For the past eight months, I have had the privilege of providing food, or, more accurately, helping dozens of volunteers procure and provide food, to hundreds and, annually, thousands of my neighbors.
I met a man who cares for a wife crippled with chronic illness.
I met a family whose provider is between seasonal jobs.
I met grandparents struggling to raise children at a time when they thought they would be retired.
I met a woman whose art you may recognize who is now living in her car.
I met people struggling with mental illness. You see some of them on the streets.
Have people told me stories that I don’t believe? Occasionally.
The point is this: as soon as we start making judgments, as soon as we start deciding which person or which class of persons we are going to throw out of the lifeboat, we are sliding down a slope that ends up in a very unhealthy and unhappy place.
So let’s not go there.
Instead, let’s go here: Last week, one of our volunteers at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank pulled this note out of our client suggestion box:
My suggestion is that more of the world be as kind as you are.
That person was right. Kindness is much more appropriate (and healthy, and fulfilling) than the opposite.
If you have any doubts, come volunteer a few hours at Ashland Emergency Food Bank. You will go home with your own portfolio of touching, heartwarming stories.
So here’s the pitch you have been waiting for: For more than four decades, AEFB has provided food to residents of Ashland and Talent. Each month, 450-500 families composed of approximately 1,200 individuals receive food from Ashland Emergency Food Bank. Our clients include the unemployed, under-employed, working poor, students, seniors, homeless and categories you can’t even imagine. Forty percent are children. Each family receives enough groceries to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for two to three days. In addition to serving people who visit the Food Bank, AEFB distributes food to other community organizations, including Uncle Foods Diner, St. Vincent de Paul and the Catalyst and Maslow Programs at Ashland High School.
Who is AEFB? It’s all of us. Just this week, for example, Ashland Middle Schoolers collected more than 600 pounds of food to stock our shelves. A youth group from Salem stopped by and spent several hours sorting cans. An anonymous donor left several boxes of groceries outside our door. In the summer, the Ashland Rotary sponsors a garden that provides us with fresh fruits and vegetables and other local gardeners supply us with extra bounty.
A dozen faith-based organizations contribute time, money and volunteers to keep the place running. Volunteers from the community at large open our doors and welcome our clients. Ashland Food Project’s magical green bag drives comprise more than a third of our total contributions. (AEFB receives no ongoing government support.)
But Ashland Emergency Food Bank itself is homeless, sort of.
After being forced to move from rented properties twice in the past five years, AEFB is looking to establish a permanent home. Our Board of Directors has initiated a capital campaign to purchase our current facility at 560 Clover Lane in Ashland. The $600,000 fundraising goal will allow AEFB to buy the building and establish a reserve and maintenance fund. Our current lease with People’s Bank, which owns the building through foreclosure and whom we actually love, gives us until August 2013 to complete a purchase.
We have already raised nearly a third of our $600,000 goal. That’s a good start, but now we need support from across the community to complete the campaign and write the final check.
To kick off our capital campaign, AEFB is hosting an Open House and Pie Social on Sunday, March 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. at our site at 560 Clover Lane (across the street from the Holiday Inn Express), Ashland. Please stop by for a tour of the building, music, good fellowship, comments by State Representative Peter Buckley – and a slice of homemade pie.
You will be glad you did.