Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Helping Hungry Families—a birthday celebration

The other day I told you about volunteering at Harvester’s with my Sunday School class. Today I’m going to share how we celebrated my mom’s birthday this year.
Mom turned 27-again {and again} this year on December 23rd. It’s hard when people have birthdays so close to Christmas because their celebrations often get thrown into the existing holiday festivities. This year, we made sure to give Mom her very own party—a volunteer party at Harvester’s!
Did you know you could have a volunteer party?!? How cool is that. You can have it for children as young as six {with lots of adult supervisors} up until age 56 27 or even older. You can book a party during any of Harvester’s normal volunteer hours with a minimum of two-hour blocks. Harvester’s provides a party room and even a cake!
Mom and Ruth’s Mom
{kinda embarrassing, but that’s the only way I know her by!}SAM_7179
Hanging out—waiting for cake! This is only about half of the people who came. Several people brought their families!SAM_7180
When having your party at Harvester’s, you invite the guests to bring 10 cans {10 pounds} of food as their gift! I was stocking up like crazy getting items to ensure that Mom was able to receive her special party shirt that is reserved for birthday honorees whose guest collect an average of 10 pounds per person. Of course, Mom’s friends are awesome and brought a lot of food—330 pounds {which equates to 260 meals!} from 23 people!
Mom got her special shirt! “My party made a difference at Harvesters!”SAM_7211
And then we volunteered! Can I say that our task for the evening sounds incredibly weird and boring, but everyone had a great time! Lots of sorting, lots of bagging, but mostly lots of conversation and laughter!
Before I explain our actual task I will explain a little information to put it into perspective. Harvester’s gets donations in a variety of ways including monetary and food donations. Some money is received from government agencies and others through individual giving. Food is collected through food drives, restaurant donations, and by companies {and don’t forget birthday parties!}.
We spent the evening sorting carrots that were donated from a grocery store chain in Canada. I hesitate to call what we worked with carrots as they did not look like any carrot I had *ever* seen. They were more like tiny orange logs.
See—I’m totally not kidding. Can you imagine the size a snowman
would have to be to support this as a nose!?SAM_7198SAM_7197
But the ginormous size and sometimes awkward shape were the exact reason the carrots were donated. If a grocery store would put these carrots in their produce section, people would pick all around them and they would eventually go bad. Basically, no one will buy these {not when the pretty, thin carrots are available} and these bulky carrots would waste shelf space and potentially cost the store money to have these displayed. Donating them offers a special tax break and also helps feed others who desperately need it!
The carrots were shipped to Harvester’s in 50 pound bags stacked high on several palates. SAM_7201
It was our job to divide the carrots into smaller {5 pound-ish} bags that could be distributed to a family or even local soup kitchens. Because really, what single person has a need for 50 pounds of carrots!?
We had three tables {work stations}.
And we were able tackle about two full palates between us all {I don’t want to brag or anything, but our table cleared our entire palate} and we were able to fill three large containers of carrots to be distributed.SAM_7203
See, if I didn’t explain a little at the beginning, it would have sounded weird to say we un-bagged ugly carrots to bag them into smaller bags. And really, when dealing with fresh produce it is critical to get the work done quickly so that it doesn’t spoil by the time it gets distributed!
We make carrots look good!!SAM_7196
Laura—she’s the weird one. I’m telling you, these carrots could be used
as a deadly weapon—Death by carrot {haven’t seen that on CSI yet!}SAM_7207
After our volunteer shift, we had a nice tour through Harvester’s huge facility! I had even been on a tour before and I was still fascinated. The operation is huge and it helps so many people through several programs. Our guide was super sweet and answered all of our many questions.
One person asked about one of the greatest needs of Harvester’s Food Network. The one thing that our super-sweet guide mentioned was that donations and volunteers are abundant in the holiday and winter months. However, once the nice weather and summer/spring seasons come around, the donations dwindle and the need for volunteers goes down as well. Yet people go hungry all year round. This is true for food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters across the country. I just wanted to plant that in your head and maybe you can brainstorm a way to make a different and find some ways to donate this spring and summer!
Be sure to check out Harvester’s volunteer page and plan a time to come spend a few hours making a difference. Regardless of the season, your work will impact the community in a positive way!!

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