Back in December, a member of our Food Bank team reflected on an awesome experience she had while representing Northern Illinois Food Bank at a holiday food drive in the Rockford area. A month later, we’re still so inspired by this story that we want to share it. The story beautifully reveals the selflessness and caring nature that all our supporters and volunteers possess.
We believe that no one should be hungry in Northern Illinois.
This is our vision statement here at the Food Bank. We raise funds, work with our community partners, organize programs, raise awareness and drive thousands of miles each year to ensure the hundreds of thousands of hungry neighbors across our service area have access to the nutritious foods they deserve and need in order to thrive. We’ve heard it, we’ve said it – but more importantly we live it, breathe it, and work it each day. It is our unifying rallying cry and mantra.
All 120 of our staff work at the Food Bank because there is a specific reason, unique to each of us, that makes solving hunger a cause we believe in. However, since we don’t always have the chance to participate in direct service within our roles at the Food Bank, we don’t always have a chance to see the impact of the work we do.
This story perfectly exemplifies our vision in action. The experience reminded me that the work I do, the work we and our partners do – no matter how big or small – has the potential to be truly life changing for the people we serve.
Early in December…
I attended a large food drive at the Freeport mall coordinated by local TV station WREX and a group of local food pantries. Around lunchtime, when our tables were overflowing with food donations we had received that morning, an older gentleman approached the tables. One of the volunteers greeted him, and in very broken English, the man asked how much one of the items was. They kindly explained to him this was a food drive.
As the volunteer continued to speak with this nice man, he revealed to us that he had been a refugee for years – most of his life, in fact. He’d lived in Germany, Paris, England, New York, and now Chicago. He shared that he is currently living in Freeport and is struggling to make ends meet.
I was moved by his story, but what happened next amazed me more.
After several of the very kind and patient volunteers spent a few minutes communicating with him, they did something completely unexpected. Even though this was a food drive, a couple of the pantry directors proceeded to put together a box of food on the spot for this man to take home. They also gave him a list of places nearby where he could find help, including where he could get food in the future. Their kindness was unconventional, extraordinary, and inspiring.
This shows why I work at the Food Bank.
This man is why I do what I do. These amazing people in our community rallied around a neighbor in need; even through a language barrier, they were able to help. Seeing this unfold before my eyes reminded me that what we do matters. It also gave me hope for the New Year ahead.