Last week, we served 119 families, and 20% of them were new to the Storehouse. That’s 23.8 families!! Probably more like 23 or 24. That’s a lot! We served 111 this week. And again, a lot of those families were new. I always wonder and usually want to know how some of them ended up in the Storehouse.
And most of them are women. Women I don’t know. And so I need a opening line, something to break the ice, something that doesn’t sound too intrusive for a stranger to walk right up and say. So, I’ve settled on,
“How did you hear about us?”
It’s a safe question. So safe, in fact, that clients never give the short answer. They never just say, “A friend,” or some other agency. They start right into their story. I just lost my job, my fiancé is in jail, I’ve got custody of my grandkids. The stories are varied, but have one distinct thing in common... We’re suddenly in deep need.
One of our new clients had come with his dad. He and his family had relocated from Texas. His dad suddenly had 5 more people to feed. During registration, the dad, late 60s, explained they didn’t know a thing about getting help at pantries. They’d never been to one, or ever thought they would. The client’s wife had found a job, and he was looking. He would have applied online for a job at Goodwill, but he still had 14 pins in his right forearm. And a metal bar on the outside. That would come off in a couple of weeks. Then he could get a job.
He’d been run off the road in Texas. On a mountain road. When a couple of trees stopped his car, his forearm was shattered, as well as his right orbital bone, the one around the eye, which now holds its own surgical hardware.
After shopping, our clients go to their vehicles and drive around to the back parking lot. When they arrive, we take their groceries out and load them into their cars. Often, the shopper is not the driver, or two shoppers are riding in one car. In that case, one shopper will wait at the door. That’s where I found a lady yesterday morning.
Her head was down as she was reading through a book. It’s a little book. It’s the one the check-out volunteers, who also pray for clients, give away to shoppers before they leave. It’s the book of John; written for the purpose of introducing the reader to Jesus.
We talk about this moment, and these little books, with people and pastors who are interested in learning about what more we do in the Storehouse than give away food. I seized the moment and asked her if I could take her picture, as an example of that very thing, and publish it through our social media. She quickly agreed and signed a release. Then she began her story.
“My husband recently died. We were like this,” she said as she took the little book in one hand and then held them less than an inch apart. “I just miss him so, and I’ve been adrift since he left.
“I know Jesus is in my heart. I just can’t seem to get settled. And I can't wait to get home and read this all the way through.”
Our returning clients have stories too.
Last month, we broke one of our rules, when, one Thursday, a late 50s lady came to the Storehouse near the end of the day. She’s been here plenty of times, but always alone. This time, her husband was with her. He didn’t look too well. He’d just finished radiation treatments and he hasn’t very steady on his feet.
She asked how long the wait would be, and when we told her, she said they would just leave. They live outside of Conway and couldn’t wait. So we checked her in and let them shop immediately. They gushed their gratitude.
She was back yesterday and I asked how her husband was doing. She said a few months ago he’d thought he had bitten his tongue. His PCP referred him to an Ear, Nose and Throat. A week later, he was talking to an oncologist. The following week, he was in surgery.
For face and neck cancers, the teeth are removed. The integrity of the jaw is lost in the surgeries and chemo. Plus, the radiation had burned his throat. The only way he could eat was through a feeding tube. So, hydration was an issue. For over two weeks, they’d driven to UAMS every day. It was maddening. But things were better now. More calm.
She thanked me for asking about her husband.
I never get tired of hearing the stories of those we serve.
I am the Storehouse Director and get the privilege of writing about the people that Jesus loves.
Contact Mike Rush at firstname.lastname@example.org for all things "Volunteer".
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