Saturday, December 17, 2011


Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
Helen Keller

Truck & driver from United Stationers.

After months of work to get approval from the food bank for a same-day pantry, we finally had our first distribution day this month. Thrice weekly for years we had been getting bread donations and distributing them to our residents, but this undertaking was on a definitely grander scale. We asked for permission to do a monthly distribution of food. When the only way to gain approval was as a weekly pantry, we said, “We will make it work.”

A partial pallet of eggplant & me.
The order was placed last week, volunteers from our major donor lined up, and the cherry on the top—we actually went out to the food bank and made the pickup--thanks again to our donor who provided the driver and truck. As my colleague Penny and I poked through the extra free stuff, I thought about what a long journey it had been to this point. Our purchases were fork lifted into the truck and off we went back to our property. Little did we realize what was in that pallet of produce and just how many loaves of bread were in the boxes on another pallet. But, free is free and these free items were intriguing.

As our maintenance team unloaded the truck we soon discovered that the pallet of produce was entirely comprised of eggplant. However, the cereal, rice, canned tomatoes, diced fruit, coffee, crackers, turkey sausages, and more free produce seemed just perfect.

Penny took a knife to the cabbage to clean it up a bit, and we all worked hard before our senior residents started to congregate in the lobby. We had told the residents to come at their appointed times, but excited and curious residents were already waiting for 45 minutes before we let the first person through the door—a little Serbian lady. They came, a virtual United Nations. Polish, Serbian, Bosnian, Russian, African (Eritrean, Ethiopian, Liberian, Somali). Indian, Iraqi, Iranian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Cuban, Armenian, Pakistani, Argentinean, Jamaican, and American—all united in one purpose: free food.

The beauty of this operation, and yes, it is a bit of an operation, is that our residents, particularly the senior ones, don’t have to drive, beg a ride, or hop on the bus to get to a food pantry. Fueled by increased applications for SNAP benefits a.k.a. food stamps, we wanted to supplement our residents’ food budgets. We don’t pretend to be on the scale of other local food pantries, but we share their mission—provide food to those who need it.

Angela from United Stationers staffed our last pantry.
This week’s Marian Park Food Pantry was on a smaller scale as we opened our food storage closet pantry instead of using the community room. This move cuts down on staff time. We will have three weeks with the pantry operating this way and one big distribution with fresh produce, bread, frozen meat, and whatever perishable items we can snag. Would be nice to get a freezer but we have faith we will find one.

So, if anyone ever doubts what you are able to do, listen to more from Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.