A small, but committed, team of volunteers arrive at the Jesse Brown V.A. early every Tuesday morning in order to ensure that veterans in need will leave later that day with a month’s worth of groceries. Like a well-oiled machine, the volunteers jump into action upon arrival. Someone is double bagging plastic bags and filling the carts, or unloading and arranging dozens of loaves of bread or repackaging produce into portion sizes. Someone is greeting the veterans and handing out numbers in line, or collecting boxes at the check-out table or filling coolers with eggs and meat. Every job is different, but essential. However, the volunteer force is small and the need is great.
For the past few months, Elks Scholar Fellow Sancy Childers and I have been serving at the Jesse Brown V.A. client choice food pantry every week. The food pantry is a collaboration with Chicago Food Depository and AmeriCorps and is focused on instilling dignity and restoring health to veterans in need. Every week, at least 150 veterans come through the line and “shop” for groceries with the assistance of a dedicated volunteer. For the veterans, it’s a great way to stock up on food for the month. For the volunteers, it’s a rewarding chance to converse with a veteran and remind them that they matter.
During the Summer Elks Scholar Service Trip, we spent a day serving at the food pantry and one of the participants, 2016 Legacy scholar, Megan Uren, told me that she wished personal shopping was a career because it was the most fun she had ever had. Later she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed serving at the Jesse Brown food pantry. I loved being able to connect with the veterans.”
The food pantry is currently in between coordinators and the volunteer force is low. As Elks scholars and members, we want to be faithful supporters of the program by showing up every week to volunteer. Whether you are able to help with set-up from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. or work the food pantry from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or volunteer the whole time, your contribution will make a difference.
You will be more than a volunteer. You will be reminding veterans that they will never be forgotten, that their sacrifice is appreciated and that their well-being is of utmost importance.
For more information about what a typical Tuesday looks like, click here to read a blog post by Sancy. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer, please email me at JennaJ@elks.org.