These winter days are interesting ones. They are full of snow, slush and very cold weather. But for us, one thing is consistent and it is the fact that our Washington County guests remain hungry. At times our guests are confused and in need of support, but usually eager to share a smile and a hopeful lean on the Gospel Mission Food Pantry for help with their life's strategy and nourishment. Many of these folks have struggles defined in terms most of us have never witnessed.
This year we have experienced some different trends in our guest numbers. We are beginning to greet more recent military veterans than in other times. Additionally, we are seeing vets who have been away from active duty for a while yet suffering through physical and mental issues that are difficult to understand. It is strange however that just like "taking an aspirin" alleviates the plight of many different kinds of ailments, a "good smile and a word about the blessings we are provided" helps vets ease their way through the day. We feel like the GMFP can be a resting spot for these vets and others, just like themselves, who remain lost.
One of the toughest challenges we face are the "ups and downs" of our pantry food shelves. But, I will tell you that I can look at our shelves one minute and am almost petrified at their empty appearance, and then it seems like "they fill up" within the next few days. Those of you who bring us food and visit often understand the chemistry of these blessing. In fact, one day as I was traveling from downtown Marietta, over the Putnam Bridge, toward the pantry, as I made my left onto Lancaster Street I was stopped behind five cars I assumed were heading toward Harmar Hill. But they all stopped at the pantry! Everyone was delivering food and clothing. All five cars! Gosh, I could have cried.
Since Jan. 1, we have received four telephone calls from agencies and organizations within Washington County asking if we could deliver food to a person who is aging and shut-in. Each time we have been able to find a current guest who returns home near one of these folks. And each time our guest was more than wiling to stop by and help someone else. It is called "working together."
Two of our volunteers told me a wonderful story this week, and it goes as follows. As this volunteer couple was driving to the pantry on Wednesday (normal food distribution day) their path also took them across the Putnam Bridge. Our volunteers said "the snow was coming down in beautiful Marietta and we passed an elderly man walking on the bridge carrying two bags of food he had obviously be given at the GMFP." The man was reportedly smiling big, swinging his food with every step and walking briskly toward someone called home. Now I don't know any of the specifics, but it was certainly a moving story and our volunteer couple was motivated by GMFP efforts beyond belief.
Pantry volunteers are wonderfully strange folks and I want to write about them for a line or two. At least ours are strangely wonderful! You know, "strange" in a wonderful kind of way. They laugh, they work and they meet the challenge of the day at the GMFP. Our volunteer's backgrounds are so immensely different that one might thing everyone would never meld into one great workforce. But together they do such great work. The routine is that each volunteer checks into work "in the very same way," each knows the chores he or she faces and then "gets at it." Each volunteer knows that good pantry finished work looks like. Hey, every week we break down large containers of hot dogs, bologna, flour, pizza, bread, sugar, noodles, soap powder, instant potatoes, powdered milk, cereal, diapers, baby food, oats, crackers, salt, pancake mix and a lot of other items into usable packets that our guest families easily use ... and our volunteers are very good at this labor intensive work. Stop by and help us or give me a phone call.
As you can imagine, February and March are not easy months at the pantry. As I used to say years ago ... "these months are slim times." While I have faith that this more difficult time shall pass, I must not be reluctant to ask for your support. Especially now as the challenge mounts. Help us if you can, pray for us if you will. Surely, God is helping us manage this struggle.
Over and over I say to others ... help us if you can, pray for us if you will.
God bless ye.
Candy Waite is director of The Gospel Mission Food Pantry at 309 Lancaster St., Marietta.