The Freestore Foodbank in downtown Cincinnati gave an urgent shout-out last Friday for volunteer help, come Saturday morning. They were low in their count of registered volunteers. While I could have felt my Saturday was already filled up, I figured where there’s a will, there’s a way. I split a shift with someone else.
Following an early morning visit with a friend, I then joined my local writers group. Before doing my weekly shopping on my drive home, I stopped by to offer a helping hand with this food bank.
Helping is my way of showing gratitude. As my recently published memoir shows, I was once on the receiving end—and I’ve also been on the taking end, not proud of my choices when a young woman. Today, my living amends for yesteryear are found in my volunteerism.
I’m so glad I showed up to help—it gave me connection to those in need; a heart-felt connection. My job was to be with folks as they left the food bank. Often I helped load their food into their car. Sometimes it was to help them gather their sacks to carry in their walk home.
Chatting, it was easy for me to relate to what they were going through. One woman— (paraphrasing, here)—tried apologizing to me for her neediness and forgetfulness—“Diapers, oh I need diapers, too.” I let her know there was no need to explain her forgetfulness—I’ve been there before, on the edge, wondering if I’d survive—our mental and emotional cognition is so broken down when leaning on others. “I understand.”
According to the Freestore’s website, this food bank serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.
From what I saw, these numbers are a gross understatement. Only so many people could shop at one time. This left a long line of people waiting their turn. The line never grew short. People in need kept showing up.
The Freestore Foodbank operates under Feeding America, a national association of affiliated food banks. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state in America.
While my reasons for being a part of my community is my way of giving back for what I have received, other reasons are abundant when it comes to volunteering. Some people volunteer to fill their free hours, some for something worthy to do during retirement, and for some, it is to show their concern for those less well-off. No matter our reasons, it is our opportunity to come together to make our community a better place for everyone.
To join the volunteering efforts, you can find out who to contact in your local area and how by visiting the Feeding America website. On this page is a search bar for your zip code.
We can make a difference!
Link to Freestore Foodbank.