Saturday, February 26, 2011

Awesome Saturday

Today our small group volunteered at the Fish Pantry in Northwest Knoxville. I really didn't know what to expect. When we pulled up to the building I was just overwhelmed with the number of people in line for food. I am very sheltered and I live in my middle class America and tend to not see the unbelievable needs in our community. As we walked towards the building there were 100's of people in line. We learned later that some of these people had been in line since 5:30 a.m. The lines didn't open until 10:00 a.m. I walked up to a door and the lady, first in line, said volunteers use the side door to the right. Then she kinda looked at me and said, I am assuming you all are here to volunteer.

We walked into a huge warehouse filled with boxes of food. Immediately upon entering the building we were greeted by Jim. He was the man in charge. We put name tags on and waited to get our assignments. Before the doors open everyone gathers and all of the new people introduce themselves and tell what group you are from. Then we all stood together and prayed. It was really neat. There were lots of volunteers today.

Our first assignment was bagging corndogs. Apparently a company in Kentucky donated a tractor trailer full of corndogs. The only stipulation was that they were to be removed from their company's box. Our job as volunteers was to cut open the box, empty the box into a plastic bag, put a twist on the bag and put them back in a box to go into the cooler. We repackaged 8 flats this morning. I honestly think we repackaged 10,000 or more corndogs. My family and small group did this for the first few hours. Then we moved to the front line to serve the people who needed food.

I think the most overwhelming thing for me today was all of the people who needed food that were clean cut. So many of the people coming through the line were like us. I really expected everyone to "look poor". Don't get me wrong there were LOTS of people who "looked" like they would be in a food line, but the faces of all of the people were so different. There were lots of grandparents who were raising their grandchildren, young people who looked to be college students, young families with children, working blue collar people wearing uniforms from their jobs, homeless people, so many thankful faces.

One of the other really neat things was how important it is to make each person feel important. They really emphasize that each person needs to be able to come through the line, but keep their dignity. The front line servers were to NEVER turn their backs to the front line and the people. There were volunteers who kept the food items stocked on the tables. We also were told to allow the people to pick up the food items, don't hand the items to them. It feels less like charity if they "shop" instead of getting a hand out.

You would not believe all of the food items donated. Bush beans had given TONS of cans. The meat was also incredible. It seemed to me that a lot of grocery stores donate meat instead of marking it down. There was everything from chitlins to beef tenderloin. The people were given the opportunity to choose what meat type they wanted. Almost all of the meat items were family size, so they would eat on it all week.

Another neat thing was that the head of the program told us that we were to take or eat whatever we wanted. He encouraged us to open any item that we wanted. He used the verse Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. Deuteronomy 25:4. You are actually encouraged to take any food you want. Matter of fact they almost don't let you leave without taking something.

We were blessed unbelievably this morning. Our incredible group leader, who is also a middle school principal, is so attentive to V. He is the father of five and he notices little things. He complimented V on her hair. She had curled it today and then after we ate together he pulled her aside and told her what Jesus said about serving others. He then quoted the verse - Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40. He then looked V in the eye and said that she had served Jesus today. It was really neat.

We met some of the neatest people today. Some of the volunteers are people who received food from the pantry, but want to serve and give back. All of us left there better off than when we came. We can't wait to go back and help out.

By the way they served around 500 people today. They serve 3 days a week and are getting ready to open a clothes pantry on April 9.

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