The first thing one notices are the sounds of the vehicles. As I stood outside the scheduled food distribution at Victory Temple of God food pantry in Sanford, I could hear the clients’ cars coming up Sixth Street before I saw them. Extremely rough-sounding engines that threatened to quit any moment.
The metal-on-metal screech of brake pads that no longer existed. The loud, tell-tale clicking of a bad CV joint. The rest were merely afflicted with more minor issues like fenders held on with wire, taped plastic over missing windows, or severely bald tires. All long-delayed repairs that routinely fall lower on the very low-income owners’ priority list than food, shelter, clothing, medicine, or gasoline.
While the food drop event had been promoted as beginning at 12:00 noon, the cars began creaking their way into the parking lot around 9 a.m. As people climbed out, it was apparent that their physical bodies were mostly in the same condition as their vehicles. Walkers, canes, wheeled oxygen tanks…People who were worn and sometimes broken, but still chugging along.
One older woman explained to me that it was necessary to get there that early “So that I can get my name on the list and hopefully get my boxes before the fresh vegetables run out.” The woman added that she was picking up food for herself, three grandchildren under her care, and a bed-ridden next-door neighbor.
Ms. Mary, who runs the Pantry program at Victory, told me that the food given today would be a much-needed supplement on top of what the clients regularly get at the pantry. One of her volunteers, Ms. Tara, added that those with cars are often representing as many as three or four other families who needed help but had no transportation of any kind.
Another older client mentioned that she had retired from the State of Florida after a career in human resources. She couldn’t look me in the eye, but whispered to no one in particular ,“I worked for the state all those years, and even traveled the world. Now I’m here.”
The purpose of my visit was to try to convince a few clients to open up and share their stories on camera for a promotional video that the Food Bank is working on. It was an uphill battle to find someone who would talk with us about their personal situation.
Along with the physical manifestations of poverty, there was a more psychological toll on display. Despite daunting and obvious need, the people I spoke with all seemed to feel too ashamed to talk on camera. Almost as if they had been ‘caught’ in the act of doing something bad. They seemed to know what judging eyes felt like, and weren’t anxious fall under that gaze again on purpose.
We managed to get some good B-roll background footage for our piece, however, and a very good on-camera interview with one of the volunteers for the event. As I climbed into my nearly paid-off, well-functioning car with my mostly-healthy body, I was grateful. Grateful for my own countless blessings and also for the opportunity to work for an organization that helps so many ordinary people to continue chugging along the road of life.
Vice President, Development