“Woodstock is completely packed with Coronavirus refugees from Brooklyn. We’re doing more business here in the post office than we have every done. This post office is busier than any Christmas rush has ever been.”
What a day!
I got a call from someone earlier today. “The food pantry is closed, Thurman. How can this happen?” As I went by the Woodstock Library, I saw a sign: “Closed”
The Coronavirus affects us all. We cannot avoid the reality. People jokingly call our community Brooklyn North.
As long as you have a car and money and an apartment and a cell phone and a computer, all you have to worry about is the spread of germs. But, that’s not how it is with everyone. Without a car and money and an apartment and a computer and a call phone, your life tells a different story.
Without those luxuries, your lifeline requires a food pantry and a library.
The library is essential because it’s your ticket to information about food, housing, and anything else you need to find. A library will help you find everything you need to survive. And, while it’s giving you information, a library roof keeps you dry. The walls of the library keep you warm and comfortable while you seek all that you need.
And, of course, the library has one other luxury people don’t talk about much: a bathroom. If you are without food and a roof and a computer and a cell phone, a bathroom is essential.
So, while the Woodstock Reformed Church has closed its doors, most of the food pantries in New York state are figuring out how to get food to people. They are receiving support from the Food Bank.
In fact, the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley reports that volunteers are responding to every emergency request received. This includes food deliveries to seniors, quarantined and high-risk individuals, school back pack programs.
If you can get to a phone, there are a couple of phone numbers you can call. Try 845-399-0376 or 845-633-2120.
Sources tell me that many food pantries and soup kitchens are not closed. I truly hope you can find one.
So, what can we do? Well, for starters, try to contact people you know but seldom see and find out how they are doing. Do they need anything? Is there anything you can do?
Contact food pantries and soup kitchens in your area and see if they need anything. My bet is that they do. My bet is they need food.
Times are serious. Your help is needed!
If you run out of ideas, contact me at thurmangreco@gmail and I’ll send you, free of charge, my three action guides with practical tips for fighting hunger and homelessness.
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The food pantry is closed for business and will not open today.
Where will the hungry and homeless go now?
It’s Wednesday, the pantry day in Woodstock. Weekly, the food pantry attracts several hundred hungry and homeless people to the basement of a local church where they experience community, gratitude, healing, and a three-day-supply of shared food. The isolation often felt by hungry and homeless people is softened in the pantry. One thing the soul longs for is connection.
As people travel down their life path to the pantry, they lose things. One of the most soul-strangling downsides of this new-found simplicity is isolation experienced as people become cut off from their community. This experiences always changes reality.
When people no longer fit in, their voices become smaller and smaller and smaller until, finally, all is silent.
The rule is this: As the community for the hungry and homeless diminishes, so diminishes the support system.
All things are connected and intertwined but we have a difficult time remembering this when we are in our most alone circumstances in life. With assistance, we begin to recall our spiritual connections and know we are not along, not forgotten.
But, with the Coronavirus, this is very challenging. A few things are in play here.
First, for those needing to shelter in place, the main question is this: ” Where will I go?” Sofa surfing won’t happen anymore. The cemetery will work as long as it doesn’t snow or rain.
Second, a person without food can think of nothing else: “Where can I get food?”
For the hungry and homeless person in Woodstock, that focus is real because the food pantry closed.
At a time when the people need this food the most, the pantry is closed.
“Where can I get food?”
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Woodstock, New York
Throughout the month, and especially on March 19th, whenever you find a time and place that fits your schedule…sit quietly for a few moments and visualize a world where positive renewal and growth exists for all beings.
Invite adequate housing, nutritious food, and reliable quality healthcare to become a reality for all.
Plant spiritual seeds to nurture goals and dreams of everyone. Reflect on all the wonderful opportunities available in our world for growth and hope throughout our planet.
Spend a moment including goals for housing and food and healthcare for those who have insufficient resources
Honor the mystical and magical change of seasons creating space for the spiritual growth for everyone.
Check in with yourself now. Give your spirit the support it needs and seeks to bring housing, nutrition, and good health to everyone on our planet.
Quiet your mind as you bathe in this new energy created by spring. Invite universal balance, and abundance into our world.
May all beings on this planet live and thrive in peace and harmony.
Thank you for reading this Meditation.
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Well, actually, it isn’t necessarily what. It’s more likely who. The first line of leadership inspiration is the hungry people in the food pantry line. A food pantry really is all about the people grappling with hunger.
But, where did this whole thing actually begin? For me, it all started with Robert F. Kennedy. In 1967, he traveled to Mississippi to see poverty and hunger for what it was. Being a wealthy man from a wealthy family, he actually had no idea.
Down there he saw hunger and poverty for what it was, not what he thought it should be. He saw people, elderly people, adults, children. He saw people with no jobs, no welfare, no surplus commodities, and no food stamps.
If the history books tell this story correctly, it was the children who got to him. He saw the hunger as it was. Seeing children hungry to the point of near starvation, Robert F. Kennedy came face-to-face with malnutrition.
Robert F. Kennedy was both moved and angry.
There is a book out there telling the story of their hunger. You may or may not ever have heard about this book. “So Rich, So Poor” was written by Peter Edelman.
In reading about Robert F. Kennedy, I read a paragraph which has meaning for me:
“All of us, from the wealthiest to the young children that I have seen in this country, in this year, bloated by starvation – we all share one precious possession, and that is the name American.
“It is not easy to know what that means.
“But in part to be an American means to have been an outcast and a stranger, to have come to the exiles’ country, and to know that he who denies the outcast and stranger still amongst us, he also denies America.”
Those words resonate with me. They may mean nothing to you. But, whether or not they have meaning for you, they are powerful words and they tell a story I see in the food pantry line.
I thank you for reading this blog post. I thank you for your interest in fighting hunger. I know that distributing food in a food pantry is not going to do away with hunger.
But, this I do know: Distributing food in a food pantry will keep the shoppers in that line from starvation for three days.
This is all I can do. This has to be enough until a better option comes along.
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As seniors age, the courage we experience becomes more obvious as we feed hungry people. After all, what does a senior have to lose? Courage is a necessary part of the aging personality because our platform continually shrinks.
We’re often overlooked in the homeless arena. Those looking out forhomeless people focus on an older adolescent (especially if there’s an infant involved), and families. There’s just not much energy left over for hungry people seniors and cocker spaniels.
It never occurred to me that turning away hungry people in the pantry line was something I would do. Or could do. Or even consider doing. Turning away hungry people was not an option.
I came to the pantry as a crone or harridan depending on the circumstances and a person’s attitude toward me and my attitude toward hunger. I brought already formed opinions and beliefs, many of which were with me at birth.
Some argue that people are born as blank slates. I can’t agree. For one thing, I never experienced a blank slate when it came to hungry people. I didn’t have an “aha” moment when I met my first hungry person. I didn’t examine the value of feeding hungry people in a philosophy or government class. I never, at any time, analyzed the concept of feeding the hungry.
Because I lived my opinions about hunger, and because I got up close and personal with hungry people in Mexico and Venezuela, I was comfortable with the concept of feeding hungry people.
I never even considered not feeding hungry people I the food pantry. When I saw them, I remembered moments in Mexico and Venezuela and realized hunger is an intensely personal situation accompanying malnourishment. Hunger can lead to starvation.
Hungry people needing food are voiceless. Even though it’s harder on those with mental and emotional issues, it impacts everyone spiritually.
As they distribute pantry food, volunteers reduce costs in other areas of government: healthcare, housing, education.
A long-term poor diet contributes to illness which poor people can’t afford. Healthcare costs get shuffled over to taxpayers. When forced to choose between housing and food, the hungry often opt for housing. Later, if they can’t pay the housing costs and end up homeless. This results in further tax bills.
When school children are too hungry to learn, the damage is long term. They risk becoming uneducated adults unable to qualify for employment. Our problems flow to the next generation and the future.
“Hi, Dana. Come on in and shop. How’re you doing this week?”
“Fred’s still in the hospital. He’s been diagnosed with kidney disease and he’ll be on a special diet when he comes home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m so glad you sent me to Dr. Longmore. He told me exactly who to go see, what paperwork to get, everything I needed to get care for him. I hope Fred’s coming home soon.”
“Dana, I’m so happy to hear this.”
“Thank God the pantry has all these fresh fruits and vegetables. By the way, do you have any laundry soap today?”
I met Dana the first morning I worked in the pantry and she shared her adventures with me every week from that pantry day on. Of all the people going through the line in the pantry, I probably learned more about her than anyone else.
I never learned where she lived, how many children she had, where she came from or anything like that. What I learned from her was a running commentary of present tense food insecurity. She shared her daily struggle as she traveled through life trying to keep a roof over her head, clothes on her back, and food in her refrigerator.
Walking through the line weekly, she shared her life with me. I learned how she found a coat for the winter when the old one wore out and she had no money.
“Dana, your coat is beautiful!” It’s going to keep you so warm!”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it? You should have seen it when I found it. It was filthy!” I couldn’t even tell what color it was. I took it home, put it in the tub and worked on it all afternoon ’til I cleaned it up. Now look at it. It’s a perfect fit!”
I learned how she struggled to keep her car going…and then finally gave it up.
“The bus is working out real well over here. I catch it about two blocks from my apartment in Saugerties and ride it over. I wait in the hall ’til it comes back to take me home. I only have to carry my groceries about five blocks in all! I’m so lucky I found this bus. I get to ride free because I’m a senior!”
Dana was the most confirmed optimist shopper in the line. And, when Dana was in the line, I was the most confirmed optimist pantry volunteer in the place.
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For years, I’ve been blogging and writing books about hunger in America in general and senior hunger specifically.
Senior hunger is not going away anytime soon.
If you read my blog posts, then you are probably interested in senior hunger. Recently I came across a guide which you will want to read.
To learn more about senior hunger, access it here: https://onlinegrad.baylor.edu/resources/seniors-food-insecurity-hunger/
Thanks for reading this article and thanks for your interest and action.
I hope you’ll not only read this article but will also share it wherever you feel it might be appropriate.
This new resource may be of interest to readers everywhere. The goal is to help open a dialogue in our country about senior hunger.
Thank you for your time and thank you for your concern about seniors and hunger.
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Abundance. LeAnna volunteered in the pantry. She had a business degree, a house, two adorable children and a spouse with a fancy career post somewhere in Europe. He decided he wanted nothing to do with her anymore. No money came across the ocean for her and the children. There was no money for taxes she owned on the house, or anything else for that matter.
LeAnna was happy to take the vegetarian items available each week. Her children loved fresh vegetables so there was much to choose from. The girls saw yogurt as a treat.
Catherine had a house full of children including two so close together, I thought they were a set of twins. She couldn’t get it together to work. And, I doubt if she could have gotten employment in our area anyway. This lovely lady had two advanced degrees.
There weren’t many, or possibly any, jobs available in Ulster County in her career field. And, of course, once a woman gets an advanced degree, the lower level jobs aren’t open to her unless she hides the education. Sometimes education can be hidden. Sometimes not. It all depends on the situation. The main thing is to get it off the resume.
Catherine was open-minded about the food she selected. She took anything not tied down. Because she qualified for cases of USDA, Catherine left the pantry with a case each of pasta sauce, canned corn, green beans, vegetarian beans, refried beans.
When she finished shopping, ten-year-old Robert Allen, our next-to-youngest volunteer, brought out the flatbed metal wheeled cart, put her groceries on it, and wheeled them to her car. Little toddler Mikey, our youngest volunteer, ran along behind.
I saw Jane, the young mother who couldn’t work because her husband threw her up against a wall, injuring her back. She had an eight-year-old child she was trying to raise without the luxury of child support.
Jane chose items from shelves where bending and stretching weren’t necessary because she couldn’t do those things.
And, to return to the beginning of Abundance, these three families and referenes to the critics about shoppers all owning upscale cars – Catherine, LeAnna, and Jane owned fairly late model SUV’s in good condition. They invited the criticism of the pantry naysayers when they drove into the parking lot to shop.
Here we had three households, single-headed households in need of food. If not for a couple of years, then for several months.
For some, feeding hungry people means we fed freeloaders. Not all hungry people look needy. Some of the best-dressed people in Woodstock never spent a dime on their clothes. They had no money for clothes so they shopped at Family of Woodstock.
Neither of these households was homeless, although they could be when the tax collector came to call.
Neither of these households was without transportation although they could be if the SUV needed expensive repairs. Nobody in these households looked poverty-stricken although they could be if the car needed repairs.
For the moment, neither LeAnna, Catherine, nor Jane looked poverty-stricken although, they would in time with no child support from the spouse to help with expenses.
These three women had several things in common. They were divorced. They had children. They received no money from the ex-spouse even though each one had a lucrative, influential employment career, money, and a bright future.
There was not a job among them.
There was little or no money for a food budget even.
LeAnna, Catherine, and Jane each lived with abundance on one hand, a large box of unpaid bills on the other hand, and hope, dreams, and fears somewhere in the middle.
The children were eligible for school breakfast and lunch programs. But, that didn’t give them enough food to eat at home. And, there was no lunch program for the mothers.
So, it was off to the pantry. This was a life-changing decision. Using a pantry requires commitment, endurance, and effort. Attitudes about food in particular and life in general change.
Pantry shoppers are often self-disciplined, self-controlled, determined to do what is best for the family.
Freeloaders? What do you think?
Every week when these women shopped I saw myself as a young woman returning from Mexico with my two daughters and nothing but the clothes on my back. There was no way anyone, just by looking at me, would have known how little I had.
Whether we come to the pantry as shoppers, volunteers, or both, all of us are asked by the pantry to leave; the past behind. And, of course, that’s different for everyone.
How can we move forward into a new life if we never give anything up? For some, giving up the past means letting go of the job we lost, the home, the furniture that went in the home, maybe the family, self-esteem, the car, good health.
What happens in the pantry, this shopping, this offloading, has the potential to be the greatest journey of one’s life. The hungry person learns things in new ways, and sees things never noticed before. And, finally, there is the knowledge that anything can happen. When all is said and done, things will never be the same again. Better off for the experience, thoughts change.
Beliefs and core values are found.
I’m sticking my neck out here to say this.
Being hunger in 21st century America is a spiritual journey involving miracles, forgiveness, endurance, and spiritual healing. It’s all about discovering that it’s never too late to be who you really are.
That’s what this story is all about.
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It’s hard, sometimes, for a person to figure out what to donate to a pantry. The supermarket has so many different items on the shelves. What is the best thing to give?
For me, the best food to give to a food pantry is peanut butter. Peanut butter is universally appreciated in a food pantry.
It needs no refrigeration.
It has a long shelf life.
It has no waste.
It is nutritious.
It does not require sophisticated preparation.
No special tools are needed to serve it.
It can be eaten alone or with other foods.
Peanut butter is appropriate with many categories of people: children, adults, seniors, homeless, toothless.
A jar of peanut butter is reasonably priced but it is still a bit expensive for many people.
Peanut is perfect for my needs!
Will you join me? Will you pledge to donate peanut butter to a food pantry.
I’m committing to a jar a week. But, your commitment doesn’t have to be that much. A jar a month will make a significant donation to a food pantry.
Or, even just a jar. Whatever you can give will be enough.
If peanut butter does not resonate with you and your situation, kind thoughts, support, and prayers are always appreciated. Pantries cannot succeed without the backing of the communities where they exist. Your help is necessary to fight hunger.
Thank you for your generosity!
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On this Winter Solstice please take a moment that fits into your day to focus on our world and how we fit into it.
Visualize a world where all beings know they are connected and live in the comfort of this connection.
Focus on a planet where everyone works together with mutual respect, honor, and harmony.
In your spirit, see a world in which no one goes to bed hungry.
Understand in your heart that hunger and homelessness are not categories. They are situations which can happen to anyone.
Create a vision of peace and food for all.
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“Lemon Balm Betty is out in the parking lot again.”
When I think of grief, Lemon Balm Betty surfaces from my memory banks. She ran around the parking lot outside the food pantry as fast as her feet would carry her as she yelled at the top of her lungs “Thurman Greco is a f..king a..hole!”
“I don’t think she’s ever going to smile again.”
Her anger morphed into a smile one day when she brought in an armload of herbs. I put them out in the pantry for shoppers. Shen she saw this, a smile lit up her whole being.
Grief was unavoidable in the pantry. Grief and fear are best friends. Fearful people are uncomfortable and feel hurt in their hearts, clear down to their first chakras.
Grief happens when we realize how vulnerable we are, how insecure we are.
In our past, we sought security. Some of us found it.
But, then, things spun out of control and our lives began again – in the pantry.
Pantry shoppers and volunteers live with grief. No one talks about it but people working and shopping in a pantry lost a lot: love, jobs, family (not to mention the house and everything in it), friends, self-respect, self-love. Grief is an ongoing series of losses. In the pantry, we all just duck our heads and press on.
Hungry people live with the specter of what if.
What if I hadn’t lost my job?
What if I hadn’t come down with cancer?
What if I hadn’t lost my car?
It’s all loss. It’s all change, whether a lost job, the death of a loved one, a lost home.
Loss triggers grief. And, it’s all incredibly lonely.
I occasionally saw people crying in the pantry. And, truth be told, I cried in the pantry a few times as well. Sometimes I cried silently. Once I cried loud, earth shaking tears. I was intensely afraid the pantry would shut down. I knew there was no other place to feed the people.
I don’t remember the exact circumstances which made me so emotional that day. The reason I cried escapes me now because why I cried wasn’t important. More important, the pantry is a safe place for us all or no one would have shed a tear. This safety allowed me to let my guard down for just a moment to cry the tears I needed to cry.
This I do remember: I cried tears for us all in the building that day as numbness wore off. This was grief at work.
Tears are necessary to heal wounds. There were drugs to numb and mask the pain but there were no pills to heal. So…I cried because there were no grief pills at the Village Apothecary.
Grief is a journey confronting, enduring, and resolving loss. A grieving person moves forward never leaving grief behind. The pain, emotional suffering, were a necessary part of the process. We grieved over things lost: people, jobs, hopes, dreams, belief in self, fun.
The trip to the pantry left us all with unfinished business. It was impossible to lose so much and have it go as a clean break. No loss was perfect. While we traveled to the pantry, our lives were full of ups and downs, good and bad moments. We carried both happy and sad memories inside the pantry room. Grief was the new normal. But grief, with all its tears, paved the way for something positive which we experienced when sadness and loss diminished.
Grief attracted spine and joint problems, respiratory problems, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary issues.
Grief needed to be experienced with depth and honesty. Denying grief got no one anywhere. I was honest with myself about the grief I felt for the pantry. If I hadn’t been, I would have lost the pantry to those who didn’t approve of me and the hungry people I fed.
Grief and anger were never far apart. Anger was always there, just below the surface until it yelled.
In the pantry, each of us were trying to figure out who we were at the moment and who we would be in the future. In the middle of the grief, we explored a new reality we found while we each defined who we were in our new surroundings and community.
We tried on new careers and identities in our new lives. As this happened, we saw the past, the present, and the future all at once. This experience allowed us to see newly discovered talents, strengths, gifts.
In this experience, we created new voices. We found courage to overcome fears.
I recognized this new voice whenever I heard “I won’t be coming again. I got a new job and I’m moving on.” When I heard this new voice, I also heard anxiety, struggle, disappointments, and courage. The person was discovering what was going to work and what wouldn’t.
Rita lived in the Saugerties/Palenville area before Hurricane Irene. That storm cost her everything. One day her life was normal and the next day she had nothing. The most anyone could say about Rita was that she was homeless.
A friend we both knew, Lorene, found Rita a worn out pickup somebody couldn’t sell or even give away.
Until I looked closely at it, I didn’t know what color it was. I knew what color the tires were, though: slick and bald.
So, anyway, Rita got the pickup and the key that went with it. She put the key in the ignition, turned it. The motor came to life. It had enough gas to get her to the gas station. Hurrah!
She began her life over by doing anything that anybody needed to have done for $10.00 an hour and lunch. She cleaned out flooded houses and sheds. She hauled trash to the dump. She used her computer skills when she found anybody who needed administrative work done. Her clothes came from Family of Woodstock. She found a room in someone’s house and was finally not sleeping in the pickup.
Whenever she worked over in Woodstock on Wednesday, she took time out to shop at the pantry.
And, I will say this about Rita.
She never once grumbled. She always had a smile on her face. She always acted as if the pantry food was the best she had ever eaten. And never, not even once, did she complain about the ancient jalopy pickup rig she drove around.
As far as I could tell, she never lost hope. Without hope, I don’t think she would ever have made it to the other side – wherever that was.
For my part, I never once asked her how she got the pickup repaired and I never even looked near the inspection sticker. Frankly, I was afraid to ask. I was afraid she would tell me.
Rita was no different from any of the rest of us shopping and volunteering in the pantry. She had to figure out how much of her past she could rebuild. And she had to figure out how much of the past she was simply going to close the door on as she moved into the future after Hurricane Irene. Rita obviously gave up much beyond her material possessions.
She gave up everything she felt stood in the way of her successful future. Quitting was something she couldn’t afford.
She gave up rear vision. Looking back into her past simply didn’t happen to Rita. She gave up bitterness and seeing wrongs. This means she gave a person a second chance, and even a third when they needed it.
She gave up waiting and putting off something because the stars and planets weren’t properly aligned. She gave up criticism. This included herself as well as others.
Rita was the right person in the right place in the right job to unfold her path in front of her. She carried on each day as if she truly believed it was better than yesterday. She walked as if blessings were all around her and all she had to do was open her eyes a little wider.
Each day, every day, she did whatever was necessary to build her life. Rita embraced the future and renounced her past.
She never quit.
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