Why I Work at the Family Giving Centre

JANIS BARKER

I’m sure you are wondering what more I could possibly say about the Family Giving Centre.  Well first I want to say thank you.....I can’t say it enough.  It takes all of you, your food donations, money, time, prayers and support to keep us going.  God has blessed us with this building.  God has blessed us with kind, loving people who want to share the love of Jesus.  One of the ways we do that is by helping each other when and where help is needed.

 

I would like to tell you how the Giving Centre has impacted some people’s lives.  The Giving Centre has opened up opportunities for many parishioners to contribute their time when they thought that there was nothing more they could do, young people looking for volunteer hours for school, still others were looking to fill their days with something meaning full.  They have found a place working at the Giving Centre mid week, sorting and organizing food, clothing, house wares, toys, pet supplies.....these are the jobs that never end. 

The Centre has also opened the door for clients who wish to give back and now have become some of our most dedicated hard working volunteers.

For anyone who has been here on a Food cupboard Friday you will see how extremely busy we can be.  It’s not uncommon for there to be many volunteers doing numerous tasks from greeting at the door---directing traffic---manning the rooms downstairs---checking people in and handing out groceries as well as working the kitchen, cooking and cleaning.  Our clients know that food is only given out between 10:30 and 11:30 but in fact we begin in the summer with the set up of tents and tables for the BBQ by the men’s bible study before they go for breakfast at 9.  Many volunteers are here by 9:30 to organize the fresh or frozen food we may be giving out.  Others are getting coffee ready for our clients who are often waiting by 9.  The kitchen is buzzing with activity and lunch preparation is under way.  Others still are in the downstairs rooms making certain they are organized and ready.  Though lunch goes till 12:30 it is generally 1 or after before clean up is finished and that is dependent on the number of volunteers we have.

I want to tell you a little secret, as soon as the opening prayers are done I rarely see any of this happening.  I am in my office meeting with new clients...updating regular client files or talking to someone who may have a special need or situation.  I only know its 11:30 when Lynda calls out the time and say’s “lights out” to the volunteers in the downstairs rooms.  Upstairs we are generally processing clients, giving out food and cleaning up for another 15 to 30 min.  And most often by then I have a grandchild on my knee.

 

Many of the jobs we do in the Giving Centre are constant, I shop for groceries every week, checking the flyers on Thur. and Fri. Making a list of the items we use and where they are on sale.  This past Friday we gave out.....cans of soup,...cans of pasta sauce and ...tins of tuna, just to mention a few of the 17 items that are purchases and given out twice a month.  This is only a portion of what we give out, all the food you donate, what is collected from our food drives and what we pick up from RFDA is organized in our food room and then packed into bags ready to be given out.  Volunteers are so vital to this all being accomplished.  Did I mention that often we get bulk items—tea—coffee—sugar---flour---cereal, that need to be repackaged; another volunteer job always done mid-week.

And of course it’s not all about the food.  The wonderful donations of clothing, house wares, toys, pet supplies all need to be sorted through and put out.  Always there are things we can’t use, remember pickle dishes and lace table cloths are not things our clients need.  Anything that we can’t make use of is re-donated and that requires yet another volunteer.

And then there are the fund raising activities we do.  Organizing the food drives, both our own and helping with the ones RFDA does.  Sending out letters and thank you cards, preparing hand outs, imputing information into the computer, and keeping our banking and accounting accurate are more of the jobs that get done, on a regular basis.  One of the most important tasks has been taken on by Diana Sustawenko, without the amazing job she does making applications for grants we would not be receiving funding from several different organizations.  Thank you Diana.

 

And why do I do all this - if you heard the laughter - saw the smiles - and knew how all this is genuinely appreciated by our clients you to would want to be involved in making a difference in people’s lives.  Now let me share some stories.

The circumstance of many people’s situations often is beyond their control.  Life can take us down many unplanned, unexpected paths sometimes due to the decisions we make along the way.  It’s that free will God gave us!!!  Imagine living alone in a tiny apartment, you walk or take the bus when you can afford it, (a bus ride costs....).  You are widowed or divorced and your children have busy lives and often live hundreds even thousands of miles away.  You are disabled and have not been able to work for many years...oh and when you did it was wonderful, you had money to go for coffee with friends, maybe lunch or the show.  There was food in your fridge and cloths in your closet.  Now life is isolating and lonely.  We all need to feel useful – have a purpose – being busy during the day helps us sleep better at night – we want to get out and see people.  The Family Giving Centre has met this woman’s needs.  Equally as important we need her.  She works hard, will do any task I ask of her and is fun to be around.  She has become a good friend.

 

For some the Centre enables them to give back at the same time they are receiving help.  We are told every food cupboard Friday how good that makes them feel.  They are often the first volunteers to arrive and always ready to work.

There is one exceptional story.  Two and a half years ago a women came to us for food. When taking her information she mentioned that she was 5 days sober.  I congratulated her, told her I would pray for continued strength on this new path.  She asked me to pray for her right then and I did.  As time went on myself and a couple of other volunteers got to know her quite well.  Last September, still sober, she enrolled in college to get her grade 12 and take some courses.  She is interested in accounting.  Since she had school on Fridays I offered to deliver her groceries whenever she needs them.  She didn’t call every month but when she did, it often became a visit so I got to know more about her.  I have so much admiration for anyone going back to school as a mature adult, let alone someone with some significant challenges.  This summer she told me that her father was very ill.  All of her family is in the North Bay area and after a visit home to see him in hospital she realized how much she needed to be near her family.  Her mother, brother, children and grandchild all live in that area, here she had no family.  She told me all the ways she was trying to get help to move.  I was impressed.  Eventually she did ask if we could help with the bus fare home and told me she was selling or giving away all her possessions unable to keep anything that didn’t fit in one suite case.  Well I put a plea out to the Mothers’ Union and ACW.  Within hours I had $300 from these groups and in two days later a total of $700.  This meant that she was able to keep all of her cloths and personal possessions.  I helped her pack her stuff for shipping on the bus, including her bike.  We gave her the name of an Anglican Church in North Bay that has a food cupboard and it turns out she has attended that church before and had met the minister.  We purchased the ticket and everything fell into place.  Sadly a couple of days before she was leaving her father passed away.  The family waited for her to arrive before making any arrangement wanting her input.  We had a tearful good bye at the bus station.  I have spoken to her twice since she left and things are going very well.  She is going back to college, has an apartment and is helping her family deal with her father’s passing.  All these things demonstrate what a strong women she is.  I am so proud of what we did for her.  Was this an exceptional situation, of course, and we would not do it for everyone.  When you get to know people, are confident that their need is genuine and obey God’s calling to help the rewards are beyond description.