Ahhhhh, it is quiet. The calming, peaceful sound of quiet. It is 3:30pm on the day before Thanksgiving. The pantry is closed, cleaned, dark and quiet. Most of the staff has left the building, headed home to enjoy the holiday with family and friends. It is a well-deserved rest after a frenetic three days of serving food and turkeys to more than 1000 people. To be exact, 1015 turkeys were given to low-income individuals and more than 750 people received canned goods, produce, bread and other groceries to go with those turkeys. Thousands and thousands of pounds of food was received in our building, processed and distributed to our clients. All in three short days. I feel blessed by the quiet.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, our food supplies had dwindled to disturbingly low levels. The basement contained a mere two pallets of food, peanut butter, a CUMAC staple, was nonexistent and our frozen meat supplies were at a bare minimum. And the turkeys! Where were the turkeys? Although, we never really know how many turkeys will be donated or when exactly they will arrive in our warehouse, we generally count on the fact that we will have turkeys and other food to serve our clients for Thanksgiving. With the busiest time of CUMAC’S year fast approaching, the food scarcity concerned me. Peanut butter was not the only thing that was nonexistent…..sleep was too.
I have seen this pattern before. In the world of feeding low income families and for those who live in poverty, constants are rare, consistency is not reality. Food flows into our warehouse; it is unpacked, organized, shelved, bagged, and moved to the pantry where it flows out into the hands of our clients. That sentence makes the process seem very simple and smooth, when the reality is not simple or smooth at all. At times, the amount of food and resources we receive is more abundant than others. There are weeks when our warehouse is full and weeks where it is almost empty. Communicating our message of feeding people and changing lives is always top priority. Recruiting partners is crucial to our life sustaining mission. When food is plentiful, we are busy organizing the flow in and out to our clients. When donations are down, we are busy reaching out to our many partners and supporters informing them of the urgency. Similar to the clients we serve, we have learned to juggle resources and to sometimes do with less or without. CUMAC relies on the generosity of our many, many individual donors and church and corporate partners, who are very often asked to respond to emergent needs, to donate food or funds to enable us to keep our doors open and our staff feeding people. We are grateful for those partnerships.
As the days immediately before Thanksgiving unfolded, we gave turkeys and food to our clients. Every night, when the pantry closed, we counted turkeys and wondered if we would have enough to give to everyone who asked the next day. We were never quite certain that we had a sufficient amount. But the turkeys kept coming in and we kept giving them away. CUMAC was bustling with activity. Staff working hard; serving food to those in need. People in……people out…..turkeys in…. turkeys out. It was chaotic, loud, hectic, energizing, amazing. Now, at 3:30 on Thanksgiving eve, I sit in a quiet pantry feeling blessed by the quiet but more importantly, I am blessed by the chaos.