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A new perspective on volunteering

Let’s face it; hunger is an overwhelming problem in our community. Here at United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, we try to combat food insecurity by holding ten monthly Mobile Food Pantry (MFP) distributions. Now, I am sure you are thinking, what in the world is a mobile food pantry?? The MFP is a refrigerated truck that holds up to 5,000 pounds of food. The goods on the truck range from fresh produce to different types of protein. The ultimate goal is to feed families for a week. The truck travels to ten different locations throughout New London County and feeds an average of 1,000 households a month.

The Mobile Food Pantry is truly unlike any work of production I have ever seen before. Ever since I began working at United Way, people have asked me, why you are so passionate about helping the community? One way I easily answer this question is by explaining the opportunity I was given to get involved and work at one of the MFP sites. This was my first time putting on my “LIVE UNITED” T-shirt and I learned so much. 

First, you learn a lot about the community you live in when you are face to face with the members who are in need. These people are not bad people; they are not individuals with the same story; they are everyday people. They are moms, dads, employees, veterans, elders, coworkers, grandparents, etc. As I stood helping the Mobile Food Pantry move along, which was amazing in itself, I felt something different inside of me that I have never felt before. I paused for a second, took a good look around, and realized what I was feeling was an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I felt it coming from myself, but also coming from every person around me. From the endless “thank yous” that fluttered around the truck to the everyday conversations that spanned from the High School baseball game that took place the night before to sharing kale recipes, everyone was grateful for one reason or another.

I realized that volunteering is not just about going out to do a task to help out the community. It is, in fact, becoming the community. Although these families are in need, it was not a depressing place to be as one would assume. In fact, it was probably one of the happiest places I have been in a long time. Everyone, for one reason or another, was smiling. That is what this community is all about. It is about taking bad situations and making them positive; it is about uplifting each other and giving each other the confidence to smile no matter what position you are in. Volunteering at the Mobile Food Pantry was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It gave me a new sense of belonging and made me remember why this community is so great.