Today, I was suddenly struck by a few ideas about helping out some struggling families here in my very own neighborhood. Since I was about 14, I have wanted to work in a soup kitchen or volunteer to help the homeless and hungry, and I have always been discouraged from doing so due to the potential dangers involved. When I was young, I trusted the people who were telling me to ignore the desire to help and instead took to donating to food pantries and the like. It was only a few years later that my life shifted to the all-consuming task of motherhood, so my plans to help others were shelved as I tried just to get us through.
Well, my life is a vastly different world now. While we don’t have a lot, we are making ends meet, and I do not take that for granted. We don’t live in an affluent area, but we live in a great neighborhood. I am constantly amazed by the goodness and generosity of my neighbors. When a neighbor completely lost his home due to a fire, a fund-raiser was organized and more money was raised than anyone expected. When another neighbor’s car was hit and the driver took off, witnesses from the whole block arrived and waited, in the cold, for the police to come. The owner of the car hadn’t seen the driver, and I can only hope that the witnesses allowed the police to track down the person who caused the damage.
Still, there are people who are hurting. There are families struggling to pay for groceries with barely more that $100 a month to feed 3 or 4 of them. There are several elderly residents in our neighborhood who aren’t able to get to the store often. Those who are may not be able to afford or prepare the meals with the nutrition that would keep them healthy.
So, here are the ideas I have bouncing around.
1. Host a pot-luck style dinner at the neighborhood community center. Either have people prepare and bring a dish or donate food to be prepared for other neighbors in need.
2. Host a food pantry at the community center with donated food.
3. Use donated foods to put together meals for families who request them. I know that sometimes food pantries provide odds & ends and that can make it difficult for families to assemble meals. So instead of giving them random things, give them a pound of ground beef, tortillas, taco seasoning, refried beans, etc. Or ground beef with a box of Jiffy cornbread, a packet of instant potatoes and some macaroni.
I keep coming back to idea #3. Over time, it could easily be combined with #1. Plus, it just keeps rolling around in my mind. I could send out a flyer to ask both for donations and for the names & addresses of the families who would want help and how many people they are needing to feed. This would save the families from having to show up if they were embarrassed. Plus, I could include a few recipes that would use the ingredients included.
Next year, I could even include some of the veggies and herbs I hope to grow in my garden! It would be free for me and a great way to give back.
What do you think?
Here are my concerns:
1. I worry there are more families that would need help than I would ever be able to. I might have to turn people down and that would break my heart.
2. I am afraid a bad seed might think that because we are offering to help that it means we are somehow wealthy, and that might lead to negative consequences.
3. I am not good at follow-through, honestly. My family comes first–above anyone else and anyone else’s family. It’s just how I am. Even in small ways, like not returning calls or not showing up for things that I don’t feel are important, I know I can let people down. This task would be entirely on my shoulders…and we’re having a baby in June. I would either need help or I would need to wait until after Baby #3 arrives and we are settled.
I don’t have a car, so I can’t take people to the doctor or store. I cannot build anything…well, no one would want me to. I don’t do so well with manual labor-being very short and rather round at the moment. But I know food. I love food, and I feed a growing family on $300 a month with tons of variety.
I know that this is something I can do. I feel passionate about it. I am super organized. My mom is ah-mazing at finding random resources…I also know people would be relying on me, and I would have to dedicate fully to this.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Feedback?