This week is clearly a good time to give back and be thankful for what you have. I had signed up to volunteer with a group who was distributing Thanksgiving groceries (turkey, cranberry sauce, the whole 9) on Sunday, but received an email a few days prior telling me that pantry had lost a major donor and would not have enough food to warrant all the volunteers they had planned on having. I was really sad for a few reasons, number one being that a lot of families would be going without the traditional Thanksgiving day meal this year, which seems almost un-American and breaks my heart. Another reason was that I was left with little time to find another holiday opportunity, since things fill up so quickly this time of year, and it was really important to me that I give back this week. Luckily, my friend McKenzie volunteers weekly with God’s Love We Deliver and was able to get me a spot on the chopping block (almost literally) with her Monday night team of regulars.
I was greeted by the fabulous, super-enthusiastic, Volunteer Services Specialist Emily, who gave me a short form to fill out before heading downstairs to the kitchen (since I’ve volunteered here before, I got to skip the kitchen safety speech). After putting on a very fashionable hair net, tying on an apron and washing my hands, I was ready to get down and dirty with… mushrooms! We chopped up boxes of mushrooms that would be used in a meal for the next day while chatting away. After those were done, we moved on to kidney bean sorting; this consisted of dumping handfuls of beans at a time onto a tray and sorting the bunch for rocks and other small items that are the same size as beans but not nearly as delicious. Apparently when buying beans in bulk that are machine-sorted, there is a tendency for bean-like things to pass through unnoticed, and since no one likes to eat rocks (except maybe this guy–ew), God’s Love takes the extra time to make sure their beans are, well, all beans. After 100 lbs were declared rock-free by our group of eight, we finished off the night chopping onions.
Emily came back into the kitchen for a quick pep talk and thank you to all the volunteers, and announced the meal that would be served the next day and for Thanksgiving. She does this every night (with gusto!), and I think it’s a great way to connect the volunteers to the rest of the organization; you could spend two hours in the kitchen chopping or packing food with no idea what happens next. It’s nice to have someone come in and tell you exactly what those mushrooms were for, and how many people will benefit from your hard work (we had helped to prepare 1,800 the night I was there!). We cleaned and sanitized our station tables, said our goodbyes, and that was all she wrote.
One thing I loved about volunteering that night was to be able to participate and interact with the regulars. I’m typically pretty shy when it comes to meeting new people, but with my friend there, I was able to jump right into conversation while we chopped away. It also made me realize one of the downsides to volunteering somewhere different each week: I don’t really get a chance to create personal bonds, only fleeting friendships that last a few hours. The Monday night team knows each other; they greet each other with hugs, ask how this one’s daughter is or how that one’s vacation went. It’s a group of people, from different backgrounds I’m sure, that all have one common interest which creates a special bond that will surely last a lifetime, regardless of how long they stay with God’s Love in the kitchen. I’m thankful that they let me into the circle for a few hours.
Just as important, is that God’s Love We Deliver is prepared to cook, package and deliver over 3,000 meals tomorrow!* You can read here about the weekend leading up to the big Turkey Day, which was chock full of activity, from the Annual Race to Deliver to filling and decorating 1,850 holiday baskets: https://www.glwd.org/volunteers/news.jsp .