The food pantry community included massage therapists, Reiki practitioners and other healers in the line. At one point, I taught Reiki therapy to volunteers and attuned them to Reiki. Laren was among the students in the volunteer class.
Reiki is health care for the soul. The pantry could definitely use this jewel!
Reiki changes people’s lives and she was no exception. For most Reiki practitioners, the change is slow, subtle, gentle. Some aren’t even aware of anything happening.
I knew Laren’s response to Reiki was exceptional in the first fifteen minutes of the Reiki I class. She took the Reiki 2 class. She took the Reiki 3 class. Several months went by and she took one of my advanced classes.
Well, Laren could have taught that class hands down. Every subject I brought up was one she had experienced. Laren went on to become a Reiki Master Teacher and now attunes her own students.
Laren dropped by the pantry monthly and offered Reiki to the building. I felt the energy shift as she invoked the ChoKuRei, the SeiHeKi, and the HonShaZeShoNen in the pantry room and the hallway.
Laren offered Reiki to the building as people rushed around the hallway, bathroom, and the pantry room, cleaning everything after the pantry closed and before we had to leave the building. No one paid attention to Laren calling in the symbols as she walked around the rooms.
This was energetic healing at work.
She gave particular attention to the corners of the rooms. Reiki energy transformed the pantry into a holy space, erasing the toxic fear of hunger so prevalent in the hallway and the pantry room.
The floors, walls, corners, became holy.
Fear of hunger wasn’t the only issue. Fear of job loss, illness, and fear for the children were common in the pantry. Fear was often palpable.
Reiki therapy is a spiritual wand touching those around us who need blessings and healing.
Reiki practitioners know that when the time is right, Reiki takes on a life of its own, offering healing where it’s needed, using energy which passes through the practitioner’s hands.
Using Reiki, we align ourselves with our divine order to extend blessings.
When I am in the grocery line, or the traffic line, or on a sidewalk, or on a massage table, the space becomes holy when I invite Reiki in.
Reiki heals through chakra points located throughout the body. In a Reiki session, the recipient is reminded who she is. This self-awareness opens the chakra portals for the person to become who she can be.
The future blends with the present and the past at this moment. Possibilities open. This is a miraculous process.
Reiki is a holy ritual. It’s hard to get too much of this divine energy because Reiki is all-loving and all-giving. Reiki wisdom guides the practitioner’s hands during a session to the points of divine connection on the body. Reiki shows us the meaning of life and the teachings understand the sacredness of this process.
Reiki is a jewel not bound by earthly things.
No wonder there are no contraindications to Reiki therapy.
Reiki is a light touch applied to a clothed body. When offering Reiki therapy, I often began a session applying this light touch to the crown of my client’s head.
After three or four minutes, I moved my hands to the occipital ridge at the base of the skull.
There, I placed one hand on the base of the skull and the other hand on the back of the neck. After a few short minutes, I placed my hands on the person’s body, following the lines of the person’s chakras along the spine.
As I placed my hands on the recipient, healing energy traveled up and down the chakras, beginning at the head and ending on the feet. I felt warmth, tingling.
Sometimes I saw images and color while the recipient lay in a sleeplike state on a healing table. Whether or not the word “sleeping” was correct, the person was usually not conscious.
Chakras are the communication system of the body. Chakras share information with one another as they physically, intuitively, energetically, and psychically communicate with one another.
They also talk with chakras in other bodies as well. There is no limit to how chakras communicate.
The pantry visits themselves were healing because the pantry experience healed. When shoppers and volunteers healed from the experience, they saw things in new ways.
When this healing happened, it made the person new.
In this new inner life and outer life, the person moved forward in ways impossible before.
Pantry volunteers served shoppers, volunteers, hungry people.
Distributing groceries all those afternoons in the pantry brought forgiveness and healing.
Fresh vegetables, eggs, and Bread Alone bread offered a healing experience with abundance. As volunteers fed the shoppers, they helped both themselves and each other. Did you want to be healed? Healing and feeding were connected.
The pantry was a safe haven for everyone, both volunteers and shoppers. Healing began and continued as people shared food. This safe haven was necessary because the unspoken word here was the feeling that we were the wrong people.
Unspoken here was the feeling that one’s status in Woodstock could make things right. Without the right status, a person would never be acceptable.
Health issues pointed to a need to cope with spiritual challenges. Healing was on the agenda and getting well was something everyone sought.
In the end, healing was not easy. Before the trip was over and a person felt healed, she experienced many things: acceptance, belief, change, connection, forgiveness, laughter, persistence, and transcendence.
For me, this was amazing. How can a person in a pantry line experience connection? How can a person in a pantry forgive others? The path is simply too rocky.
For some, it was giving up anger, drugs, or a lifestyle that changed when the house was in foreclosure.
Giving and receiving food brought everyone a little peace.
The whole experience was hard for people in the line who were unemployed, broken down psyhologically, economically, socially, spiritually, and physically,
As I watched healing in action, I saw patterns. First came forgiveness which made the healing easier. For sure, healing was harder when a person held a grudge.
The pantry visits themselves were healing. The pantry experience healed. When shoppers and volunteers healed from the experience, they saw things in new ways. This healing, made the person new.
In this new inner life and outer life the person moved forward in ways impossible before.
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Take This Bread.
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After feeding hungry people in Woodstock for over 30 years, volunteers at the Good Neighbor Food pantry were asked to leave the pantry’s space at the Woodstock Reformed Church by June 1, when the pantry will close..
This didn’t happen because there were no hungry people to use the pantry. This pantry has been one of the largest in the area since it expanded in the economic downfall of 2008. Before that time, shoppers were mostly a couple dozen single homeless men and Woodstock colorful characters.
With the economic downfall, patronage escalated from 25 people per week to hundreds. Hungry people filled the halls. The line filed out the door into the parking lot.
Before the economic downfall, people came in and got one or two each of four basic items: cereal, tuna fish, peanut butter, soup. About the time that the crowds began to shop for food, the food bank changed the system to include fresh produce and a three-day-supply of food for every person in the household.
People left the pantry with bags of food: eggs, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, items of dignity.
Church members and townspeople never really accepted these changes.
People resented the changes they didn’t ask for. This was understandable. No one likes change, especially uninvited change.
They liked feeling only a few people in town needed food.
They liked thinking the pantry was “theirs” when it really belonged to the Food Bank. After all, that’s where the food came from. That’s where volunteer training came from. That’s where food and rent grants originated.
With the changes in food served came training classes at the Food Bank. Funds became available to assist pantries with rent, and utilities. At that time, the volunteer coordinator applied for and received a $1,000 rent grant to pay the church annually.
The $1,000 rent grant was new for the Woodstock Reformed Church. No food pantry volunteers had paid rent money to help the membership.
At the time, the intention was to increase the amount annually. $8,000 was a long range goal.
$8,000 was not out of line if the refrigerators and freezers were moved from the unpainted barn in the parking lot to the church basement.
A nationally known fundraising guru, Kim Kline, taught interested nonprofit volunteers how to raise money. She based her success on the premise that givers give. She told everyone in the class exactly what to do.
After this class, pantry volunteers in Woodstock did exactly as she instructed.
These fundraising efforts at the pantry made the Good Neighbor Food Pantry a success story. Secrets of successful fundraising are outlined in detail on pages 196 and 197 of the book “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore.”
The Good Neighbor Food Pantry need not close. There is time to raise the money needed. There are probably still volunteers in this pantry who remember these skills taught by Kim Kline.
There is still time to feed the many hungry people who need this food. The need is greater now than it has ever been.
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Thank you for your interest in feeding hungry people. Our need is greater now than ever before.
Woodstock, New York
We live in a country today in which people struggle for food. While hunger reaches historic levels, some are unaware of the plight of their neighbors. Others are not concerned. Food insecurity doesn’t seem relevant. Even pandemic hunger cannot convince everyone.
One child in seven lives in poverty. The family regularly chooses between food and gas, food and medicine, food and rent.
Adults often work more than one job. Until, with the pandemic, many people’s incomes disappear.
Retirees find themselves too old to work, have more month than money, and try to hide their situation from children and grandchildren.
Our elected leaders have not chosen to address this situation with even a fair minimum wage.
Beginning in 2007, I fed hungry people in one food pantry for several years and then started another food pantry in a nearby community needing one.
In 2013, I began to write about hunger. My experiences and lessons learned filled books and a blog.
In 2018, I began a consciousness-raising practice on weekends at the Mower’s Meadow Flea Market in Woodstock, New York.
Time spent feeding the hungry taught me this:
There is no excuse for anyone in our great nation to go hungry.
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And, finally, don’t forget to tell them about our key hat!
Meet our new fashion model! Mikayla is wearing our latest creation: a knit cap with a key embroidered on the cuff.
A symbol of homelessness, this hat tells our story BEAUTIFULLY. Hopefully you’ll enjoy wearing it as much as others do. It’s only $15. Please go to www.thurmangreco.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order your very own key hat!
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It’s easier than you think.
Choose the food pantry, homeless shelter, school, church, food bank, or soup kitchen to receive the food you collect.
Contact your recipient, and learn what items the hungry people need. Try to be specific. Can they only accept canned food items or can they use frozen and fresh foods? What about pet food?
If they need pet food or food for homeless people, for example, request those items (with specific food item suggestions) at your drive.
Decide how you want to collect the donated food.
The method I prefer is, of course, the one that worked for me several times. I recommend this method:
Gather some large empty grocery bags in good condition.
Attach a letter to each one saying something like:
“We are having a food drive in this neighborhood. Please fill this bag with food and set it out on your entryway on ………………………….. when it will be picked up between 00:00 and 00:00. Include am and pm to be more specific.
We need the following kinds of food:……………………..
Your donated food will be donated to ……………………………… Thank you for your generosity. If you have any questions, please call…………………………………. Signed…………………………………….”
Set the bags out at every address in the area you selected.
On the appointed date, return to the addresses and pick up the bags of food.
Deliver them to the selected food pantry, homeless shelter, school.
Pat yourself on your back. You did a great job!
My experience with this food drive method is that people respond positively because you give them bags, tell them exactly what food items you need, and return to pick up the food at a specific time on an exact date.
Thank you in advance for all you are doing to feed your neighbors.
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Have a wonderful day!
If you read my last post – “Food Pantry Rules” – you may have thought you were in some time warp. Travel had returned you to about 2010.
Well, not really.
The pandemic changed many details but the bones of a food pantry event are the same.
The volunteers and the people who shop at the pantry are the same.
Everyone comes together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
Food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, struggle with change they didn’t ask for.
They are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of people in the food pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around and realized they were in a car in a long line waiting for food.
There is a name for this category: SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when she lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, flood, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Food pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries.
A food pantry in the basement of a church is a cross between a church and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry in a line of cars in a pandemic is reminiscent of the mass food distributions we held periodically in New York State after the collapse of the economy in 2008.
A line of cars filled with people needing food wraps around the block, down the road, and even further.
A whistle blows.
The cars begin to move. A volunteer puts a bag (s) of food in each vehicle.
Everyone wears masks.
There are still food pantries where people show up to a church and receive a bag of groceries.
But, whether the food is distributed to hungry people in cars or to hungry people walking to a building, a food pantry distribution is not a program. It is a community made up of those who gather the food and distribute it, and those who receive it. The process of distributing the food to people creates a change in everyone.
The experience does not heal a person. Nor does it change the story. It does not offer therapy. The experience itself is a conduit for each person’s own spiritual growth and change.
Never once when I was involved in a food pantry did I kid myself into thinking that I was winning the war against hunger. And, I do not kid myself now.
I know this food pantry food distribution experience does not end hunger. Instead, it offers food for several meals. And, that is all.
Ending hunger is another matter altogether.
I do feel, though, that the rules are changing. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation dramatically, at least. The pandemic experience is altering the hunger situation permanently.
“How is that?” you ask.
The pandemic has changed how our food is grown and distributed. Food pantries are a link in the food distribution chain. This chain now looks different. The link connections are different.
“How is that?” you ask.
For one thing, the restaurant industry is different.
Food production and distribution is different.
I do not think we know yet just what the fallout is. We have yet to live out the end of this story. We’re living and experiencing the future. For some, it is hard to see the big picture because the changes have not yet come around for each of us to see and experience in our daily lives.
In any event, the Pandemic is not us what we think. Our opinions and preferences don’t count for much here.
One thing is certain, our future is destined to be different from a future without a Pandemic. Another thing is certain for me: We can never return to our past.
We are all destined to experience a new Pandemic future.
Whatever the future brings, we need to keep on feeding the hungry in whatever way that works.
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A food pantry is what it is because of three things:
the economic situation at the moment
the people who shop there.
The people come together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages, the food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, deal with change they didn’t ask for.
In short, they are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of the people in the pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around a room and realized where they were.
There is a name for their category – SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when s/he lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, floor, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries. I always think of a food pantry in the basement of a church as a cross between a church service and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry, and those connected with it, are not a program. They are a community. As volunteers, all we really do is open the door. As all the hungry people walk through the door, they undergo a change somehow.
Each person in a pantry, in whatever capacity, has experienced rejection in some way – too young, too old, too crazy, too sick, too poor, not poor enough.
The food pantry experience does not heal a person, nor does it change the story.
The food pantry experience does not offer therapy.
The food pantry is, instead, a conduit for each person’s own healing.
FOOD PANTRY RULES
Sign your name in the register as you enter the pantry.
Find a place in line.
Do not crowd or block the door to the pantry room.
No more than 2 shoppers are allowed in the pantry at one time.
No more than one new shopper is allowed in the pantry at one time.
Shop for a three-day supply of food for everyone in your household.
Place your selections on the table as you shop.
Respect the restrictions on certain foods.
Finish your shopping in 10 minutes.
Once you begin to bag your groceries, do not continue to shop.
Because the food availability is different each time you shop, it is best to visit the food pantry weekly.
P.S. The rules may be different at the pantry where you shop. Each food pantry is different. The space is different. The times the pantry is open is different. The management is different.
These specific rules were used in the food pantry I managed where the people were many, the space small, and the hours few.
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I got an email survey question yesterday.
“Did your landlord reduce your rent?”
Somehow, I can’t get this question out of my head. It just keeps grabbing my attention at every opportunity. What a question!
The answer is “NO!”
No landlord has lowered anyone’s rent in this area. Rents are going up, up, and up. In fact, rents are disappearing.
My landlord is evicting my neighbors. They live in one half of the duplex next door. The other side is air bnb…or maybe vrbo…or any one of several other vacation rental apps so popular on everyone’s computer and phone.
Until last year, both sides of the duplex were vacation rentals. Then, the town supervisor cracked down on them so the landlady made one side a monthly rental.
Immediately, a lovely young couple moved in. They are the perfect tenants. No noise, no clutter, no smells, no noisy children. Their footprint is the smallest they can manage.
Well, small footprint or no footprint, their days are numbered.
I see them packing up their possessions and driving them away – a few cartons every day. The boxes are going to a storage unit until they can find a new place to live. So far, they’ve had no luck.
They want to stay in Woodstock because this is their home town. Growing up, Gaby skated and bicycled on every street in this town.
Well, there are no places to rent in this town. Woodstock is a vacation rental town all the way.
This lovely young couple seeks shelter in other communities: Palenville, Catskill, Athens.
Meanwhile, the landlord eagerly advertises both units as vacation rentals. The young couple must go. His list of eager vacationer applicants is long. He’s sorry the young couple has no home.
But, life must continue.
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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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