Difference and Repetition at Food Hampers

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[Chloe, Summer Special Projects Assistant at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program, wrote the following post.]

Now that you have some background knowledge of our operations, I want to discuss different aspects of the program that I have noticed over the course of my time here. This work has patterns, and at the same time, each day is unique. To get a variety of perspectives, I spoke to Jesse, who coordinates volunteers and does intake; Raymond, our distribution coordinator; and Luke, one of our many dedicated volunteers.

I asked each to discuss weekly highlights. Jesse talked about how the nature of the work we do here sometimes makes it challenging to think in terms of “highlights:” we are supporting people during periods of acute crisis, and so their very presence here is kind of the opposite of a highlight. Nonetheless, everyone I spoke to was able to find something, and in fact one kind of highlight in common: volunteers. Luke’s highlight is coming on Fridays, because of the culture the volunteers collectively create. Similarly, for Jesse, the relationships that the program is sustained on, sustain him as well. I find the cohesiveness between the staff and volunteers important, and so my highlight is to see-and be a part of- that teamwork in order to serve patrons efficiently. For Raymond, finding out that a volunteer found a job or a placement is exciting for him. It is easy to see that volunteers, through their experiences, gain self-confidence and stability by finding purpose in their work. These qualities can easily help volunteers gain other opportunities.

working

We get by with a lot of help from our friends

I cannot overemphasize how important our volunteers are. I admire the work they are able to do and the dedication that they put into that work. They make the program function every day. Without them, the program would have to hire many more staff members. Luke and I both agreed that this program gives people many opportunities. Without it there would be less chances for people to find work or school placements, to find a sense of purpose without being able to work on a regular basis, or just otherwise be able to contribute to their community. One of the many positive aspects of this program is that pretty much anyone has a chance to contribute-no matter their ability or their age. Raymond also emphasized the importance of their dedication to the work here. The work is not always easy: sorting rotten watermelons and cleaning up smashed yogurt could turn lots of people off, but then this process has to be done, to make sure we are able to utilize as much food that is donated as possible. I agree with Jesse when he said that all of these people could be doing anything else with their time but choose to spend it here, which is a gift that should be celebrated more.

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Constant, and change

There is an ebb and flow that occurs here, throughout the day and throughout an entire month. The mornings tend to be quiet as the staff and volunteers prepare for the day before we open our doors at 11 in the morning. Once the doors open, the ebb and flow depends on the time of the month. The work we do here can seem fairly repetitive but there are many aspects that keep each day unique, like the food we give out and the people we interact with. The food we distribute varies on a daily basis, due to the fact that everything is donated to us. This means that hampers we give out could contain different foods-sometimes even in the same day! Jesse mentioned that no two days are the same because no two people are the same.

hampers_collage

This applies to both the volunteers and the patrons, since most days we have different volunteers coming in, giving each day a unique atmosphere. Patrons and volunteers come from pretty much all walks of life, and many volunteers were once patrons. Each day I meet people who speak a variety of languages, of different ages and abilities. Each day I hear stories galore. Even within the small staff there are many different experiences to share. I am grateful that I have had an opportunity to work and volunteer at this program, getting to know people I might never have had the chance to meet otherwise. This experience has broadened my worldview, and has prepared me for my future as a social worker, where I will continue to work with people who lead very different lives from my own.

 

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