Fall 2010: Glad to have you; come on in.
That’s what volunteer Chris Viola has to say about the overall spirit of The Food Pantry, where he’s worked since our founding ten years ago at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Like almost all of our volunteers, Chris came to get groceries, and wound up staying to help out and run the program. “It’s not like other places,” he says, “because when you come to get food, people act as if they’re glad to see you_—_they’re not judging you. And then it’s, ‘Well, come on in and lend a hand’_—_because this food pantry belongs to everyone.”
The Food Pantry is an all-volunteer organization: it’s not a social service program but, in the deepest sense, a community.
Hundreds of people have volunteered at The Food Pantry since we began: some dropping by once or twice, and some serving every week for years and years. It’s impossible to name everyone who’s ever unpacked pallets, hauled sacks of potatoes, bagged string beans, handed out cabbages, scrubbed the kitchen counters, broken down boxes, cooked lunch, played music, helped old ladies with their carts, given kids candy bars, calmed down freaked-out visitors, figured out systems, and welcomed hungry strangers in out of the rain. We remember some beloved volunteers, like Mark and Alan, who’ve died, and others who have moved away…and we know that new people will keep walking in the doors, bringing their own gifts to share.
There are at least fifty volunteers who show up every week to make everything run like a dream: they work tables, they greet people at the front desk, they help on the line in at least seven different languages; they set up and unload and clean all day long. Another twenty volunteers work behind the scenes: shopping at the Food Bank, bringing us fresh fruit from their gardens, building our storage shed, serving as board members, picking up donations, raising money, setting up our computers and volunteering their time to help new pantries start.
And there’s everyone at the San Francisco Food Bank—the warehouse workers and produce guys; the drivers; the program staff and fundraisers and everyone who works with farmers to keep our supply of fresh food going strong. There are the volunteers from Food Runners, who pick up and deliver leftover food from events and restaurants, surprising us every week with special treats. There are the students from Live Oak and Downtown High School and City College. There’s the whole congregation of St. Gregory’s church, which incubated The Food Pantry, supported us, prayed for us, and still offer their beautiful, holy sanctuary every week.
And there are all our donors: the ones who’ve sent us twenty bucks a month for years, the anonymous givers who surprise us with big windfalls, the ones who ask their friends to give to The Food Pantry, the supporters who donate part of their profits to us or just slip us a couple of dollars when they can.And there are our sister pantries around the city, especially those that The Food Pantry has helped start with seed money and encouragement and training, including Bayview Commons, Bayview Mission, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Haight-Ashbury Food Pantry, ISA High School, Julian Pantry, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Samoan Assembly of God, St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, St. Francis Episcopal Church, True Sunshine Episcopal Church and Starr King Elementary.
Truly, our life at The Food Pantry is a life of gratitude. We are so glad you’re here — thank you, and come on in!