Darien Pasch may be new to AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland, but she is no stranger to her site, Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry. Throughout her senior year of high school, Darien regularly volunteered at the food pantry. Her passion for service and deep connections to Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry inspired her to take on the role of Volunteer Coordinator for the 2018-2019 service year. Below is her reflection from the pantry’s largest event of the year, the “Giving Thanks Meal Distribution Week.”
We are quickly entering the holiday season, and that means family, friends, food and so much joy which is exactly how we can describe Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry during this time of the year. Hundreds of families walk through our door and are welcomed with a smile, and then walk out the door better than they came in. Yes, they walk out with a much needed bag of groceries, but also a heart filled with the sense of belonging and value. The pantry emphasizes the importance of each individual client, his or her need and the idea that he or she is leaving with more than a bag of groceries. That is especially true during the holiday season.
We served our clients and their families this with holiday meals during the Giving Thanks Meal Distribution Week, November 3rd-9th. This is just one way to demonstrate the pantry’s core values throughout our community. During Giving Thanks Week, the pantry served 4,384 individuals and distributed close to 700 holiday meals. This was a tremendous effort with much preparation and energy, but the impact for each client will last longer than anyone could know.
Prior to the serving week, there was extensive volunteer preparation due to the nature of the openings. Hours of organizing volunteer shifts, creating name tags, contacting leaders, and volunteer meal preparation are just a few tasks that were completed before the first turkey ‘flew’ out of our doors into the client’s house. The pantry was open for longer time periods in order to serve all the expected clients which doubled the volunteer need. 180 volunteers served during that week totaling over 500 hours of volunteer service. Volunteers served in many capacities including specific positions during openings and home meal deliveries to homebound and disabled clients.
While the clients were the primary focus during openings, the volunteers consistently described the joy they were filled with from serving our clients especially during this season. Some volunteers had the privilege of interacting directly with some of the clients and hearing their stories of which one will remember for a lifetime.
The season is not over yet. As we all prepare for the full houses and turkey platters on Thursday, the pantry is preparing and expecting another 700 meals to be distributed throughout the month of December for Christmas. This creates continued opportunity to support our community through volunteering and holiday meal sponsorships which provides a family with a meal for only $20 that has an invaluable effect during the holiday season.
– Darien Pasch, Volunteer Coordinator at Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry