Like many first-time pantry volunteers everywhere, I showed up that morning because someone from the church asked me to come. A slot needed to be filled and I stepped up to the plate when I was asked. I was a foot soldier in the army of the outreach. I tried to live up to my status in the church as a new member. I showed up at whatever activity needed help and did my share. Nothing more.
I had no desire to move up any ladder in the congregation.
On that morning of new beginnings, I had no premonition I would ever return to this pantry room.
I had no plans for this place in my future. I had a profession teaching reflexology, Reiki, and canine massage therapy in a healing space in my home on Tannery Brook.
This was a case of fools rushing. Knowing what I know now, I should have run out the door and never looked back. Mary could have handled the crowd that day without me. In the whole two hours, no more than a couple dozen people visited the pantry.
I wasn’t blessed with any psychic knowledge…certainly not the feeling of danger I felt when I saw the head of the building committee in the hallway outside the pantry months later.
There were no lines in the hallway at the new beginnings of my time there. People wandered into the pantry in groups of one and two to choose from cereal, soup, tuna, and peanut butter.
Never in my wildest thoughts on that day did I envision the pantry hallway filled with hungry people, the tiny room packed with fresh produce and jammed with shoppers.
By 2008, the tanked economy was well underway and waits in the hallway were an hour or more.
The Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) passed down feeding guidelines which included whole-grain bread, 1% milk, fresh produce. By 2011, the building committee had rules dictating where people could stand, what bathroom they could use, and what parts of the hallway were off-bounds.
Never did I foresee monthly food deliveries averaging over 12,000 pounds.
Never did I imagine, on that day, building committee members angry over hungry people receiving food according to guidelines set down by the State of New York, the Department of Health, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
I never thought I would spend months grappling with the unworthy hungry, a concept introduced to me by a local religious leader. The concept wasn’t explained. Only the two words – unworthy hungry – were used in a sentence: “You are feeding the unworthy hungry.” This was something I never heard of before. What did she mean? Who were the unworthy hungry?
After that first morning in the food pantry, I drove home, pulled out a little notebook from a drawer and wrote what people said, like real writers do. When I wrote these things down, I felt my grandmother’s presence.
Her spirit was with me in the room. I looked around the dining area to see if someone had entered the room without my realizing it. But, no, I didn’t find a soul. I walked over to a cabinet and began my dialogue journal on that afternoon.
A shopper: “They cut my food stamps again. I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I have no money this month. My car died and I don’t know where I’m going to get money to fix it. If I can’t fix it, I can’t buy a new one either.”
Lillie Dale Cox Thurman spoke to me clearly that morning with emphatic, strong, direct instructions. She went straight to my head: “Write this down! Write this down too! Now…write this down.”
My grandmother, Lillie Dale Cox Thurman, stepped into my life on the first morning in the food pantry and never left. Not even when my mother, Uralee Thurman Lawrence, roared in with prayers and fast, furious, aggressive instructions which I resisted to the bitter end. Under their directions, I joined the crowd in the basement and was soon volunteering regularly.
So, now, I’ve got the second volume, “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles,” coming out on this blog.
Thank you for reading this blogged book! Please refer it to your preferred social media network and stay tuned for future chapters!
alleviating hunger, cash flow, Disaster Preparation, domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, elderly poor, emergency feeding programs, emergency food assistance, emergency food assistance program, employed poor, fear, feeding the homeless, Feeding the Hungry, food desert, food insecurity, food insecurity for seniors, food pantries, food pantry, food pantry blog, generational poor, homelessness, hunger, Hunger is Not a Disease blog, ill poor, infant poor, medical expenses, meditation, mental illness, nutrition assistance, persistent poor, protection, resource poor, serious illness, situational poor, SNAP, social justice, soup kitchens, struggling poor, the transportation challenged, Thurman Greco, transportation challenged, trauma, trauma sensitive yoga, underemployment, unemployment, waste disposal, Woodstock
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