I have to share with you about the most moving experience I had when volunteering for the St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities of NN recently.
When I think of the holidays I think of my family, lots of food and plenty of presents under the Christmas tree. I try to be a charitable person year round, but even more during the holidays. After a recent humbling and inspiring experience, my thoughts on the holidays have changed a bit.
Right before Thanksgiving I had an opportunity to volunteer at St. Vincent’s Catholic Charities in Reno, Nevada. My colleague Kathy and I spent the morning assembling about 200 bags that would be given to over 2,000 families on December 9th as part of their Feeding Families event.
When we first arrived to volunteer, we received a tour of the pantry by a few of the amazing people working for the Food Pantry. One person in particular, Scott, stood out to me as he spoke passionately about the work that the organization does and the amount of families being helped not only on a yearly basis but every day. I learned that Scott was at one point homeless and living on the streets of Reno. He was taken to Catholic Charities by a friend. From there he became a volunteer and now he is the Division Director of Food Services. I was truly touched by his story and the devotion he showed to his work and the organization. It was very obvious in his words, his voice but mostly his heart.
Kathy and I filled bag after bag of “holiday meals.” As I looked at the items being put into each of the bags (Rice cereal, dried milk, canned vegetables, canned potatoes, cookies, hot chocolate, fruit cups, and cranberry juice) I realized how different my holiday grocery list looked. I started thinking how easily and how often I run to the grocery store to pick up cereal, milk, eggs and bread without blinking an eye. And here I was filling up these bright purple bags with food that to me looked so sad, but to a hungry family, these items would be everything.
Kathy and I returned to the Catholic Charities Food Pantry on December 9th and participated in the Feeding Families event where they were handing out the purple bags filled with food. In addition to the purple bags, they were giving the families a ham and a bag of potatoes.
The potatoes were the final item given out in the long line. As I handed bag after bag of potatoes to various people: men, women, old, young, with children and without, I was taken aback as to how many people couldn’t believe the huge bag of potatoes that were being given to them and how grateful they were for this final item and all the items they were taking home that morning.
We must have handed out over 200 bags of potatoes that morning. Each and every single person that took a bag said “thank you” and “happy holiday” then offered a hug. I don’t know if I can ever look at a bag of potatoes the same way. They really were so much more than actual potatoes. They weren’t just the french fries or mashed potatoes that would be made from them. They symbolized something so much greater – They were the difference in a family who may not have had a meal this holiday. They were one less person, one less family going hungry and one more full stomach.
I didn’t know that nearly 1 in 6 Americans reported running out of food at least once a year. That government food assistance requests are at all-time high and funding for these programs are being cut. Scott shared with Kathy and I how most of the families that come through their food pantry are in fact working class poor, not necessarily homeless. Catholic Charities is an amazing organization with generous programs which they offer throughout the entire year. However, during the holidays, specifically Thanksgiving and Christmas, they work extra hard to make sure even more families have a holiday dinner to eat.
Taking part in the Feeding Families event is something I will never forget. And it won’t be the last time I volunteer with this organization. The people involved with Catholic Charities truly care about what they do. They work hard, they challenge themselves to do better for each event, but most of all they know what they are doing has a great impact on their neighbors in need. This is what makes this organization so beautiful to me; all of the moving pieces and people doing good, hard work each day, supporting each other and working towards the same goal – Giving back to the community.
I am not a wealthy person, that’s for sure. But I have never been hungry and I never want to know what that feels like. Volunteering at this event opened my eyes to the cold hard fact that there are hungry people in this world and in my community. Anything I can do to make sure one less person is hungry, I will do.
Even if volunteering for events like this one is only a start, it is a move in the right direction. Actions as small as giving someone a bag of potatoes may be just what they need to ease the pain of hunger and warm their hearts.
Move Your Mountain kicked off the holiday season with a November ‘Feed The Hungry’ Campaign. For every share of our post on Facebook, as an organization, Move Your Mountain donated 3 meals to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada – a total of 1,000 meals! By feeding families this holiday season, we helped feed our souls. #MoveYourMtn