In CUMAC’s warehouse, it’s a well known rule of thumb that if you leave your belongings unattended amidst all of the donations, they will inevitably (and accidentally!) make their way to the pantry, the Community Closet, or one of our other programs to fill a need. I’m often heard telling our volunteers not to leave their coats unattended because they’ll wind up in the thrift shop and I’m always taping enormous orange signs to volunteer lunches so that they don’t wind up being given out in the pantry. Amazingly, this request often galvanizes volunteers to say “keep the coat, somebody needs it more than me!” or “that’s OK, I’ll share my lunch!” This past month, a large volunteer crew had ordered a catered lunch and surprised me by setting aside the lion’s share of it “to share as needed.” This offer came just in time to make a big difference.
We have a young mom of 4 who works in our pantry and goes to school part time while raising her kids solo. She has a heart of gold and goes above and beyond to help everyone she meets. On this particular day, she had been so busy that she hadn’t had time to grab lunch, and when I offered sandwiches she grabbed one and looked absolutely relieved to have a quick meal. I was walking by the pantry a few minutes later when I saw Jeni handing off her sandwich to a tall gentleman. Immediately I knew Jeni was doing what she does best. With her big heart she was passing on food to somebody who needed it more than her along with a big, cold bottle of orange juice. Knowing what would come next, I popped into the office, filled a big cup with juicy watermelon pieces, and left it with a fork on her desk. Not surprisingly, by the time I passed by again the watermelon was being enjoyed not by Jeni, but by her new friend, now settled in to a comfy chair eating his snack.
Mike* had come in off the street that day to see if we had any food to eat. When Jeni offered him groceries he replied “Nah, can’t do those. I live in my shop.” He’d been to CUMAC a few times before, but would never take groceries with him, apparently that was why. That day he told Jeni that a year and a half ago he was involved in a freak accident. A car had come off a trailer carrying cars (the type you always try to avoid driving behind on highways). It fell on top of him and he was trapped for two hours before somebody heard him yelling. He’d had trouble working since and because he was at odds with his family he didn’t really have anyone to turn to during that time. Suffering physical pain and mounting medical bills, he would up spending nights in the car lot and shop he worked in up the street from CUMAC.
Since that day Jeni shared her sandwich, Mike comes back sometimes to say hi and to see if there’s any ready-made food. He’s admitted that without the staff in the referral office he’d be going hungry. There have been days he’s gone without food, but now because of CUMAC he gets the help he needs. We’ve been blessed to count him as a friend and his visits are always much enjoyed by staff. We’re happy also to have the generosity of our volunteers and donors, which allows us to open our doors to all of our many friends who –just like Mike- need a little extra love and support to get through the day.