Shopping With those in Need: Volunteering at the Foodbank

Saturday, I helped volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati. I’ve volunteered many times with Freestore Foodbank at their distribution warehouse. Yesterday’s experience put me face to face with those in need.

Early in  my volunteer shift, I worked alongside other volunteers to stock pantry shelves. This foodbank is a choice pantry, which allows people to choose items from the selection available, much like a regular grocery store. From canned goods, hundreds of peanut butter jars, fresh cabbage, onions and other vegetables, as well as frozen meats, we filled the food room up.

As soon as the doors opened, one of the first ladies to come in was using a walker to get around. She couldn’t push a shopping cart, too. I went shopping with her.

This lady with a walker latched on to me and right away, I felt like her friend. We walked together down each aisle together. I helped her gather her choice items and pushed her cart for her.

Each customer to the food room is given anywhere from one to four large paper sacks to fill up with as much food as they can, provided it doesn’t go over a certain weight limit. Produce are freebies, not needing to take up room in their sacks. Family size determines how many sacks of food they can take home with them.

As the volunteering day continued to unfold, I helped keep shelves stocked, helped customers as needed, and did a few maintenance tasks like unfolding paper sacks to hand out.

Chatting with other volunteers, I heard several reasons they showed up to help. “I’m retired, this gives me something worthy to do” and “My son and I came together. I want him to learn the value of helping others.” Me, my reason: “I was once on the receiving end, much like these folks we’re helping. Today, I’m on the giving end.”

This shopping experience is a helping hand to those in need in our community. Giving them food to stock their kitchen gives them one less thing to worry about when it comes to day-to-day financial struggles.

According to the Freestore’s website, this Food Room serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.

From what I saw in the few hours I helped, 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 is operated 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.

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!

Resources:

Link to Freestore Foodbank. Image retrieved from this site.

Feeding America. Find your local calling to volunteer through feedingamerica.org.

 

-Elle-

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Helping Senior Citizens, Volunteering

Recently, I helped put together Senior Boxes, working at the warehouse for the Freestore Foodbank, here in Cincinnati. We filled several hundred boxes with essential food items. These boxes will be given to the elderly in our community.

Retirement, loss of a spouse, and increasing health care expenses can make a senior citizen vulnerable to financial struggles. These Senior Boxes help ease their difficulties by ensuring they have food to make their meals.

There is an abundance of ways we can help the older folks in our communities. Here are a few ways:

Visit someone who resides in an assisted living facility or a retirement home.

Bring along a board game or cards, a book to share, a home-baked treat, or a care package.

Or, if someone you know is elderly and lives in their own home, give them a call to see if you can stop by for a visit. Offer to fix little things around the home. If it’s winter time, shovel snow from their driveway.

In our busy schedules, even a quick hello can brighten their day.

Help those who can no longer drive. Take them to their appointments and help them run errands. You can even bring your briefcase or laptop and then wait for them in the lobby while they see their doctor. You can also bring them along as you run your own errands, so they can get out of the house and visit with you at the same time.

Rich life experiences determine our character, values, and sense of peace. Imagine the many cherished stories, lessons and experiences our elders can give us.

We can make a difference in their lives.                                                                   Sharing is quality time together.

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If you’re like me, without a parent or grandparent of your own who needs some extra caring for, there are plenty of seniors out there who could use some company!

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Several organizations help match volunteers to senior citizens. If in the greater Cincinnati area, you can volunteer as I did, by reaching out to the Freestore Food Bank. Another great place to get involved is through the AARP Foundation, found in many cities.

How about you? Has your life been touched by helping a senior citizen in your community? Share your experience with us by using the comment box. -Elle-

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Gratitude

Turkey dinners, cranberries, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and family gatherings—these are all commonly associated with most Americans in a celebration of giving thanks—Thanksgiving Day!

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The pilgrims could never have imagined that America would become the global superpower it is today. Our country is on the forefront of economic prosperity, medical science, technology, food production, sanitation, architecture and space exploration. We have freedoms unheard of in some other countries and we fight to keep and strengthen our freedoms.
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The income and standard of living for most Americans is relatively high when compared to other industrialized nations. But, this is a blanketed statement which overlooks countless people in our American communities. Many people barely scratch the surface to afford the traditional family gathering with turkey and trimmings. Some don’t even have family.​​​
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Gratitude
For me, Thanksgiving is a time to not only be thankful for the life I’ve been given to build upon, but also to think of others who are less fortunate. I joined friends to serve dinner to the residents at Tender Mercies in Cincinnati. These folks lent me a heart-felt connection and while they thanked us for their dinner,
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  •  I thank them for inviting us into their home,

 

  • I thank them for letting me meet them and

 

  • to get to know them a little better (some I’ve seen in passing when on my job at the public library),

 

  • I thank them for letting me give back to my community.
What is Tender Mercies:
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Tender Mercies is a supportive and transitional housing environment, located in Over-the-Rhine on 12thStreet (Cincinnati).
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Their stated mission is: “Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.”
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Ongoing Opportunities to Give:
If you are in our community and would like to know more; perhaps help out, visit Tender Mercies’ website.
If you are in other parts of America and would like to find ways you can give to others, here is but one source to point you in the right direction: the website for Volunteer Match.
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What are your experiences with being thankful?
 Of community?
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In gratitude, 
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Volunteering to Change Community Hunger

—–Saturday was another day of volunteering. I met with others also concerned with issues of hunger in our community.

I chatted with another volunteer, saying, “I used to be on the receiving end; now I’m on the giving end”

 

Assembly line style, with good spirits, we bellied up to a conveyor belt and boxed up gift packages of food to later be handed out to elderly folks. We filled several pallets.

Then, we switched gears to make Power Packs for school children.
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 I worked alongside a young guy whose mom worked across from me. His name is Eli and a sixth-grader. Helping his mom helped him to see that some kids could go hungry if it wasn’t for his help. He doesn’t have to worry about hunger but understands some kids do.
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Essentially, these Power Packs are “sack lunches,” each with plenty of stuff to keep a kid eating from when they leave school on Friday until they return on Monday.
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Kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches get these lunches only on school days, so these packs keep them going over the weekend.
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These Power Packs are distributed to schools. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

To find out who to contact in your local area and how, visit the Feeding America website.
On this page is a search bar for your zip code.
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And you can sign up to Volunteer  in your local area.
The direct link to their Website is:
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Contact Feed America or any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help out.
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Not affiliated with my Saturday’s volunteerism, a video by Unicef which I found on You Tube especially touched my heart.
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Well-spoken by fourteen-year-old Firdaus Ahmad Farouk from Kuala Lumpur, he is an active volunteer for a soup kitchen to feed the hungry and homeless. He was one of three winners for the inaugural Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Awards 2015.
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Thank you Firdaus Ahmad Farouk for your message. Here’s the 2-minute video:

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We can make a difference!
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Volunteering at Freestore Foodbank

Saturday afternoon, I joined others in a big (huge!) warehouse for the Freestore Foodbank, in Cincinnati.
We made “Power Packs” for school children.
Here’s what I learned:
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1. More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.
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2. (So,) donations of food items come in – from grocery stores, local partnerships, and community members.
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3. Volunteers (like me) unload the pallets of donated food and pack sacks. (“Power Packs”).__
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4. These Power Packs are distributed to schools. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
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5. These Power Packs are given to school children on Fridays so they can go home with power food to carry them over until the next school day, Monday. You see, our kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches get those lunches only on school days, so these packs keep them going over the weekend.
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(excerpted quote) “Those children can come to class and learn instead of focusing on their empty bellies….” (unquote). –Heidi Becker, Coordinator for the Power Pack Program with Freestore Foodbank, as printed in their newsletter.
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Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks, which includes Freestore Foodbank. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state of America.
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To find out who to contact in your local area and how, visit the Feeding America website.  On this page is a search bar for your zip code.
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Another option is to sign up to Volunteer in your local area. The direct link to their Website is:  feedingamerica.org.
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Contact Feed America or any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help out.
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And found on the Feeding America website and on You Tube, I hit the “share” button to bring you this uplifting video.
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We can make a difference!

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