Southwest Diaries – Days 4 & 5

A group of dedicated DPCers headed out west again this year to help at the Food Pantry in Gallup, New Mexico. What follows are some first-hand accounts of their journey as it unfolds. Let’s follow along and send prayers together as they help those in need! And don’t forget to check out our Fall Mission Challenge for all sorts of ways you and the whole family can Give Back and Get Involved!

Day 4 – Communications from Mark Vandersall and Laura Mendelson:

Today was another beautiful, sunny day here in Gallup and a very productive one at the Pantry.  Several of us were involved in the usual “production line” task of filling shopping carts for clients: adding the commodity boxes, frozen meat products, lettuce, apples, nectarines, potatoes, 3 gallons of milk, crackers, and bread, but also including 3 bricks of cheddar cheese, 3 lbs of butter, frozen soups (two types), and frozen turkey corn dogs.  The latter were actually repacked by a crew at the beginning of the day, opening up large boxes and placing 10 corn dogs at a time into gallon ZipLock bags, along with a label indicating the contents and the nutrition facts.

The clients show up early and we seemed to have a surge in the number of clients around mid-morning, to the point that we were just able to keep up with refilling the 10 available carts.  The entire process feels almost choreographed, and it is wonderful to experience how everyone works together so well, with each person taking the lead on certain tasks, but all helping out as needed.  By mid-afternoon, all of the meat products and produce had been distributed and the Pantry staff closed the doors for the day.

More from Day 4 as Amy Edenson checks in:

Today marked my fourth day at the community food pantry.  By now the pantry feels like a second home.  I can’t believe all that we have accomplished.

We’ve bagged tons of produce – apples, peaches, potatoes. We’ve made up bags for kids with nutritional snacks and lunch items.  We’ve made up boxes of dry staples for the family pick up and bagged frozen foods for the pic up as well.  We’ve also made up 25 and 50 pound emergency boxes out of dry goods that were prevented from being sold at grocery stores because the boxes were slightly crushed or the packaging was otherwise imperfect.  By now, our backs have become sore, but that doesn’t diminish our spirit. 

We start the day with lots of energy, but as the day wears on, our pace slows a bit until finally it’s time to quit.  Today we were treated to a wonderful chicken meal by the board members of the pantry.  We also took a group picture and we’re given pantry t-shirts, mugs, and some homemade chokecherry jam.  Yum!  The pantry is truly a community operation of caring and concern for those who struggle to keep their family fed.  Each individual worker and volunteer is committed to making the pantry a success.  They have been the best people with which to share this opportunity. I have enjoyed this experience immensely and hope to return to Gallup in the future.

Finally, Mary Lee offers her thoughts as this year’s trip comes to a close on Day 5:

It is hard to believe we have come to the end of our time at the Pantry … but we have.  Today we spent the morning getting protein bags ready for the first food distribution next week and packing many more Food for Kids bags.  Today several of the staff took food distribution boxes to Navajo, a small town about an hour and a half north of Gallup, making it possible for those without transportation to receive much needed food.

Hilda shared that from Monday through Thursday, we helped the Pantry give out almost 49,000 pounds of food – 15,000 pounds was fresh fruits and vegetables which we packed.  Without our help, the staff would have only been able to distribute about 16,000 pounds!  In addition, we prepared almost 2 weeks of Food for Kids bags, and got other items ready for distribution next week.

After lunch, we headed back to Albuquerque, a trip that was much easier than the one last Sunday.  Leaving the Pantry was certainly difficult, as the staff have become friends, but it was rewarding to know we were finally able to help, giving them just a bit of respite from the constant work they do for so many of God’s people in need of food.  We are looking forward to our next trip to the Pantry for sure!