By Becky Mentzer
This is me on food pantry days: Hurry, hurry... get there early... too much fun talking and joking and getting to know other volunteers to run in at the last minute... 12:55 works; 12:45 is better as it is 15 more minutes of fellowship to enjoy. After all, it is over so quickly, by 1:20, until the next Wednesday or Friday. Pass up bags of diapers; boxes of formula and baby food and more. There are stuffed animals to hand to the young children waiting in line with their family members. Then it is 1:00 and volunteers in the basement and on the steps start handing grocery bags full of nonperishable food up to the next one and the next and finally it is put in the hands of someone who is in need. It’s a well oiled machine! And a loving one!
When I retired from Illinois State University Honors Program, I knew I would become one of Tina’s regulars. Tina and I became acquainted when she spoke to my social justice class each time I taught it. Students learned what they take for granted – that food is not always easily obtained, that living in poverty means being hungry, that not everyone is treated with dignity though they deserve to be. When the students volunteered at Loaves and Fishes and at Clare House, they gained an appreciation for those caught up in the social justice issues we had been discussing in class – and they were challenged to become more aware and to move from awareness to action. And I couldn’t have been more proud of the ways they did this. I think of my class and my students every time we have ISU or IWU students come to volunteer and I know they, too, are learning life lessons on the steps at Clare House.
Thank you, Tina, for being the kind soul you are. What a wonderful outreach to the hungry in our community. What a powerful way to act on what Jesus taught – feed the hungry. Yes, already just a couple of months into being part of a group of Clare House volunteers, I feel welcomed and one of the crazy crew. And what a dedicated and fun bunch they are. Oh my gosh, I love this place, hugs to all of