My family and I participated in the Hope Project this past Saturday. The Hope Project is a group of people within Marion County who have a passion to better their community.
Our desire is to bring hope to Marion County through radical community service.
The Volunteer, Mrs. Ginger arrives and it seemed as if everyone was racing to the door to beat the next person. Like it was BLACK FRIDAY and everyone was racing to get the $100 TV on sale for the first 10 people that were in line. I just took my time gathering up the boxes of donated food and began carrying them in. The people were lined up to the door to check into the computer. I continue into the back room to start organizing the donated food and unpack boxes. My daughter and her friend were also there and they had already made a friend with another one of the volunteers, Courtney.
After our volunteers did the quick video to help make people aware of the community need I asked Mrs. Ginger how she got involved in the food bank. She shared the story with me that her husband had a dream that he and his wife were to operate a food bank for the needy. She said they lived in the typical busy life style in Atlanta, Georgia. Getting close to retirement age they sold their home there and relocated here. They first began to volunteer their time and within a short period of time they both became co-managers splitting up the responsibilities. They have been volunteering their time for over 10 years to the Marion County Food Bank. What really touched my heart was when we asked Mrs. Ginger to share information for the video as she spoke with passion her eyes began to tear up. You could see the love she had for her "calling"! What an inspiration to others... to think so many wonderful things happen in this world because of a vision or a dream; if only everyone had the COURAGE to follow them.
As I go back into the front room I snapped a few photos of the people standing in line for their box and I noticed that everyone had the saddest looks on their faces. So, I put up my phone and went to speak to them, wish them cheer and Merry Christmas. As I spoke to one couple I noticed that no matter how encouraging I tried to be they just didn't smile. The wife just continue to say, it just doesn't feel like Christmas. Soon, I went to the clothing rack to hang up donated clothes. There was a man standing there and each time I would pull out a shirt or jacket that looked like it could fit him I would offer it to him. "How about this jacket?" "This shirt looks warm, you interested in it?" He just kept telling me "NO, thanks." One of the other ladies were also hanging up clothes and she had a small jacket in her hands and the guy says really quick, "What size is that?" with excitement. I looked as she said "size 5t and it's in really good condition." He said, "I'll take it!" Then I said, "you can have this jacket for yourself too if you want" and he said, "no, look at the sign." The sign said only 1 item per person. This man passed on a jacket for himself to get one for his little child. I took a BIG swallow, not for embarrassment of my mistake, but because the fact that this man HAD to make the decision to get a coat for himself or his child. Of course, he made the right decision BUT it's the fact that he had to, that upset me. It really broke my heart, why couldn't he had enough for the entire family? The reason was because there aren't enough donations to go around. We clean out closets and trash old clothes and items all the time but these people go without. UGH!
Then I started chatting with the volunteer Courtney. She shared that she was 24 years old, a recovering meth user, mother of 3, and the Food bank had helped her and now she is volunteering on Saturdays as part of her work release program. She shared how she got to that point in her life and as we chatted we both began to tear up. The sad part is that as children we both had very similar backgrounds, almost the very same with abuse and poverty. It just brought me back to think that I could be her and she could be me. I gave her a copy of my book, hoping this will encourage and motivate her. She said she would come here and share her story and I hope that she does because I believe there are so many women out there that can relate to her. I'm praying for you Courtney and hope your family has a very Merry Christmas!
To say that I got so much more that day then I had expected is a HUGE understatement. To see the families with their heads down facing the floor, as if they were humbling themselves to even be there asking for help. I thought back to when I was a child and I remember church's that brought a box of food and gifts to our house on Christmas eve each year and how excited I was to get it. I wonder if my Granny's face was a sad as those at the food bank? To think of Ginger, the courage for her and her husband to sale their home and move to follow their dream that God gave them. Do I have *the* courage to give up everything and follow God's will in my life? And then Courtney, looking at her and yet seeing myself inside there begging for a better life. Yes, my life changed on Saturday... BUT I am praying that for whom ever reads this it will also change your life. To encourage you to make a small change to help a neighbor, a friend at work, or a stranger on the street. Your $5 for starbucks could be someone's meal for an entire day. Your jacket that you haven't worn in 6 years could be what keeps a man warm as he is working. Our disposable income/items could be someone's life line. Christmas is the time of giving but there are 12 months within a year, let's make giving a habit year round.
Please leave a comment if you are interested in helping or if you would like to share encouragement! People think we have to be rich to help others when in reality it only takes having a giving heart! DO YOU HAVE A GIVING HEART? If so, come here to post what you have done, put $5 in the salvation army bucket, give $1 to Saint Jude's hospital, a coat to a stranger, or a toy to a child. No matter how big or small, please share your story here in hopes to encourage others to do the same! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Contact info: Marion County Food Bank - Gary and Ginger England 423-942-8799