Requests for cash for rent or medicine or diapers or food flew across my social media with increasing velocity throughout March 2020. I finally stepped away from my computer and the weight that came with watching this growing need to volunteer with Lakeview Pantry at Wrigley Field. Since then, I’ve volunteered at almost all of the Lakeview Pantry locations in a variety of roles. At each location, I find staff, volunteers, and clients who treat one another with respect and who adapt to changing needs and opportunities nimbly, trying to get as much food as possible to as many people who need it as feasible. I feel so lucky to have found a constructive use of the restless energy that was building up in the early days of the pandemic.
It is so satisfying to hear the walkie-talkie squawk the name of the Online Market client who just pulled up in front of The Hub, load the correct boxes onto a cart, and roll out the front door to an open trunk ready to be filled with food boxes. But then, every once in a while, as I lean over to load a box into the trunk, I notice an exquisitely mundane personal item in the trunk – some kid’s boots, a work uniform – that brings all of that weight back in an instant. This guy hasn’t worn that work uniform for several weeks now and he is working hard to keep it together. This box that I’m swinging into this trunk is probably his child’s best chance at having dinner the next few nights.
“This box that I’m swinging into this trunk is probably his child’s best chance at having dinner the next few nights.”
In 2020, most of my Pantry shifts began with a report of the number of people served the previous week, which was always a new high. While these reports were intended to help motivate us for the upcoming work and its importance, they never failed to overwhelm me. No matter how fast we worked, filling even more pallets than the previous week, I knew that next week we would hear even bigger numbers. So I keep signing up for shifts and filling boxes, sorting food, loading boxes, whatevering, and I keep thinking there has to be a better way.