If These Shelves Could Talk; Pantry Volunteers Share the Importance of Food Security

At JF&CS and our Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry (SHCFP), volunteers are vital to our work and mission, whether they are generously giving their time on a regular basis or providing a particular skill to our agency when needed.

In the letter below, long-time Pantry volunteers, Betty Ann and Ronald reflect on their experiences befriending the clients who turn to the Pantry for assistance in feeding themselves and their families:

I’m confident you have heard that old saying, “If these walls could talk”–well at the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry I would say “If these shelves could talk!”…They would convey the story of the 70-year old couple who came in and related how they didn’t have $1400 to fix their furnace; the single-parent father who required a free summer camp program for his daughter so he didn’t have to quit his job; the mother whose autistic son had turned on the outside water faucet–which had gone unnoticed for 2 days–and now had a $600 water bill…and these personal stories could go on and on. These families have not only the worry of how to feed themselves and their children, but like all of us, have additional daily issues. But unlike most of us do not have the resources to fix these issues.

When they arrive at the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, we are the people to whom they voice their concerns and problems. They speak to us for the reason that we make no judgment as we attempt to find solutions for these additional issues, besides feeding their families.

There isn’t a client that doesn’t say THANK YOU as they leave with their shopping cart of groceries.

Unfortunately as long-time volunteers, we have noticed that the need has continuously increased and our apprehension is that because of this it will become necessary to decrease the amount of food distributed to a family to accommodate the new families. And believe me even now the amount of food is just sufficient.

On a personal note, I grew up in a home with limited financial resources and there were many days our only food for the entire day was a bowl of oatmeal. I understand what it means to be hungry and afraid of what tomorrow would bring. In those days we didn’t have a safety net of free lunch programs at school or food pantries.

Please don’t let this happen to others–please help us keep the food pantries abundantly supplied and open to service the elderly and young families in our Squirrel Hill Community.

-Ronald and Betty Ann

So often, when we share stories of volunteerism with our supporters and friends, we focus on the time and skills donated to our agency, and their tremendous impact on our work and clients. But it is quite a heartening experience to hear our volunteers reflect on their experience at JF&CS and the Pantry in their own words. Betty Ann and Ronald’s letter so eloquently illustrates the direct difference our volunteers can make in the lives of our clients, and the importance that our services continue to be available for everyone in need.

April is National Volunteer Month, and as this special month of recognition draws to a close, we would like to extend our thanks to the hundreds of volunteers at JF&CS who help make it possible for our agency to change the lives of so many in our communities. JF&CS volunteers help our programs and departments in so many ways; working with newly-arriving refugees to learn English and acclimate to our region, helping seniors manage the challenges of aging in our older adults department, volunteering legal services in our immigration legal department and much more.

If you are interested in volunteering with SHCFP, please call 412-422-2708 or email kpoth@sqfoodpantry.org. For more information about volunteer opportunities at JF&CS, please call 412-422-7200, email info@jfcspgh.org or visit http://www.jfcspgh.org.

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