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Food Sunday: Working At MEND – Feeding The Sheep

Some of you may have already heard about my new volunteer project.  I’m working three days a week at an organization called MEND.  It stands for Meet Each Need With Dignity.

This is their mission:  With dignity and respect, powered by volunteers, MEND’s mission is to break the bonds of poverty by providing basic human needs and a pathway to self-reliance.

(From their website), MEND PROGRAMS INCLUDE:
EMERGENCY FOODBANK – Each month, the MEND Foodbank and the Emergency Food Assistance Program serve as many as 32,000 people both on and offsite through 32 organizations and outreach programs. Boxes containing a nutritionally balanced three-day supply of food go to those most in need. MEND receives generous donations from area farms, manufacturers, distributors, individuals, schools, businesses and churches. These donations were above $5.6 million in 2010. The Food Rescue Program is a vital part of the MEND Foodbank as daily stops are made to area markets to “rescue” food that approaches its sell-by date. Another key facet of the Foodbank are two job-training programs (for Food Service & Warehouse Workers).

CLOTHING CENTER – The clothing center is a crucial resource for families and individuals in need. They receive necessary clothing, shoes, blankets and small household items. Baby items and children’s clothes are also available. The job trainees in the Clothing Center gain experience in inventory and display management.

HEALTH CENTER – Dental, medical and vision care is provided by volunteer health professionals to more than 9,500 patients a year. The Medical Clinic includes family practice, chiropractic, acupuncture, and specialty clinics for diabetes, hypertension, women’s health, and healthy aging. The Vision Clinic offers vision screenings and eye glasses. The Dental Clinic provides general dentistry (exams and restorative services such as cleanings, fillings, extractions and sealants) as well as endodontics (root canals) and periodontics (prevention and treatment of gum disease). All Clinics provide preventative health education, free prescriptions and, if necessary, referral arrangements for more specialized or surgical services. Training in dental assisting and medical office work is provided to those interested in pursuing careers in these fields.

EDUCATION & TRAINING CENTER – Year-round ESL (English as a Second Language) courses; literacy classes in both English and Spanish, reading; math and science tutoring for kids; computer lab teaching computer skills as well as general learning; sewing classes teaching students to work with patterns, cut , sew and operate a sewing machines.  Clients also get valuable training and skill development “on-the-job” servicing all the MEND Programs and general operations.

HOMELESS PROGRAM – Hot lunches are provided to the homeless as well as emergency food and clothing. A shower program is available twice a week. There are currently over 370 homeless people using the shower program.

GENERAL SERVICES – Volunteers assist individuals in need with information and referrals, food stamp documentation, bus tokens, low-income utilities and tax filing; They also make as many as 1500 home visits annually to assess needs, make referrals and determine the eligibility for MEND services and programs.

Also, from their website,

  • MEND takes a holistic and humanitarian approach to relieving the effects of poverty with the underlying goal of lifting the needy out of poverty and into self-sufficiency.
  • All goods & services are free (e.g. food, clothing, medical/dental treatment, lab tests, prescriptions).
  • MEND is almost completely volunteer-based. We currently have 3200 volunteers and our medical, dental, public relations, fundraising, job training, and food pantry services are carried out by professionals and community members who donate their time and skills.
  • We have extraordinarily low overhead and administration costs (never more than 5%).
  • MEND is totally privately funded (no government grants).

There are several short videos at the website too,  here.

This is a lot of information to take in.  So, for now I’ll just share how I ended up working at MEND.

As one of the unemployed Firepups, one morning I woke up and wasn’t relishing the thought of spending one more day looking for a job that just doesn’t seem to be there for me.  I decided to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.  A few months ago, one of our commenters, nonquixote, had suggested that I spend some time doing volunteer work, to help society and to stay busy.   I thought it was a great idea and I remembered having delivered food from a collection project I was involved with about a year ago to MEND.  At that time, I was thoroughly impressed with the organization and friendliness of the people there.  So, I checked out their website and headed there to fill out an application.  I’ve been working there for three weeks now and have never enjoyed a job so much.

I work the bread line.  I open a bazillion boxes of bread and organize the loaves and rolls for distribution, then I open the big window and distribute the bread to the folks in line.  And, I chat with the folks.  (Whoa, Demi is a yakker?  Ha!)  People open up to me and tell me their story.  I’ll share some of those stories with you next week.  I’ll tell you how Bernie and Willy became homeless and what they do to survive.  I’ll tell you about Linda, who lives in her car with her three dogs.  I’ll tell you about the faces of the children.

I’ll tell you about how wonderful it is to work with the Food Bank director Richard Weinroth.

For now, cherish all those bits of luxury you live with.  The thermostat you adjust.  The light switch you flick on and off.  The refrigerator and stove and, ah, the bed.

Until next week, as always, hugs and keep the faith, pups.

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