Have you ever wondered why people visit a food pantry? The decision to reach out for assistance with food or other expenses is often a difficult one. There are lots of misconceptions and stigma attached to visiting a food pantry. So much so that many of our neighbors that we could help never reach out for assistance.
At Caring Hands, we don’t care why someone needs a helping hand. As a Christian organization, Jesus is our example, and we look to Him as our model about how we should treat our neighbors. “Jesus said we are to be His hands and feet. To go out and be fishers of men,” says Melinda Vander Velden, a 14-year volunteer at Caring Hands Food Pantry. In her role, she interacts with our pantry visitors and has gotten to know some folks and hear their stories. “We could all be in need within an instant. Every day, we get to choose if, how, and when to bless those around us. Your kindness and generosity can change the trajectory of someone's day.”
Some of our visitors are in crisis because of a devastating medical diagnosis that drained their financial resources. Others are doing their best, but it’s hard to break the cycle of poverty. For them, allowing Caring Hands to supplement their grocery budget helps them work toward financial security.
Melanie Carlson manages Secondhand Treasures, a thrift store whose sales support the mission of Caring Hands Food Pantry. “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” says Melanie. “It only takes unexpected medical bills, a layoff, or a job loss for people to struggle to make ends meet.”
Many people who retired years ago had plenty of retirement savings until multiple recessions attacked their nest egg. It can be hard for this generation, known for working hard and saving pennies, to ask for assistance. Board President Mike Hartwig shared, “My dad is well into his 90's and over the holidays I had a chance to talk to him about his growing up. I've always known him as a shrewd businessman and forgot that when he was in elementary school, he and his mother went to the local food pantry almost daily. There was a sense of pride when he heard that I was working with Caring Hands. He looked off into the distance and mumbled, ‘I wonder where I would be if it wasn't for that local food pantry.’ It made me wonder where I would be, too!”
We may never know the impact we are having on people in this generation and generations to come by simply providing food. Volunteer Kay Brown shared a story about an individual new to Caring Hands Food Pantry. “He explained that he needed food, not for himself but a family temporarily living with him. He patiently waited through the registration process and helped them shop for food. His patience and compassion for this family set the tone in the food pantry for all of us that day, client and volunteer alike. After they had received their food, this man came back and asked how he and his mother could volunteer. To me, nothing better expresses the spirit of the mission of Caring Hands.”
You don’t need to be jobless, homeless, or receiving state assistance to receive food from Caring Hands. You also don’t need to be concerned about our staff or volunteers judging why you came. The gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in.” That’s why we do what we do.