Recently, my son has been volunteering at the Rappahannock Food Pantry. In her signature, charming style, manager Mimi Forbes recruited me as well. I was already aware of this fine organization, remembering fondly the pleasure Big John Mann took in volunteering there. What an eye-opening, delightful experience it was for me, working alongside an amazing crew of dedicated volunteers serving several hundred families in Rappahannock and meeting wonderful county residents, helping them load up cartons filled with nourishment. I came home from that first day with a bright smile on my face.
I write to you, however, because many more families are in need, and aren’t being served because they aren’t coming forward.
Perhaps I know from personal experience what is keeping hundreds of county residents from stopping by. In the not-so-distant past, my personal fortunes faded rather abruptly. The economy brought my once very successful little company to its knees. I considered help from the Pantry at one point, but my pride and embarrassment kept me away. Now, having volunteered, I know that my fears were totally unfounded.
There is no judge or jury present at the Pantry; no reams of federal government forms to fill out proving need; no questioning eyes, probing and awkward, nor uncomfortable silences. So many families have fallen on hard times, some for many years, while others are what I call nouveau poor, where pride runs perhaps even more rampant. It’s perhaps our inexperience asking for help, our sense of fierce independence, our self-esteem that keeps us from reaching out for assistance. The Pantry experience lets you know that it’s not only okay to reach out – it’s welcomed.
Rather than finding bare, sterile offices, set up with bureaucratic decor, individuals and families coming to the Pantry will find a brightly lit, rather large room filled with the warm welcoming smiles of local volunteers, and shelves richly stocked with breads and cereals, grains, local fresh fruits and vegetables, meats (including venison generously donated by Hunters for the Hungry), dairy, fish, poultry and eggs. The food provided is not some scraps thrown haphazardly onto shelves, but rather bountiful amounts of delicious nourishment, generous dollops of sustenance donated by myriad local and national organizations, generous individuals and businesses, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, local orchards, churches, schools, farms and restaurants.
The Food Pantry, founded in 2009 by community activist Hal Hunter, is all about Rappahannock and its residents – it’s about meeting the needs of those who have been thrown one of life’s curve balls. There are as many as 25 dedicated volunteers.
Much like the “If you build it he will come” theme from the film “Field of Dreams,” the Pantry is looking for someone to come: you.