LITTLE PANTRY SCORES BIGGER ON IMPACT ON LIVES
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.”