What I’ve learned after seventeen years as the director of the Renewal Food Bank is that every family that comes to us has a story. No matter what circumstances first bring them here, what I have found to be most important is how they are first received. Making them feel welcomed and respected will go a long way in easing the stress and often the humiliation they feel in having to enter a food bank. I want to share two of those stories of families that we have served.
Maria first came to the food bank around 2011. She had heard about us from her sister who was also a client of Renewal. She would come regularly every week, and always by herself. She is married and has two children. She was always appreciative for the food she received, and would thank us each week. We came to learn from Maria that her husband was an auto mechanic who had been out of work for some time. He would get part-time work off and on but nothing full time that would cover the family’s needs. Maria shared with us that her husband was opposed to her using a food bank. She said he was too proud to have his family come to a food bank. For the welfare of her family she decided they needed the help we offered. Maria is one of the few stories for which we are allowed to witness an end to our ministry to her family. In the spring of last year, her husband got a full time job as a mechanic! Maria has not needed the assistance of Renewal since last year.
My second story is about Anna. Anna came to the United States in the early 1990’s. She and her husband emigrated from Russia. At the time of their arrival to the US, both Anna and her husband were in their early sixties. They had emigrated here because they had two adult children who lived in the Seattle area. They moved into a government-subsidized apartment in Bellevue. Their total income was about $1,000 per month! They began using the food bank soon after we opened in 1998. The food they received from us was vital. It helped supplement what food they could afford to purchase. Anna’s husband passed away about eight years ago. She still lives in the same small apartment and now nearly eighty years old, she still drives to our food bank every week.
With the great majority of our clients we never know the outcome of our work. Many families come and go. Those we no longer see, we can only hope their situation has improved and that is why we no longer see them. All we can do is minister to them by not only meeting their physical need for food but try and meet their emotional need of being treated with dignity and respect each time they come through our doors.