Most of the volunteers, who work at Our Lady’s Pantry, work behind the scenes. They drive our trucks during the week, then unpack the food, storing it in the freezer, cooler, or on shelves. Then on Saturday, they pack boxes of non-perishables inside, while outside they carry even more nutritious foods to our clients’ cars. Largely, however, they are invisible — just a sea of friendly faces working together to share a kindness.
Greeting everyone up front, however, is our welcoming team, who are the Pantry’s first greeters. Working behind our computer and running back and forth to our clients’ cars — rain or shine — they have a chat and collect their information. Who wants to register? Who is a veteran? Who has a big family?
According to Anita, co-director of the Pantry, folks often donate all kinds of things to the Pantry besides food, “so we wrap them up and share them with our clients on Saturdays, too. Sometimes we get blankets and clothes, sometimes cosmetics, things like that,” she says.
“If children come along on Saturday, we give them the toys, if we have any, and sometimes we have cookies for them too.
“When COVID started in about March 2020, we changed our registration process to keep our clients safe.” Anita says. “Now, our clients need not get out of their cars. Instead, we go to them with a smile and a ‘good morning."
Some of our regular greeters include Alice, Anita, Hortencia, Geri, Jim, Jon, Kathy, Roberta, and Rosa.
“I love the people here,” says one client.
“Coming here makes my morning,” says another, even though she came long before the Pantry opened and has been waiting for more than an hour.
Depending on the size of their family, our greeter puts a different color tag under the windshield wiper of their car.
Once officially registered, our clients pop their trunks, roll down their windows, and wait in line to get their food.
After a few minutes, it’s their turn and the Pantry’s “traffic cop” — often Jim — is waving them forward.
“Hey guys, one extra-large coming in,” he shouts to his colleagues, noting the color of the tag under the windshield wiper of the approaching car, because extra-large families get extra food. Jim’s jovial voice booms so loudly that those of us inside packing boxes can hear him as we work.
The car approaches slowly, with Jim waving them forward, while joking.
“Catch me if you can,” he laughs, backing up, backing up.
“No touch, no glory,” he kids the driver.
Then the car stops and Jim walks over and, with a hint of an Irish brogue, he says, “Good morning,” a big smile on his face. “How’re ya doing?” he adds, his accent clearly reflecting his being born and raised in a very Irish neighborhood of the Bronx.
He hands in some food through the passenger side window — fresh vegetables one week, a dozen eggs another week. This week, it’s bananas. Can you use extra bananas?” he asks. Then hands them over if they say, "yes."
While Jim is visiting with our clients, other volunteers are packing the trunk with non-perishable foods, like canned fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, cereal, soups, pasta, and more. Others are carrying bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, frozen meats and other protein foods, bread and other baked goods.
These volunteers had been working since before dawn, unpacking food from the cooler, and later, the freezer, and setting up for the day. And now they are carrying food to our clients’ cars — in all kinds of weather.
Some weeks there may be as many as a dozen men and women packing the cars with a variety of food to help our clients eat healthy.
Some of these volunteers include Bob, Cathy, Christian, Daniela, Dave, David, Dick, Guiseppe, Jim, Joe, Jon, Joyce, Keith, Mike, Nancy, Robert, Scott, Steve, Tom, Xander, Yvette, and more.
And when he spies children in the back seat, as he does most often, Jim calls out “three young’uns here.” So volunteers scurry over with extra desserts and Jim passes them over to the delighted children and has a chat with them as well.
Then he chats some more with the folks up front, nods his head, then turns to the gal at the dessert table.
“Do we have a birthday cake this week?” he asks.
She says, “Yes,” and brings it over to Jim, who hands it in. And soon these folks drive off.
Meanwhile, our client in the next car in line is watching Jim’s antics, a big grin on her face.
“He keeps us entertained while we wait,” she says laughing, waiting for him to call her forward.
It has been a very good day at Our Lady’s Pantry. Many kind hearts abound in this friendliest food Pantry ever. You can read more client comments on our Web site at: https://www.ourladyspantry.com/testimonials/
“If you can use extra food for yourself and your family, be sure to visit us on Saturday morning between 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.,” says Anita. “We look forward to seeing you one day soon.”