LIT­TLE PANTRY SCORES BIG­GER ON IM­PACT ON LIVES

Rappahannock News - - FROM PAGE ONE -

Lily grew up in Rap­pa­han­nock. “It took mov­ing to the West Coast to truly ap­pre­ci­ate what a won­der­ful place the county is, and I feel so blessed to be able to call it home again now that I’ve re­turned to raise a fam­ily.” She put her ca­reer plans on hold and her hus­band gave up a higher pay­ing job with er­ratic hours on nights and week­ends for a class­room teacher’s post with pre­dictable fam­ily time.

Lily is a 20-some­thing full­time mom with a tod­dler and she’s preg­nant with the cou­ple’s se­cond child. “Un­til our chil­dren start school, we’re a one-salary fam­ily, and for us, the pantry has truly been a life­saver! I nearly dis­solved into tears the first af­ter­noon I sorted through or­ganic veg­gies, lo­cal eggs and other won­der­ful do­na­tions to feed my fam­ily in the week to come.

“And they are all so friendly!” Lily con­tin­ued. “I en­joy my trips to the pantry as much as my one-year-old does, and some­times I learn a new way to use some­thing or­di­nary, like cream of mushroom soup. I was never good at plan­ning a weekly menu,” she ac­knowl­edged. “I used to waste a lot, but now, as soon as I get home, I go through my goodie box and get cre­ative! I keep a well­stocked, or­ga­nized kitchen, and it makes me feel like I'm so much more pro­duc­tive.”

For ex­am­ple, with items near the end of shelf life, Lily joins forces with her hus­band. They cre­ate a huge casse­role from ev­ery­thing that needs to be cooked, di­vide it into smaller por­tions and freeze it. "That way we don't get sick of left­overs and can en­joy a meal at our leisure. It’s great when we aren't in the mood to cook. That’s my fa­vorite sur­prise: ‘Look, honey, there's a casse­role in the freezer!’

“Ev­ery­one leaves the pantry smil­ing,” Lily said of her ex­pe­ri­ence there.

And that ap­plies to vol­un­teers as well as cus­tomers. Ful­fill­ing. Grat­i­fy­ing. Heart­warm­ing. Those are the ad­jec­tives they choose to de­scribe ser­vice at the Food Pantry as one of Mimi’s min­ions. They are all be­liev­ers that vol­un­teerism helps pay their rent for liv­ing on the planet. Cer­tainly, they’re do-good­ers, but they’d be the first to ad­mit that ca­ma­raderie, shared laugh­ter and the sure knowl­edge that they are help­ing to make a dif­fer­ence turn the work into fun.

Joanne Tep­per, a re­tired nurse who vol­un­teers at the Food Pantry and the Free Clinic, puts it best. She wants ev­ery leg­is­la­tor in Rich­mond to work a shift at both the clinic and the pantry. “Then maybe they’d un­der­stand the needs. I’m as­tounded at how our peo­ple keep plug­ging away with the bur­dens they have,” she said. “We are awed and hum­bled by their strength and for­ti­tude.”

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