Veterans, their spouses and their children are among the 7,000 families turning to Marion-Polk Food Share for help each month. Consider joining me as a Sustainer Circle supporter for Marion-Polk Food Share. See the PS in Rachel's letter to see why to do it now.
[Photo: A photo of the author of and her children, Audrey and Grayson,]
"Good afternoon! This is Rachel."
That's how I answer the phone whenever it rings at my desk. Most days the calls I receive are related to the Sustainer Campaign, events and general giving.
One Thursday afternoon in June my phone rang and on the other end was a young father named Kevin* asking about how to get emergency food. This wasn't an unusual call; I had received a few of these too. In most cases I had been able to find the information, but on that day, Kevin was asking about getting a food box delivered. You see, he was a Veteran who had been disabled in the most recent Iraq war and could no longer drive. He was a stay at home dad with three children ages 2, 3 and 13. I told Kevin I would get him in contact with a colleague who was more knowledgeable about our partner agencies and could find the right one to deliver.
Now, this would usually be the end of my involvement, however, my phone rang again. It was Kevin. He had reached a voicemail messgage which said my colleague was going to be out of the office until Monday. Kevin, on the verge of tears, said he didn't think his family could make it that long and he began to elaborate on his story. Kevin hadn't just been wounded in Iraq - he had been shot in the head. This devastating injury had left him with a seizure disorder, rendering him unable to work or drive. In fact, they didn't even own a car. His wife was a student and worked part-time. They were struggling to say the least.
He expressed shame for needing to call and ask for help. Eventually, he broke down, calling himself a "scumbag" and crying. I told him not to worry - we are here to help. Kevin apologized for his breakdown.
As he spoke, I could hear a young child crying in the background. Kevin asked if there was any way we could get them some milk. He told me his youngest son was crying because he wanted milk and they didn't have any for him.
As a mother of two young children (ages 8 months and 2 years), I was deeply affected by his situation. I told him that I wasn't nearly knowledgeable enough about our member agencies to be able to get him set up with the appropriate one, but we would get him help.
I took his phone number and hung up. Thankfully our Vice President of Operations was already in my office; I couldn't have had a better person available to lend a hand. He immediately headed down to our warehouse. Please understand, we don't distribute food to individuals directly from our warehouse, so this was going above and beyond. While the food box was being assembled in our warehouse, I called Kevin back to let him know we were getting food gathered and would be sending someone to his house.
"Grateful" doesn't even come close to expressing how Kevin felt when I told him we would be helping. But I had a nagging feeling. This man, his family and their situation had struck a chord with me. I needed to do something more. Before heading to my baby-sitter's house to pick up my children, I stopped by the grocery store. I knew KEvin and his family would be set up with a very complete food box, but I wanted to do more. I picked up a few of those things that we don't always have on hand: fresh chicken, fresh fruit, eggs, cheese and ice cream sandwiches (the kids needed something fun to put a smile on their faces).
After making my own delivery, I left their home feeling that I had done everything I could to help this family. I also left with a sense that I now understood exactly how important Marion-Polk Food Share is, how important my job is and how important the Sustainer Circle is.
Kevin was brave enough to ask for help. You can help answer the call from heroes in need by joining Marion-Polk Food Share's Sustainer Circle. If you want more information about the Sustainer Circle, please give me a call at 503-581-3855 ext. 309. I would be happy to answer your questions or help get you started.
Marion-Polk Food Share
P.S. Your gift will go twice as far if you join the Sustainer Circle today! Your 1st three monthly gifts will be matched by the Collins Foundation. There's $75,000 at stake for hungry local families.
*Name has been changed.