes to create health snacks and meals based on the items in the bin. They were usually different, and I know from talking with the families, a lot of them enjoyed making them with their children. Other times, there were forms to fill out for exercise challenges, for the families to do with their children. The amount of hard work and detail that went into these bins was a testament to the love and compassion shown by the volunteers.
We packed all the bins into our vehicle and headed off to the grocery store. On our list, on most weeks, were the staples Milk, & Eggs. The rest of the times it depended on what was being made with the items in the bins. Could be wraps, english muffins, and cheese. There was a great variety of items and snacks being made.
From there we plotted out a route, based on where the families lived, and off we went. I won’t discuss any details about this, other than at times, we became rather connected to the families. Some had heart breaking stories, other just victims of circumstances.
We have been in homes and we’ve seen kids react about the bins of food like some would react about Christmas presents. It has brought tears to our eyes on more than one occasion. Above all they were all families needing a helping hand, and well deserved.
The summer session came and went as fast as it started. Before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to the families we had helped. We had long ago decided that we would continue with helping after all we had seen over the summer.
Next up, we continued with the School program, different format but still extremely helpful to the families. For this one, we deliver to the schools themselves on the Friday or Thursday, depending on PA day or holiday schedule. No real contact with the family, like in the summer, but you are still making a difference.
Every delivery produces smiles. We all know what the purpose of the bins are, and the children they are helping. THAT’S WHAT MATTERS. The children and families. Nothing else.
In the school phase, the items are labeled in bags so the teachers and workers at the schools can quietly insert the product into the bags of the children in need during recess. No need to draw attention and embarrass them in their time of need.
Nancy greets us at every pickup. Nancy is wonderful - I’m not sure she knows. She makes sure you have everything set for your delivery, as well as routes or any special requests that are needed. Always smiling and full of delightful conversation, she helps make our mornings on delivery day.
We then head off to the school’s and use mini dollies to deliver the bins to each school on our route. Smiles and kind conversation are always welcome. Everyone involved knows the purpose of our visit. Children see us coming to the door and even hold it for us.
The purpose of this blog, unlike the others, was to show that everything shouldn’t be about the money. You must balance your time and schedule giving back. I can tell you, this is one of the highlights of our week. Doing this, and giving back, is something as precious as money. Time, specifically our time, to make sure that these children are helped.
No, we don’t want anything but to make a difference. We know that it has a purpose and it helps strengthen the bond between Lisa and I. We know that anyone can make a difference if they spend a few hours. Time and money are not everything. As far as we are concerned, spending that time on things that matter is important to us.
Executive Director, Lena, has been an amazing advocate for these children and a lot of time has us awestruck by her passion. All we can do is say thank you for your hard work and compassion in helping all these families in unfortunate situations. We applaud you!
Till next time….