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  • Jack H. Bender

Pray. Feed. Repeat.

I like something Pope Francis has said—You pray for the hungry, then you feed them, that is how prayer works. Said another way, think about others who have challenges in their lives and act. In the contemplative world there is really a three-part process of praying, acting and then reflecting on the first two elements. How could I have served better? Did I honor everyone’s dignity? What other needs must to be met?

Last week, Cindy and I had the privilege of volunteering at Holland’s Community Action House monthly food distribution. We were greeted by many smiling staff members (Chara and Melissa among others) who then explained what our task was. We were to help distribute food to the clients who came for today’s distribution by being in charge of a food table.

Much work had been done by the staff before our arrival. There were six tables set up with skids of food in boxes behind the tables along with a large rack of bread items. Each family received a white, green or red tag based on their family size. Depending on size, each family could take four, six or eight food items (points) off each table. Distribution started at 9:30am and was steady until around 11:15, with others up to the 11:30am closing time.

Our table had heads of cabbage, tomato sauce, green beans, tuna, unsalted peanuts, cookie mixes and oranges (three oranges equal 1 point). We replenished the food items as necessary. Everyone got a “Good morning!” and a “Have a nice day!” and questions answered. It was nice when we got to interact more than that. We pointed out that clients could choose tuna in oil or water and they had a choice of cookie mixes. Most everyone offered a thank you and their care was obvious about only taking their authorized share.

I asked where all the food had come from—donations. CAH has a sorting area where donated goods are handled. The monthly food distribution does not count against a three-visit limit per year for the CAH food pantry (same place).

Holland Community Health Center was available today for HIV and STD testing if a client was interested.

At the end, Meagan Maas, Community Engagement Officer, briefed us on a few of CAH’s programs and volunteer opportunities. Three ways to get involved are to donate food and dollars, volunteer time and skills, and shop at their Thrift Shop at 694 Michigan Avenue.

What I valued most today was the privilege to help and the interaction with staff and clients. It was a very, very good day, even if we acknowledge that food is only a starting point to a reasonable life.



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