Stuffed and Starved, part 6: A Story
- on April 26, 2013
We had a volunteer come to us in the summer of 2012 needing to work off some community service hours. They were determined to turn their life around. A client themselves of Just Food, it was important that they work in an environment that they were familiar with. They reluctantly attended the first orientation and became a volunteer driver…picking up food and delivering food to Just Food clients and partners.
This incredible volunteer completed their community service hours and stuck around. They would come in each day early, and was generally the last one to leave. They often remarked that it was the least they could do, to give back to the place that so generously helped them in their most dire times of need. This person's friends marveled at how it was so unlike them to stick around in one place for too long…they knew something was happening that was unexplainable.
This person continued to volunteer each day. They began having conversations with Just Food staff members about what it would take for them to no longer be a client of Just Food. We made sure that our clients and volunteers knew this was our focus. It turns out, they didn’t need a large amount of money to be self-sufficient and not have to access services at the food pantry. They worked tirelessly despite these needs, often having to sell personal belongings to make ends meet. All of this changed in March of 2013.
It is the mission of Just Food to not only provide food to those low-income families who need it, but to figure out how to get them on their feet so they will no longer be in need of services. Through strategic partnerships Just Food formed, and as a result of a collaboration with Penn House, Ballard Center, and Salvation Army’s strengths based case management program, this faithful volunteer found a home with the Senior Community Service Employment Program. They could actually be paid to volunteer with Just Food utilizing money set aside by this federal program.
Today, this volunteer is a part of the Just Food team. They are paid every other week to volunteer at Just Food, by helping the same people that defined their previous situation. They often remark that Just Food changed their life. After all, it isn’t just food. This, now paid staff member, is a tireless worker who gives back everyday, so that all who need food can access it, and all who seek a better life may find it.
Why is this such a big deal? Because our focus changed, and the way we defined success changed, someone is not only self-sufficient, but they have a job, and their trajectory of their life is changed. This affects attitude, motivation, and desire. They feel alive for the first time in their lives and for one small, tiny moment, forget that they have a million reasons why they can't get out of poverty. And, despite all odds, with a little help from their friends, they climb out, and stay out.
We would have never cared enough to do this before...it was all about pounds and not about people. But now that we have changed, we will never go back.