Submitted by Maria Hartz
The Grateful Bread Food Pantry is not my normal work location as an employee at Christian Appalachian Project. But during the days of COVID-19, not much is normal in my day-to-day work. Like many others across our organization and across our country, I have been working remotely from home, except for the week I spent assisting our staff and volunteers at Grateful Bread. Our Pantry has gone from a personal shopping experience with our participants to a drive-thru service in order to protect the people we serve and the staff and volunteers that serve them. In the week I spent learning the ropes, I learned things like how to pack food, weigh donations, use the database, and more. But I also learned how to express compassion and care while wearing a face mask, how to make the most of a short interaction, and how much we truly need passionate volunteers to be the hands and feet of Christ through service at CAP.
Each day at the Pantry I witnessed our volunteers complete every task on their list with great attention and care. I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it would be to let little things get swept under the rug in the chaos that can ensue of serving over 200 families in only three days. However, I watched food boxes get packed with great care, making sure that even a single egg was left uncracked before getting loaded into a vehicle. I witnessed the greatest attention to every single piece of produce that was inspected, to make sure that every person received healthy and sustainable food for their family. And I watched the expression of grace and patience for dear neighbors that had recently lost their jobs and needed help navigating their new normal and ways to provide for their loved ones.
The loving impact our volunteers have on the lives of those they serve is indescribable, and often unmeasurable by statistics and numbers. You cannot simply attach a quantitative value to the mutual feeling of love that comes when a volunteer surprises a participant with a bouquet of flowers included with their food. One cannot measure how long a smile stays on a participant’s face when a volunteer goes out of their way to ensure that each person gets what they need. There are sometimes even no words to even summarize how a volunteer might be impacted by the ways that hearing a participant’s story and how that will change their life.
One could say that volunteers are at the heart of our mission and live it day-in and day-out as they serve our participants. Which is exactly why we need more of them. Are you the passionate individual that will make a difference in someone’s life? Can picture yourself here? Over our 55 years in the mountains, countless volunteers have been called. Maybe you are being called too.