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Charitable Volunteering


Submitted By cptgijo
Words 1533
Pages 7
In February 2012, I had the opportunity to visit (SAFB) at XXXXXXXXX with my classmate, XXXXXXXX. The purpose of my visit was twofold. First, I wanted to learn more about the SAFB, the XXXXXXX complex and how each operates to help the hungry. Second, I wanted to donate a few hours of my time to a charitable organization.

My four hour volunteer day at the SAFB started at 0845 at the main security entrance to the XXXXXXXX complex. All visitors to the complex must sign in and out complex and are escorted by XXXXXXXXX personnel to and from their destination while visiting. After signing in, name tags were issued, and security called the XXXXXXXX Coordinator to pick us up from the security building. We existed the security building and met the volunteer coordinator halfway to the XXXXXXXXX building that housed the kitchen. On the way the volunteer coordinator gave us a quick overview of the mission of the SAFB. The SAFB’s mission is to fight hunger in Southwest Texas through distributing food, educating the public regarding hunger, and acting as advocates for those suffering from hunger in 16 counties surrounding San Antonio.

After reaching the XXXXXXXX building that housed the kitchen, we entered the building through the main dining room that prepares up to 500 meals three times a day for the residents of XXXXXXXXX complex and other venues for food distribution. The volunteer coordinator took Elsa and I to the administrative offices area to secure our personal belongs, sign-in, issue aprons, gloves, and hairnets. After Elsa and I suited up for our four hour shift, we were given a very brief tour of the kitchen and then showed to our work area. Our assignment for the next hour was to prepare seventy packaged meals for individuals residing at the complex’s detox center. This consisted of placing prepared cold food into compartmentalized paper trays and securing the food in the tray with plastic wrap. We were given very quick instructions by Chef Fabian that included use of the machine used for sealing the plastic wrap on each tray. In assembling the seventy trays, Elsa and I were joined by another graduate student from the San Antonio area.

In the assembly of food trays, portions we deposited into each of the three slots of the tray and placed on a conveyor line for sealing. After assembling seven trays, we again asked a kitchen assistant to give us instructions on how to use the sealing machine. We unanimously voted Elsa to be the sealing machine operator. The seven completed trays were lined up on the conveyor for sealing and our sealing machine operator, Elsa, started the machine only to figure we don’t know how to turn it off. The completed trays stacked up on the other side of the conveyor belt and plastic sealant continued to be dispelled by the machine because there was no food trays to be sealed. I finally pulled up on the start button and the machine finally stops. The whole incident reminded me of the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel are working in a chocolate factory boxing chocolates and the conveyor belt speeds up faster than the chocolates can be boxed. After completing the seventy meals without any additional mishaps, we secured long silver baking trays and racks to stack the meals for heating.

Our next assignment was to cut oranges into wedges for the lunch meal. After retrieving several boxes from the giant food refrigerator, we all sat in front of cutting boards with knives and began to cut oranges for the next hour or so. As a way to pass the time we chatted about how fortunate we were to be in a place where we did not need the services of a place like XXXXXXXX. As we talked, I began to wonder how individuals who lived at the XXXXXXXXX complex had been reduced to utilizing the services of a charitable organization. I reflected on the information the volunteer coordinated had given us about who might be candidates for living at the XXXXXXXXX complex. Individuals ranged from those who were truly homeless to those that might be able to afford a place to live house but little of anything else. After cutting all of the available oranges, we placed the oranges in plastic containers in preparation for lunch.

During a short lull in our work assignment, I had a chance to talk to Chef XXXX about where the sources of food come from. Chef XXXXX stated that most of the food donated is products that are past their expiration dates so they could not sell them at the store but they were still edible. Major contributors were grocery stores like HEB, major industry brands that exceed inventory control levels, U.S. Agriculture Department and local area farmers. I was somewhat surprised and a little concerned about individuals eating food that has past their expiration dates. I had seen frozen chicken thawing in the sink earlier with expiration dates of May 2011. Chef Fabian stated that the chefs at XXXXXXXXX have to follow very strict guidelines and food is thoroughly inspected prior to use. Any food that has a foul odor, mold or discolored is thrown away.

Our next assignment was working in the dish room to clean pots, pans, and trays used in preparation of the lunch meal. We were joined in the kitchen by one of the XXXXXXXXX volunteers who guided us through the cleaning process for all cookware and dinning trays. Prior to this moment the volunteer experience was one of working behind the scenes. Standing at the dish room window collecting trays, I was able to see some of the individuals that were consuming the meals we had help prepare. Individuals ranged from elderly men and women dressed in tattered clothes to younger individual and children dressed in brand names. Each individual passing the window was openly thankful for individuals coming to volunteer. The work in the dish room was hard work. There was no glory in washing heavy pots, pans, and trays but it was part of the volunteer experience and truly brought me satisfaction for the work that needed to be done. After we finished washing all the dirty pots, pans and trays our four hour shift concluded.

Reflecting on this experience, I began to realize that I have been extremely fortunate. This experience opened my as to how others in our society live. In a country were economics is everything, there is indeed a gap between the haves and the have-nots. Unfortunately, it seems that the divide in classes seems to be ever widening. The richer keep getting richer and the poor seem to get poorer. While it might be true that some who use the services of XXXXXXXXX and the SAFB are not quite as ambitious as everyone else, the majority of individuals at XXXXXXXXX are poor through little fault of their own. The needy are victims of unfortunate circumstances that do not allow individuals to

get ahead. As a child, I grew up in a family of nine, two adult parents and seven children. While we never went hungry, I know that meals were stretched in order to feed all without going hungry. In different economic times such as today, my family could have easily been a client of Haven for Hope.

While the XXXXXXXXX helps the poor, I was also saddened when I thought about the overall problem of hunger. I imagined myself not being able to walk to the refrigerator or go to the grocery store and buy what I needed when I was hungry. Not only does hunger take a physical toll on individuals but I would imagine there is a mental component that is shared as well. Individuals stress over not having the freedom to eat food when, where, and how much they want. I question how one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world could allow its own people to go hungry. The U.S. spends billions of dollars in Iraq, while individuals here in San Antonio and the surrounding area go hungry. I realized that the work of the XXXXXXXXX kitchen is merely patching a problem, but for the mean time individuals are receiving some of the help that they need through the dedication of the men and women who work every day to feed the hungry. The workers at the XXXXXXXXX truly embody a sense of community in that those who need their services are helped in some form or fashion.

I truly enjoyed my volunteer experience and would encourage others to seek out opportunities to help those who are less fortunate. Although the work is very hard, I felt a sense of pride in myself for what I was able to accomplish. Looking back, I am grateful for my experience, I consider it an education in life. While I plan to go back to volunteer at the kitchen at Haven for Hope, I pray that one day I will be in a position of power to institute real change, and I thank God for giving me the good life I have thus far.

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