By Maureen McNair
Anna Kelley, a Senior at San Diego State University, has been volunteering at our South Bay Food Pantry for nearly two years. “I was looking for ways to get out of my box and serve with others,” she said after her shift bagging donated food from Starbucks last Saturday morning.It was an hour before the food distribution actually began. Volunteers had already set up outdoor tables and bagged thousands of pounds of oranges, cabbages, potatoes, and Romaine lettuce. Anna will continue volunteering until this August because she “enjoys working with this group of people, especially the community members.” Anna is referring to the community members who receive food from our pantry on Saturday morning, but come early to volunteer to sort and bag fresh produce and move boxes of dry goods indoors. Those community members vary each week. However, the pantry has an increasingly steady ﬂow of clients who also form part of the backbone of our volunteer team. To protect their privacy, they are not identified in this blog.
In August, Anna is moving to College Station, TX where she will attend Texas A&M to work on her PhD in Sociology. Meanwhile, Anna has been bringing her father, Mark Kelley, to volunteer too. Mark, who lives in La Mesa, is a San Diego County Deputy Sheriﬀ. Mark paused from carrying boxes of tuna inside to say he volunteers at our pantry because of “Jesus’ command to love one another. This is a way to fulfill that command.”
Manny and Lety Reyes, a newly retired civil engineer and kindergarten teacher, live in Chula Vista with their five children and have been regularly volunteering at the pantry for at least a year. Lety, a devout Catholic who attends Mass every morning, first learned about our pantry from a Facebook post. Lety volunteers because of Christ’s command to “Love thy neighbor.” She is setting down a plastic bin that needs to be wiped down with spray cleaner. Now that they are retired, Lety and Manny have been traveling some, but volunteer most weekends “to take advantage of my time to make a diﬀerence in other’s lives. The need is there,” said Lety. Manny, who continued to volunteer while Lety recovered from injuries from a bicycle accident, says, “I love helping people. People have been great here.” Manny is right. Pantry volunteers work with a good ﬂow. They know the various tasks and ﬁnd it easy to incorporate another pair of helping hands.
Former FUUSD church member Sophia Lopez-Zimmer brings her two sons to volunteer Saturday mornings. They meet the 7:30 AM delivery truck from Feeding San Diego. Then, they start carrying boxes of dry goods indoors. Sophia sets up the produce bagging protocol for the morning. Calculating how many pounds of each type of produce each client will receive is a task that has to be done in the moment. We never know what food we will receive until the door to the delivery truck opens.
Andres, a junior at the University of San Diego, held four boxes of canned goods, paused and said he gets up early Saturday mornings to do this work because “it’s the right thing to do to help people less fortunate than myself. Hunger is something that doesn’t aﬀect all people equally.” Sophia’s youngest son, Santiago, a high school student, says he volunteers because “it’s a tangible way to help people in person.” Santiago also helps Sophia on Saturday mornings pick up donated food from a local Chula Vista grocery store.
“There is such need to help alleviate food insecurity,” Sophia said while she looked up from the food delivery invoice. The South Bay Food Pantry is located on the west side of Chula Vista in a neighborhood with high incidents of poverty. Even though Sophia resigned her membership at FUUSD a few years ago, she drives her two sons from Escondido to Chula Vista on Saturday mornings because she supports “UU values and the community here is fantastic.” Sophia is not alone in her observation. Even though many of our neighbors are struggling financially, we are settled in a charmed neighborhood where there are strong community bonds.
Our community volunteers come from all over San Diego. They keep coming back regardless of where they live and regardless of their religion because our South Bay Food Pantry continues to be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Thank you for your continued support!
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