I don't know if this happens where you live, but around here, at this time of year is the "Letter Carriers Food Drive". What a wonderful idea! And it absolutely could not be easier. They even provide the bag.
Here is how it works. Yesterday in my mailbox, along with my mail was this empty bag with the cute little Family Circus kiddos on the front. I brought it in the house and started poking around my pantry. What did I have more than one of? In went a jar of spaghetti sauce, followed quickly by a box of crackers, cans of vegetables, a bottle of salad dressing, a box of tea bags and so forth. Once the bag was full I set it on the counter where I won't forget about it. On Saturday morning, I will leave this bag out by my mailbox and when our letter carrier comes by, off the bag will go to a central collection site where the contents will be divided up to various area food pantries. Done.
Last year in my general vicinity more than 195,000 lbs of food were collected! That is pretty amazing considering that the population of my town of Venice is less than 25,000 people. This is such a simple thing to do and it helps so many people who are going through a difficult time in their lives.
You might be surprised to learn that in this country, most families are only one tragedy away from needing assistance at some point in their lives. The sudden loss of a job, an illness, a death, a divorce or even a natural disaster can take a person from being financial secure to being unable to provide meals for their families on a regular basis. Did you know that in the USA, our affluent, 1st world, powerful country, one in six children goes to bed hungry?
About ten years ago now, back in Colorado, I was the Co-Chair (which means Co-Director - I don't know why they called it "chair") of an assistance agency. It was another wonderful organization that provided food, guidance, resources, financial assistance and more to people in need. On a regular basis we gave out bus tokens, chits for free clothing, medical help and even in emergencies, brief hotel room stays. We provided a regularly updated job board, help with resumes, and taught people how to budget. We had special programs for holidays and backpacks filled with supplies for school kids.
The hardest part of that job was educating the public. First explaining that there really and truly was a genuine need in the community (you would not believe the number of people who refused to believe that anyone in that community had financial problems) and then changing the minds of the folks who thought that anyone who couldn't pay their bills or feed their families somehow had done something to deserve it. Wow. That was always a tough educational process. It's not just people who have made poor choices in their lives who need help, what about their children? Those kids still need to be fed and clothed and housed. And what about our Military Veterans who have protected this country and now, due to their injuries, need our help? And the forgotten elderly? And as I said before, just regular workaday normal people who have had a sudden change of fortune. They all need and deserve help too!
We partnered with area churches, schools, service organizations and businesses. We held monthly food drives and gave talks and tours endlessly. We submitted an exhausting number of grant proposals and worked with utility companies, thrift shops, medical offices and local law enforcement to make this happen. And here is the part that will astonish you the most. That organization was entirely, completely and totally run by volunteers. 100%. Including myself and my Co-Chair. Our feeling was that if we collected a salary, we would have less money to provide help to our community. It was such a good feeling, every single day, to know that we helped people.
And you can help too. Easiest thing in the world. Even if your area doesn't do the Letter Carrier Food Drive, I am pretty darned sure that somewhere in your area is an assistance organization that needs help. And I am even more positive that someone in your area needs that assistance. Just a little hand up during a difficult time.
Here's a thought, anytime you are at your local grocery store and you see one of those BOGO, buy one, get one free sales, go ahead and get the free one too. If you don't need it, donate it. Costs you nothing. If you can afford to give more, do that. Give money, give time, give groceries, give whatever you can. Every single little bit helps. Back at my old job, I remember an adorable little boy, maybe 7 years old, who came in one time with a little envelope. He silently handed me the envelope. He mother, beaming with pride, tears in her eyes told me that her son had been doing chores for the family for a month and he saved all of the money to give to us so that "some other kid won't be hungry". It wasn't a lot of cash but it was a ton of heart.
I will ask you this though, if you choose to participate, don't use this as an opportunity to get rid of outdated food. If you wouldn't eat it, nobody else should have to either. Do not donate opened jars, boxes or cans either. That stuff will just get thrown away. You can throw it away yourself.
Please consider participating in the Letter Carriers Food Drive if you have one in your area (it is a nation-wide program) or if your area does not, make the extra effort to drop off some food at your local food pantry. It's such a small thing to do, but it makes such a big difference.
It's a karma thing. I promise.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.