By Maureen McNair
Every Saturday morning around 8:30 AM, a dedicated group of young adults start drifting into the pantry.
For nearly a year now, Elias Malouf, the ﬁrst young adult to volunteer at the pantry, has come in to set up tables and start bagging fresh produce. He stays for an hour, then leaves for a martial arts class.
It’s not particularly glamorous work. The young adult team has bagged tons of onions, potatoes, yams, pears, apples, oranges, tomatoes, squash, asparagus, and, lettuce. You cannot believe how many onion skins they have clean up too!
I am not exaggerating when I say they have bagged tons of produce. Some mornings, they will bag over 550 pounds each of three or four diﬀerent types of produce. They have become experts on what type of food to put in the bottom of the bag and which food is so fragile, it belongs in the top of the bag. They have ﬁgured out how to stack 160 bags full of produce on a couple rows of chairs and get them out the door to the clients who wait on the sidewalk in front of the suite we once used as a social hall.
Elias invited Lizzie, the daughter of a friend of Elias’ mom. Lizzie studies at San Diego State University. She used to have a paying job too, before covid-19.
Lizzie invited her friend Anna, who is majoring in Sociology at San Diego State University and works as a teacher’s aid.
Jude Outwater’s mom, Julie Forest, emailed me at one point asking if he could volunteer to earn college credit. Jude stayed on the morning crew past long-distance graduation from Lesley University in Boston.
Kate Collier, who graduated from an all-women’s college in the East, emailed and said she wanted to volunteer too. She and her father, Mike Collier, also pick up donations every other week from Con Pane Rustic Bread. Kate did yeoman’s work for awhile too, picking up donations from a grocery store in Chula Vista every Friday morning.
Lizzie, Anna, Jude, and Kate all stay at the pantry until the food distribution is complete too. They take turns handing out bags of shelf stable food, Starbucks food, bread, and produce to the pantry clients. Sometimes, Kate does client intake. Sometimes, Jude closes up the pantry.
They are such a great team! If these young adults did not dedicate their Saturday mornings to bagging produce, we would not be able to give produce to the pantry clients. Volunteering really is that simple. If the work doesn’t get done, the service doesn’t get provided.
A couple of other volunteers who are young at heart volunteer for the produce team too. Steve Gelb bags produce three Saturdays a month. And, a fascinating 84 year old woman from National City, Amelia, sometimes shows up to help too.
The pantry really could not operate the way it does without these reliable volunteers. Brave people too, because it was only at the beginning of this month they qualiﬁed to receive the coronavirus vaccine as food and agriculture workers.
So here’s a great big thank you to these service providers who are people who make a big diﬀerence.
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