United Way Volunteers Helped Warm Hearts on a Cold Day in February
Blog by Julee Laurent, United Way of Southwest Michigan Volunteer Engagement Manager
February 9, 2018
The weather reports called for five to nine inches of snow. News of area school and business closings started coming in as soon as 9:00 pm the evening before. We were in for a big storm; and everyone knew it. While many planned to take a break and hunker down with hot cocoa, Netflix, and the kids reading in blanket forts in the living room; hunger was still busy at work. Hunger does not take a snow day. The group of United Way of Southwest Michigan volunteers started emailing that morning at 8:00 am asking if there was still going to be a Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry in Benton Harbor. They had signed up to volunteer two weeks prior and were not sure if the truck could traverse the very slushy and icy roads. The truck was still coming, and so were the volunteers.
A little before noon the volunteers gathered with thick layers of clothing, big smiles, and a readiness to get to work. The line for food was already 40 families long. Many of them had been waiting to get food for an hour in the snow and cold without adequate cold weather clothing. They were hungry, and the volunteers were ready to serve them. Within almost 90 minutes most of the food was distributed and on its way to empty cupboards that were ready to be filled. Everyone joked about the weather as they moved through the line. Families and volunteers made small talk and exchanged recipe ideas. We compared the best ways to make the spaghetti squash that was being given out, and how great the bags of avocados would pair with the tomatoes and limes also all available on that day’s mobile food pantry. While we gave out oranges, potatoes, juice, milk, and bread, one recipient said it was just like the nice farmer's market downtown, but in the snow. We all laughed. Sometimes, a laugh and a smile can be exactly what someone needs to lift their spirits and get them through a tough time.
Volunteers are the lifeline to the people in our community in need. They give the one thing away they will never get back; their time. Volunteers come face to face with people who need help and give them positivity, hope, and a reminder there are people in the world that will jump in and help them, no matter the weather.
Oscar Wilde once wrote, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” This is what happened that snow day at the mobile food pantry. The people in line waiting for food would probably much rather have been in a position to go to the grocery store and leisurely shop inside a heated building for what their families need. But there are circumstances in life; being on social security or a fixed income, getting laid off, having a disability that limits your ability to work, trying to avoid recidivism to feed your family, having to financially choose medicine over food. There are these, and many more reasons why people find themselves in need of a box of food so they, and their families, do not starve. The United Way volunteers, on this particular snowy day, know this. And with big hearts, they made sure that with all the other extenuating circumstances going on in the lives of the families who came to get help, this would be a positive experience. A human experience. That is how the United Way of Southwest Michigan volunteers spent their snow day on February 9, 2018. Providing hope and kindness to people in need.