By Sharon Peterson
I'm a Wednesday morning volunteer at Clare House and I'd like to describe what we do when we're "on duty" for the day. I'm one of the four to seven people who show up Wednesday mornings at 9:00 am to help in the basement. Downstairs the food is stored that is sacked up for the grocery bags given away to our clients on Wednesday and Friday afternoons at 1:00. There is a front and a back storage room downstairs and our first order of the day is to start in on filling the front shelves to be ready for the baggers that evening - another crew of volunteers who do the job of filling the sacks with a healthy variety of foodstuffs.
The front shelves are a bit like grocery store shelves in that they are divided up into sections: canned vegetables, fruits, protein items, soups, and dry products (cereal, pasta items, etc.). We don't take in any fresh meat or frozen goods as we have no room to store them. Along the wall to the left of this shelf is an area where we keep diapers, baby wipes, and hygiene and toiletry products. On the other side wall are shelves of pre-sorted dated products ready to fill the main center shelf as it empties out. Before anything goes on the shelves it must be checked by one of us volunteers to make sure the item is not out of date; this is done by reading the "freshness" or "use by" codes printed on the product. Unfortunately, if it is out of date or already opened up the item must be tossed out. As items are donated they are brought to the front area, where they are checked and shelved; the back room storage area is where the food that is donated at the annual Fall Fundraiser for Clare House is brought in in boxes (divided into those shelf categories mentioned earlier) and stored to be used as we need it to fill the front shelves. Some days when we arrive we need to go straight to the back room to get food to fill the front shelves - and again, the boxes must be opened and date checked before they are used. Our work is usually divided between going through boxes from the back or checking foods that are brought in that day.
When we hear the side doorbell buzz that signals the best part of our work because it means someone is there (the hours are 9:00 to 11:00 on Wednesdays) who has a donation to give. The donation may be from a church group, it may be a single person or family, a business firm or an organization, school groups from pre-school up to college age, or any other interested party. Yesterday I met with a family of five children, each carrying a plastic bag of articles we could use. When you have the opportunity to meet face to face and talk with people who are truly God's angels in helping others it is a blessing and example for each of us volunteers.
At noon we take a break and head upstairs for a wonderful lunch that Tina has made for all of us, and then we start bringing up the assorted diapers, bags of baby food, plus the baby formula and wipes that will be handed out as requested when the grocery bags are distributed. At 1:00, when the side door opens, we volunteers line up on the steps from the basement and the sacks are hoisted up from person to person to be given out at the door. By 1:30 we are usually finished. Any leftover items are stored once again in the basement - and each of the volunteers is done for the day. Wednesday is a highlight of the week for me - getting to see and visit with co-workers as we sort and store and carry donated items to the basement, sharing a meal at Tina's table, and meeting with all the good-hearted persons who come to the side door - both to give and to receive.