focused on peripheries

In theory I am in California to participate in my jobternship. Other volunteer opportunities should be peripheral, filler. However, during the two-week interim between my arrival and the commencement of my jobternship, I focused on those additional items. I will continue to participate in them as I am able during my jobternship.

Love I.N.C.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my grandparents had located a non-profit organization where I could volunteer. At Love I.N.C. – Love In the Name of Christ – I spend my hours arranging the first quarter newsletter.
Love I.N.C. is an organization that, in a perfect world, would take calls from people in need and refer them to churches or other organizations with programs to meet their need. Instead of Love I.N.C. having a food pantry or free beds to give away, they would refer people to the churches that would. Of course, this is not a perfect world, so Love I.N.C. here does sometimes provide items such as beds or coats but also refers people to some churches that do indeed provide items or services like soup kitchens. Love I.N.C. is a clearing house that helps churches help people. With all of the help they offer, Love I.N.C. requires both volunteer, prayer, and financial support. For that to happen, the people must be educated! That is where I ride in on my amicable horse, newsletter in hand.
On my first day, January 25th, Mr. Parsons, the passionate executive director, supplied me with a template for the newsletter on Word, and we overviewed content goals for the newsletter. With ideas and some content with which to commence constructing the newsletter, I stared to wrestle with the stubbornly immutable template. Since then, I have returned to Love I.N.C. twice to work on the newsletter for about two hours each time. Mr. Parsons and I always discuss my suggestions and his corrections and additions before I glue my face to the computer screen to type up lists of volunteer names and compose little paragraphs detailing ways to donate to Love I.N.C. It has been enjoyable watching the newsletter come together thus far.

Food Pantry
The food pantry at church is my other regular volunteer position. Every Friday from 1pm to 3:30pm, I take the papers from the intake workers, remove the paper clips, put the weekly forms in a stack, place the permanent files in an alphabetized organizer, call the food recipients’ names, and introduce them to the stockroom workers to whom I give their name and the number of people in their household. That list makes my job sound much more complicated than it really is. I am just a little step in a gloriously well-organized, reasonably efficient, food-providing system.
Long before I arrive, volunteers – some of which stay the whole day Friday and help with everything – unload food trucks and pack and shelve 75 to 100 large paper grocery bags full of food. These bags do not all contain the same quantity of food; those labeled with a yellow dot are for single people; ones labeled with a blue dot are for families of five or more people, and so on. Fresh fruits and vegetables, if some are available on the given day, are set up outside. In a long outdoor breezeway – which turns into a wind tunnel on chilly, blustery days – folding chairs are lined up along the walls. People begin to line up long before our 1pm opening time. Around 12:45 we open up the seating area. Every person receives a number and an information form to fill out. Kirk collects the forms and brings inside to the processing area. One of my fellow paper-filing ladies finds the files of returning persons in the filing cabinets and creates files for new people. She hands the stapled papers to Carol who reviews the form filled out just for the day, compares it to the permanent file, and writes a note so the intake person will know what items on the form, such as monthly income or name spelling, to confirm. Kirk takes the forms back outside and returns with the corresponding people. Each person sits down with an intake worker who checks the items Carol has suggested, inquires if anything has changed in the person’s situation since their last visit, and prays for them if they would like. The intake worker hands the file and the person’s laminated number card to me. I place the number in my number pile and proceed with the rest of my job. The two and a half hours pass by quite quickly.

Crab Feed
Though it was only a one-time event, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club Crab Feed Fundraiser must be included in my summary of my non-jobternship endeavors. Jay, one of my grandparents’ friends from church recruited me, on the recommendation of Grandpa, to help him with the crab feed. He was in charge of the servers for most of the tables at the 550-person dinner. I was the his second in command.
I arrived, as requested, at the Boys and Girls Club’s kitchen at 4:30pm. Jay was not there. So, I helped line bread baskets with paper napkins and fill bowls with sour cream. I and the other volunteers ate our share of the supper – bread, salad, baked potato, and crab, in that order – around 5pm. Between 5:30 and 6:45, Jay and I wrote down the names of the volunteers, mostly teenagers, as they arrived and assigned them to tables on a master plan of attack. At 6:45 precisely Jay gave out instructions to the mass of servers. I passed around the master plan board so people could view their table assignments. Everyone lined up in preparation to take out the bread, which they did at 7:00 exactly.
During the first fifteen minutes or so of the dinner I answered the occasional question from the servers and kept an eye on the counter stocked with a few extra bowls each of butter, sour cream, lemon slices, and cocktail sauce, plus napkins. As the servers brought out the salad, I noticed the stock of butter was waning with disturbing rapidity. It then occurred to me that the baked potatoes were slated to be served momentarily. That meant people would want butter, lots and lots of butter. I grabbed the first knife I could find, half of a take-away box to serve as a cutting board, some more styrofoam bowls, a 4-pound chunk of butter, and began furiously slicing little pats of butter. Within ten minutes I had already fallen behind. A five-server line formed next to me, all of them waiting for butter for their table. Then we ran out of sour cream. I shoved the butter and knife at Jay and ran for the gallon jars of sour cream in the walk-in kitchen. I slopped sour cream into small bowls and shoved them at the waiting servers for five minutes, until the gym full of diners must have finally been sour cream saturated and the demand slowed to a trickle. For the rest of the evening until my 8:45 departure, I contented myself with keeping the supply corner stocked with piles of napkins and little sanitizing wipes for the messy crab eating. It was a fun, crazy evening.

Besides continuing to work on the newsletter at Love I.N.C. and the food pantry, I am looking forward to another fundraiser dinner. Jay, one of his granddaughters, and I will be cooking the Valentine’s Dinner, a fundraiser for the youth group, at church on the 11th. We will be cooking and serving stuffed pork loin with a side, stuffed flank steak with new potatoes, a salad of some sort, and baked apples for dessert. I cannot wait! These peripheries are fun, fun!


One comment

  1. Wow! You are going to it! Sounds as if you are enjoying most everything. So glad something is working out for you. Maybe you’ll get to help cook some of the Valentine’s meal. Have fun!!! Love, Grandma M.

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