The silver haired volunteers asked me to join their circle as they prayed before the Saturday morning food pantry opening. They’ve done this for years and prayed a thousand prayers. They know full well that in this rural area of Central Florida that many people are hurting financially through no fault of their own. A combination of job layoffs, down-sizing and under-employment have created a toxic mix for any kind of stable lifestyle.
The procession that came through the squeaky pantry door of 60 people that morning was a sight to behold. Each one vividly reminded me of the saying…. “There go I but for the grace of God”. Miss Deborah is an example of a person in a situation beyond her control. She suffered a traumatic back injury years ago while working manual labor and has been disabled despite what the doctors have attempted.
A series of ruptured hernias, sciatic issues and worsening scoliosis has hunched her posture and taken a toll on her psyche. Miss Deborah is unemployable. Her only income is disability income of approximately $800 per month. She lives in a household with family members in similar circumstances. Try paying the rent, having gas in a car (if you can afford one), pay the utilities and a phone bill, buy basic clothing, get your medicine and put food on the table on $800 a month, the math doesn’t work. This isn’t a living, it’s a basic existence.
We often hear of folks nowadays in our midst stereotyping the welfare queens or having babies to get more public benefits. As someone in a food pantry said…”Believe me, I’m sure the stretch marks aren’t worth it.” All someone has to do is spend a little time in one of hundreds of local programs and meet these folks in line and I guarantee their perspective will change. If it doesn’t, they have a heart of stone. The stigmatizing would stop if the tables were turned and it became your personal plight. Are we our brother’s keeper or are we stereotyping children in need, the working poor and the elderly?
This pantry in rural Lake County is a model of organization, stewardship, volunteerism and represents some of the better angels of this world. Each person that arrives is greeted cheerfully and accompanied by a volunteer as they make their rounds as if in a small grocery store. Everyone is treated with dignity.
One of the pantry’s volunteers tells me that they have provided help to 330 families during the past 2 ½ weeks…and it’s not enough. Second Harvest provides thousands of pounds of food each year to this pantry. The need has not diminished despite signs the economy appears to be stabilizing. Families, many senior citizens, people with physical and mental disabilities and the under-employed are looking for the basic necessity of food.
The “Miss Deborah’s” in our midst haunt me. In this land of plenty, no one should be going hungry. If you have supported Second Harvest as a volunteer, food donor or financial donor, thank you.
If you have not had the opportunity to get involved, please consider making a difference and getting involved in simple ways that can make a difference. Contact us via web or phone at 407-295-1066 and we would be glad to meet you and provide more information.
President & CEO