Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where Do I Start?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
By: Marie Jachino
Executive Director
Elk Grove Food Bank Services

Unprecedented need is overwhelming

Several folks, especially our newest Board Member, Kris Vogt have asked me why I haven’t posted on the blog yet. It isn’t that I’ve been too busy, although this certainly is the time of the year when I am running full speed. Our Sixth Annual Run 4 Independence fundraiser is just around the corner on Saturday, July 3, 2010 and the need for food, clothing and other direct services is increasing each week at the Food Bank.

Each night, as I’ve sat down at my computer, I simply don’t know what to say or where to start? Do I tell you about all the phone calls or the people who came by the Food Bank who needed food or clothing? Or do I tell you about the increase of homeless individuals who are coming to us for help that are sacred-- really scared-because they have never been homeless before. Do I tell you about the team of volunteers who work on our Mobile Pantry program to help struggling farm workers and their families in south Franklin. Do I describe the looks of panic, embarrassment, guilt and sorrow I see on the faces of people lined up at the food bank waiting for food?

Today, I’ll start with the facts. There has been an 80 percent increase in the number of people showing up at the Food Bank since 2008 from the Elk Grove area. We are seeing an influx of first-time clients. The increased demand is stressful on our operations.

So, those are the facts, no sugar coating, just a real problem happening in our own backyard. They’re regular people with the same basic needs as you and me. Passers-by can’t pinpoint their struggle, but it is very real. Every day I search for hope—in food drive donations that trickle in, and the generosity from our many donors giving whatever they can. And, in the faces of the hundreds of volunteers, who give of their time and talents to serve those in need.

I spent yesterday out of the office with clients, Erin and Mary. They come in about twice a month for food and bottled water to share with their dogs. These ladies and their three small dogs are homeless. They’ve been living on the streets of Elk Grove in their car for the past seven months—moving from parking lot to parking lot, looking for a safe place to stay.

I enjoy talking with both Erin and Mary and feel like we are friends. They have both touched my life and made my hectic day more enjoyable. My hectic day doesn’t even hold a candle to some of the obstacles our clients face. I really can’t even begin to imagine how they feel, but I want you to take a journey with me and see in future writings what they go through.

I spent time with a few more people. Linda and her son were signing up for food for the first time. He was holding a box of cereal—clutching it to his chest as though it was a prized possession. I’m sure to him it was.

Kay is HIV positive and a recovering addict. She kept talking about her cat being her only friend and told me about her recent birthday she spent alone.

There were so many stories that moved me and I found myself exhausted last night. But as I laid there in bed thinking about all those less fortunate in our community I had a good feeling knowing that we do our best every day at the Food Bank to help so many people in need.