Give a Gift

I want to take a minute on my blog to
write a little bit about something that is very important to me. I'm
not a religious person but I was raised to believe in community,
family and putting out a hand to help others in need. Growing up I
did a lot of volunteer work and it was very influential in how I
lived my life and looked out on the world. That is, I learned to look
at the world not through a lens of pity for those who are less
fortunate than I but through a view of how can I help and what can I
do to make it better.

I was listening to NPR a few months ago
and the commentator was talking about budgets. I have a very limited
budget so I was listening closely. She started to discuss her own
personal budget and how important charity is to her and her family
and that they, in good and bad times tithe. While that's not my cup
of tea I recognized that I'd been missing something in my life in
terms of how I used to volunteer. I haven't done it in ages. So I
figured I would do something about it.

I waited and procrastinated then in
happenstance overheard a conversation about how a charity that was to
pick up groceries was no longer able to follow through on the
commitment. A light bulb went on in my head. The grocery store was on
my way home from work and there was a homeless shelter on a slight
detour from my house. I could do this as my part in volunteering.

I contacted the shelter, River St
Shelter in Beverly, MA, made sure they would accept donations if I
were to pick up and drop them off. I then contacted the store's
marketing person and scheduled a day for pick up of bread, produce,
canned goods and other assorted items. I scheduled for Mondays.

Some Mondays I have to bag the bread
myself, or box up the grocery items but many times it is ready and
waiting for me. Even when I do have to bag the items myself a bagger
is willing to help me to do it, or someone is willing to help me to
my car. It takes about 15 minutes out of my day and costs me nothing,
the store and the shelter are on my way home from work.

It gives me a great sense of
accomplishment. In one sense I'm helping take things out of the
landfill and put them into hands that can use them; but I'm also
helping to feed people who on some occasions go without. The reaction
of the residents is fantastic, the majority are veterans with substance abuse or
other mental health issues. People who have served the country in one
form or another and the VA system has failed them.

All you need to do is call a shelter,
ask them for permission and call a grocery store, caterer or
restaurant and ask if you can pick up on a particular day. Call
before you arrive to find out if the product is ready or if they have
product that day and it's as simple as that. Of course not everyone
is going to have a shelter on their way home, but you could ask if
they have a charitable organization that gets food for them where you
could drop off. It only takes 15 minutes to help someone in need. In
this time of charitable organizations losing funding it is more
important than ever that everyone get out there and help others.

Anyway. I often work 50 to 60 hours a
week, if I can do it anyone can do it. I urge anyone who reads this
post to pass this information on to other, feel free to copy and
paste this and link to this post.