Friday, February 01, 2008

Waltham Food Pantry

Yesterday, my co-worker JoAnn and I spent the afternoon volunteering at the Waltham Food Pantry. The Pantry is in a separate, stand-alone building behind and at the other end of the parking lot of the American Red Cross on Main Street.

The Pantry is open on Thursday afternoons and people in need can get free food. The people can only avail themselves of this much needed service once a month and it's for sure that the free food they get will likely last them not much more than a week; but, every little bit helps to get through the month.

Yesterday, the bags of donated food consisted of one bag each of potatoes, onions and cheese, five canned goods of vegetables and fruit, and a bag of dried food, that is, cereal and other grains. In addition, each person got a large piece of frozen salmon. Some people didn't, or couldn't, eat salmon and wanted a substitute but there wasn't any. In the end, everyone took was was given out, thanked us and went on their way.

I was kind of surprised to learn how extensive the need for this service was in Waltham. A watch factory town for 100 years, Waltham bills itself as the place where the industrial revolution began. Today, a bedroom community of Boston, it's a hard scrabble town with lots of people who are down and out. While I was there handing out the bags of food I'd earlier helped assemble, I noticed that many of the people coming in seemed to be regular folk who were just down on their luck.

JoAnn and I got there at noon and worked until 4 p.m. Our hosts this day consisted of David, Emily, Olga, and Carlos. Throughout the afternoon other volunteers came and went, helping to put together food bags. One was a retired banker, another a Brandeis student who, during lulls, studied Chinese and a couple more who quietly worked and then just as quietly left.

The Pantry is also able to function as a place where people can apply for food stamps. Apparently, they process many, many applications for food stamps. Olga sat at a desk the entire day entering applications into the computer. She looked like a typical busy, distracted office worker doing mindless work; however, it wasn't mindless and what she was doing was going to have a dramatic effect on a person's life. Her intensity seemed tinged with the true spirit of helping others who are in need of help.

It was an afternoon well spent, a really good experience and a sober reflection of one's life. At one point I remarked to Emily, who had these incredible pale blue eyes, that I hadn't ever done anything like this and was grateful for having had the opportunity to do so.

At the end of the day, we were invited to come back and volunteer again. The invitation, in itself a good feeling of knowing we'd helped, made me remember that we are all one and how important it is to be of service.

The volunteering wasn't about getting out of work, out of the office, for a day. It was about giving. About giving to people who need help, in this case, giving help to people who's mission it is to give help to others who are in more need.

As we were leaving I told them we may never see each other again. But, as a memory, each of them will be with me forever.


Post a Comment

<< Home