Editor's note: The following submission from the Juniata County Food Pantry was distributed to area pastors and a copy made available to The Sentinel. We have opted to present it as a guest column to highlight the valuable service provided to our community by area food pantries, and to increase awareness of their great need at this time.
Dear Pastors: This month I'm not sending my regular bulletin insert. Instead I have attached a letter by my 17-year-old daughter after an incident at the Food Pantry this week. This story is, unfortunately, entirely true, and is one of many such stories that unfold daily here at the Pantry. It affected all of us deeply, and my daughter so much that she felt she had to write it down and email it to everyone in her world. I will leave it up to you how or if you want to use this information at your church. As an addendum to Caitlin's story I will add that because our baby care shelf was empty, we were not able to help this young mother as much as we should have.
For the entire year of 2011 our baby care, personal care and cleaning shelves have been empty most of the time. For the entire year I have asked, pleaded and prayed for more supplies to fill these shelves. I thank the Lord and our community that we have not run out of food for our neighbors in need, but people need other supplies to stay healthy and clean, too. I pray that with your support, 2012 will be a much better year for those who the Lord sends our way.
May the Lord Bless You - Kathy Queitzsch, Executive Director, JC Food Pantry
Jan. 24, 2012 - The phone rang at the Food Pantry. A girl needed formula for her baby - could she walk down and get some? It was all she wanted, just some baby formula, nothing else.
Where was she walking from? the volunteer at the desk asked. The next town over. The car at the house where she lived wasn't working.
IF YOU CAN HELP
Some of the local food banks in our area include:
* Mifflin County:
Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, 21 S. Main St., Lewistown, 248-8327
Hand of Grace Ministry, 205 Washington Ave., Lewistown, 247-2656
Calvary Bible Church, 100 Calvary Lane, Lewistown, 248-5409
Bible Baptist Church, 101 Beech St., Burnham, 242-1281
The Salvation Army, 9 S. Dorcas St., Lewistown, 248-8338
* Juniata County:
Juniata County Food Pantry, 114 N. Main St., Mifflintown, 436-9718
* Snyder County:
Five Barley Loaves, U.S. Route 522 between McClure and Beaver Springs, (570) 374-0181
Time passed. The volunteer told the Food Pantry director about the call, and confessed that she was worried for the girl, who seemed to be new to the area and not aware of the distance between the two towns.
Alarmed and concerned, the director immediately hunted for a way to contact the girl and make sure she was alright. It came as a great relief to find a cell phone number, and even greater relief when the girl answered.
She had made it to the Weis Market a mile away, and could go no further. Too tired. Too cold. She'd gotten lost once.
Another volunteer, who had a vehicle available, drove over to pick her up. He found her carrying her month-old newborn, and pushing her two-year-old in a stroller. She and the toddler had only light jackets for warmth. The baby was wrapped in a thin blanket, and was crying with hunger; he'd had nothing but water to drink since that morning, instead of the milk that he should have gotten every two hours.
The girl had walked at least three miles with her children. No one had stopped to offer assistance. No one had tried to help her.
After she had collected the formula she needed, the volunteer drove her back to her home: a run-down house behind a church. At least she'd be able to get warm once she was home! the volunteer said, hopefully. The girl didn't think so. It was cold there, too.
That girl was no older than eighteen. She could be me. I could be her. How could someone like this live within six miles of my home, and I remain unaware? Are there others like her? Surely - in every town in the world! We might pass someone who is cold and hungry every day on the streets of our home town, without even knowing it. We probably do.
How far the poor of our land seem to us. We don't know any of them; they mean nothing to us personally. There are charities to take care of them. Poverty is something in third-world countries.
Except it's not.
Though I have worked at that same Food Pantry for many years; though I have read all the articles and assisted at many of the food drives; it wasn't until I learned about this girl, my neighbor, whose circumstances so easily could be my own, that the truth was brought home to me:
The poor of our land are not just a few ne'er-do-wells that show up at second-hand stores and food distributions; they are people: friends, mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, sons and daughters, neighbors, who laugh and cry and love and hurt. They are cold, and hungry, and lost, and lonely, and they are as close as the next street.
But what can we do, now that we know that they are there? Moreover, what WILL we do? Will we continue to walk past them, or will we look at their faces - real faces, familiar faces, faces we can touch, faces that could be our own - and find something that we can do to make a difference?
"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11
If I had the money, I'd pay for heat for her home. If I had the time, I'd make her baby a warm, thick quilt. But I have neither of these things. What I do have is an extra coat I never wear, more fleece blankets than I need and a couple pairs of warm socks that I can share.
And I can write.
"Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, 'Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,' and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do?" James 2:14-16 LB
Most of us do not have much to give, or many things we can do, but we can always do something. A warm coat, a ride to the store, a pair of gloves, a hot meal, some soap or toothpaste, a bag of vegetables; it does not have to be much, but please, let it be something. If all you can do is send this email onward, then please do it. Even that will make a difference, because it will show others that you care. That you have a little something called compassion.
"But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him - how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. Then we will know for sure, by our actions, that we are on God's side, and our consciences will be clear, even when we stand before the Lord." 1 John 3:17-19 LB
Thank you, and God bless - Caitlin